Killing Procrastination With Awareness

The following is a thought piece involving Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique with a call-to-action for those waiting to catch a train.

Imagine if you had 25 minutes to live. It’s not out of coincidence the time chosen is also the same amount of time used in the Pomodoro Technique. Think about it; 25 minutes is such a strange amount of time to be alive — not really short enough to suffocate existential thoughts, or long enough to change the world, or is it?

It’s probably a bit excessive to place a death sentence on the end of a 25-minute space of time, however the reality of the situation is that you could in fact die at any moment — perhaps 25 minutes is actually an extension on the life you’re living. Now, I’m in no way trying to make this into some kind of morbid tale, but instead trying to ascertain why it is that after such a thought I would then entertain the idea of spending my last minutes catching up on Stranger Things… At this point I would like to take some precious time to set the record straight and state that I finished the first season in two days, over which time and according to the above example I would have died 172.8 times.

That’s the interesting thing though; even if it’s highly unlikely you would spend you last 25 minutes watching Stranger Things as opposed to saying your goodbyes to family and friends, it’s also highly likely that you’ll do it — or at least some other activity that lacks the significance justified by a final 25 of life.

One of the realizations I’ve had in my now 25 years of life is that it’s all up to you, that anything is possible and that that’s the biggest thing stopping you. The knowledge that you can do anything is in itself kind of limiting. It’s almost like you’re standing on a platform waiting for a train, and when it comes you don’t get on because the next train might take you somewhere better. The choice you’ve made isn’t simply deciding to catch the next train, it’s that you’ve chosen to stay on the platform, and when you look at it like that you’re still just standing on a platform. This might be an interesting analogy to a common experience, but in the end it’s just you and your decision — ‘do it or don’t do it’.

What does this have to do with your 25 minutes of life? Well, nothing and everything at the same time. In my mind if you spend a moment thinking about it you realize that it doesn’t matter if it’s 25 minutes or 25 years. At some point we all enter the infinity of the afterlife — it’s the one thing everyone has in common, so if we agree on that then perhaps we can also agree that the only difference between frames is whether or not we’re conscious of it. And if the argument is made that in fact no, I do not agree with that and I instead would like to live in a state of ignorant bliss to the ravages of time around me…then perhaps you, sir or madam, are not alive.

Essentially, to my understanding, the Pomodoro Technique simply brings it to our attention that time is taking its course and as such we become more productive once we realize this. It’s just like death; you know it’s there but you don’t think about it, until such time something or someone reminds you, and then you become aware.

So with this realization I hope you choose to chase it and rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Oh, and one last thing . . . you’re gonna die.

This piece is based on the Pomodoro Technique, outlined here for anyone wanting to try it:
There are six steps in the original technique:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the Pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
  3. Work on the task.
  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
  6. After four Pomodoro, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.

I myself have used this technique in the past, however have now replaced it with music playlists on YouTube, which I listen to over and over while writing. In the case of this piece I’ve been listening to this playlist. The trick I’ve found is to choose something you’re familiar with and have heard a lot of and that, ironically, doesn’t distract you. You’ll know you’ve found it when the music stops, and without being aware, fill the silence by kicking your own drum.

Perhaps the greatest gift that we can give to each other is a greater understanding of ourselves.