Attention residue and the Pandora Pomodoro

Something nasty

There’s this concept in the psychological literature, kind of gross, it’s called attention residue. I want to create an image here. Imagine your sleeper sofa, maybe it’s down in the family room and you don’t use it much. You go downstairs and take the cushions off and you pull the sleeper sofa up and you know those joints where the different metal parts sort of meet together and they’re covered with this kind of greasy machine oil and there’s probably cat hair mixed in with it and maybe some Goldfish cracker crumbs?

There, that’s the image. That’s attention residue. And that’s what it’s like when you shift from task to task and then you pop the clutch and you come back to the first task and then you answer a text message and then you come back to the second task. All of that multi-tasking creates attention residue. Every time you shift from one task to the other you’re creating this greasy sluggish attention residue. And the way around that is to stop multi-tasking, just do one thing at a time.

When you’re doing 8 or 9 things at once you’re a certain kind of powerful, but when you do just one thing for a focused period of time, you’re incredibly powerful. If you haven’t tried something like this already, I’d suggest you least experiment with this for yourself.

The Pomodoro part

So okay – the Pandora Pomodoro. Let’s start with the “Pomodoro” part, it’s the Italian word for tomato. The Pomodoro Technique starts with this timer – it’s adorable, looks like a tomato, it’s red and green and you wind it up and you just work on a boring or difficult task for 25 minutes followed by a mandatory 5 minute break.

Essentially a “Pomodoro” is a 25 minute increment of work. You don’t have to use this adorable plastic timer, you can put just drop a free Pomodoro app on your phone, does the same thing. The point is to work on something for just 25 minutes, just that one thing. If you get a great idea for a screenplay, make a note, come back to the task. Just that task.

At the end of 25 minutes you’ll hear a beep which is your cue to stop the task – right there – you honor the end of the Pomodoro, you get up and you take a break. Typically it’s a 5 minute break. After that break, if you want to do another Pomodoro that’s up to you.

The point of the Pomodoro technique is not to trick you into working for 3 hours, it’s literally just to see what you can get done in one focused period. The Pomodoro Technique is widely used among ADHD coaches, writers, coders, and other folks who struggle with day to day focus or need to blast through a super-human concentration task. There’s been plenty written about the technique – blogs, apps, books. Lots of my clients also tell me that working or studying in Pomodoro units works for them.

The Pandora part

Okay here’s the twist – the Pandora Pomodoro. Now if you’re not using the paid version of Pandora internet radio you know that there are commercials and these commercials come about every 15, sometimes 20 minutes and the commercials are very brief, it’s usually something like a minute.

So the Pandora Pomodoro technique is this – simply work in your office with Pandora on your phone or laptop and as long as the music is playing you’re just going to work on a single focused task. Don’t watch the clock, don’t engage with other side tasks until the commercial. When you hear the commercial you are free to stop the task, in fact I recommend that you do stop your efforts during the brief commercial. Get up, step away from your work. What I like to do is some brief breathing exercises or to do some really terrible juggling (I’ve been practicing juggling for a year now and I’ve not gotten any better, to work with my hands and my eyes and to take my mind off a challenging cognitive demand).

At the end of that brief Pandora commercial, come back to your task. The Pandora Pomodoro is really good when you have long chunks of unstructured time because this technique can help you pull back before you go down some Instagram rabbit hole. And the Pandora Pomodoro is really good for boring or hard or non-preferred tasks. When you have to do something you really need to do but really really don’t want to do.

It’s also good for those times at the end of the day when you’re the little engine that literally can’t even. You face that pile of billing or you look at that stack of IEPs that you have to slog through and you think “I can’t.” Well don’t, don’t do it. Just do one Pomodoro. Just commit to one brief push and don’t stop until you get to the brief commercial break.

Try it, tell me what works for you. Good luck!


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