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What drew me initially to Clear Focus and the Pomodoro technique of working productively is its simplicity. Some guy realised he wasn’t being as productive as he’d like, he tried out a new method of timekeeping and used a tomato shaped timer to help him test his theory. Job done. Work style revolution created.
Clear Focus takes the Pomodoro technique developed by Francesco Cirillo and, following in its simplicity, created an app to help keep you focussed for a concentrated period of time and then reward yourself with a short break.
This timer is automatically set to 25 minutes. While this doesn’t seem like a very productive amount of time, in-fact at the beginning it almost feels like such a short amount of time could be restrictive. But think about it, can you honestly say that you can concentrate on a single task for 25 mins straight? I’m talking no whatsapp, no browsing, no putting the kettle on … Just pure work. Can you do that? If so you’re better at being an adult than I am. I couldn’t even type this paragraph without checking the rugby world cup app for upcoming games.
At the end of your 25 minute work period the discrete timer lets you know that you can now reward yourself with a five minute break followed by another gentle reminder that it’s time to get to work again. After you have worked for four 25 minute sessions (affectionately called pomodoros) you are then granted a 15-12 minute break.
[su_quote]I found that even when my time is up if I’m almost near the end of a task then I’m far more likely to keep going until I complete it and then have my well deserved tea and Twix- although I don’t recommend doing this after every work session … Diabetes is no joke.[/su_quote]
Initially I was skeptical. I couldn’t argue with the science, I understand that taking breaks improves your mental agility; taking frequent breaks and refreshes the brain in order to focus more clearly. But I did have a problem with my phone buzzing away every 25 minutes and then again after five minutes. I’m sure my colleagues would also have a problem with the table periodically vibrating all for the sake of this review.
But I have to admit after a week of using Clear Focus I’m convinced that it does have some serious merits. Because I know I’m guaranteed a break in 25 minutes I’m more inclined to keep my head down and stay in one tab (where possible) and follow through tasks to completion. I found that even when my time is up if I’m almost near the end of a task then I’m far more likely to keep going until I complete it and then have my well deserved tea and Twix- although I don’t recommend doing this after every work session … Diabetes is no joke. I also became aware that I was subconsciously putting more effort into my work and going a step beyond completion. Because I had mentally dedicated a certain amount of time to a task if I finished it within this time frame I began to review it and see what steps I could make to improve it by using up the remaining minutes. For some reason I did not feel the need to start my break earlier but rather invest the time more productively knowing my break was guaranteed.
The notification to let you know that time is up is not as intrusive as I had imagined, if you prefer to have your phone on silent the screen will simply flash up to tell you it’s break time.
I also noticed that my brain became used to distinguishing work-time and play-time, if I am to enjoy my break time to the fullest I must also aim to be as productive as possible during the work period and these two motivations drive each other forward.
The Clear Focus app is available for Android and IOS and the basic version is free to download. It is uncomplicated and very user friendly as its power lies more in the psychology and less in the software. It can also operate as an extension to your Chrome browser. If using it on your phone you can change the settings so that your phone is automatically set to do not disturb mode during the work periods and notifications and vibrations are disabled to keep distractions to a bare minimum. It will also allow you to edit the length of your work and break periods and how many work sessions you want to complete before taking a longer break. This is great when you want flexibility depending on your workload.
Clear Focus might require some patience and trust to begin with but the positive effects cannot be denied and the results are quick to show.