Monday morning arrives and immediately my to-do list pops into my head.
This week it's three Christmas parties, the launch of my art show, packing everyone up for the our vacation this Saturday, wrapping gifts, getting the house in order (again!) and a billion other small and large things that I have created in order to experience a accelerated and full timeline in my life.
I had said I wanted to eliminate all the extra fluff and spend as much time in meditation as possible but where does awareness fit into all this? Who has the time to even...
"Look at your daily activities and drop all those activities that are not necessary, to create the most time you can create for spiritual practice everyday."
...as Michael Langford suggests in his book The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss (1).
Well... I do.
...and you do too.
And you can still get everything on your list done... promise.
I have been experimenting with the 'Pomodoro' Technique(2) of productivity as created by Francesco Cirillo but with a 'spiritual' twist.
The original Pomodoro (tomato in English) technique proposes that you break up your time throughout the day to 25minute intervals with 5 minute breaks in between. You choose your task, set a timer, focus ONLY on that task for the 25 minutes and are then rewarded with a short pause where you can drink your coconut water... have a stretch and, if necessary*, check your social media.
*it's absolutely not necessary
The concept is that a human's focus span is actually pretty limited. 25 minutes doesn't seem like a lot of time but is actually the maximum you can efficiently focus on one task. Humans are wired for distraction. We get bored with a task because we lose focus. The human brain responds to stimulus and thrives when presented with something NEW and shiny to pay attention to. This distracted nature causes a whole host of problems with productivity and especially in spiritual practice. It is why we procrastinate, are slow to start projects and why we can find ourselves losing momentum on even the most exciting tasks after a short while. It is also often the excuse as to why we don't meditate regularly and why we are not devoted to our practice(selves).
Awareness resting as Awareness is not new and shiny*.
*Until it is... but more on that in another post.
Tomatoes Resting as Tomatoes (TRT for short)*
The spiritual spin on the Pomodoro method
Here's how I have it set up and how you can experiment along with me:
Set your pomodoro timer(3) for 25 minutes and sit as you would for your regular meditation practice. This can be guided or simply silent, dependent upon where you are at with your practice currently.
When the timer rings... stop your meditation.
Take a short pause (5min)
Set your timer for another 25 minutes with a task you need to accomplish today (write a blog post, respond to emails, do some work, anything on your list)
When the timer rings stop your task
Take a short pause (5min)
*I find giving the mind the task of pondering a tomato resting as a tomato to be quite meditative, but I have an unusual sense of humor, I'm told
For the moment I have this system running from the time I drop off my children at school at 8:30pm until I pick them up again at 1pm and then again from 2pm-4pm while my son is napping.
I have thirteen 25 minute time slots. That means if I follow the system perfectly (which I do not and do not stress about) I have seven 25 minute-long meditation sessions every morning.
That is almost 3 extra hours of Awareness watching Awareness that I did not have otherwise.
It's also 2,5 hours of super-focused and productive task-time where I am guaranteed to get things done because I am not bored, distracted or focused on any other thing.
Benefits I have noted already:
More productivity during non-meditative time slots:
Whether I am folding laundry for my family, working on a painting or writing this blog post, knowing that there are 25 minutes dedicated to that specific task and that a nice relaxing chunk of resting as awareness as my reward at the end of it is a huge motivator for really focusing and being present with what there is to do
More awareness permeating non-meditative time slots:
Bouncing in and out of deeper meditation like this seems to allow for less identification with the body/person-self and mind/ego during physical and mental tasks.
More sourcefulness and resourcefulness:
Sourcefulness means coming from one's calling. The repetition of meditation and resting as awareness brings you back over and over throughout the day to your source and this spills over into your productivity based interactions. There is a remembering of why you are doing what you are doing in direct relation to your calling and therefore activities which are not in alignment with your calling simply fall away naturally by not having a 25 minute time-slot dedicated to them. You become more resourceful as well because the resting as awareness seems to open problem-solving intuition and space for the mind. Coming back to a task you are refreshed and have a clearer idea of what needs to be done in order to complete it successfully.
Deeper More Focused Awareness
In the meditative state there are less thinking periods. Knowing you only have 25 minutes to get to the 'good stuff' means you are not distracted at the beginning of your practice with a knowing that there is an hour of 'doing nothing' ahead of you. It's as if the mind/ego takes on the meditation as a challenge (ego loves a challenge) and drops away sooner and with less effort than it does when sitting for longer.
During the practice there are less mind distractions because you know that you have set aside the next slot of your day to do whatever task is next most important. This means that when mind comes in with your to-do list you can turn it away by reminding it that the task is already scheduled.
Less Time Wasters
It's a huge illusion that we 'do not have time' for meditation or the things we want to accomplish in life. Since adopting this system I have been forced to eliminate all but completely necessary social media use as well as that innocent stop for coffee or browse in a shop on the way home from somewhere. It adds up. We become what we are being and this system requires focus.
Tips & Tricks:
be flexible - make the system work around your schedule to work best. If you have an appointment or class or meeting that lasts longer than 25 minutes of course don't interrupt that midway and tell others that you'll get back to them in 25 minutes.
modify the system to your level and needs - I have chosen to do a 25-5-25-5 system because I am in a space of desiring to bring my meditation practice to a new level. If you're just starting out meditation, your Tomato schedule could be something like 2-5-25-5 where you focus intently on meditating for just 2 minutes and follow that by a break, work for 25 and then another break before diving in again. Or if you're intending to add this type of schedule to an office environment you can do a 10-5-60-5 type of schedule where you meditate for 10 minutes every hour or so. (Though studies show this isn't the most productive system in terms of focus)
use this as an addition to not substitution of your regular practice - if you're already managing a long meditation daily this is a great way to add in more awareness to your day
give it a chance - but if the system isn't for you, drop it
don't obsess - if you find yourself in a flow moment and cannot tear yourself away from a project after 25 minutes or find yourself so deep in awareness that you want to continue meditating, ignore the timer, come back to it later.
go easy on yourself - you're not going to be perfect and you don't have to be
Intention + Focus = Success
While this system may look like a time-management tool what it actually is is a focus-management tool. It is all the distractions of the mind that pull us away from growth and keep us in the same patterns of what we have been in the past. The tool itself is meaningless once the lessons are learnt from it and what we are learning, through creating this new habit is dedicated focus and devotion to the self.
I am so excited to hear from you if you decide to try this out for yourself. Let's experiment together and share what we have learnt with each-other so we can all grow faster. Comment below or send me a message anywhere you find me.
Love - Jess
Links & More Information
(1) The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss - Michael Langford
(2)Pomodoro Technique of Productivity - Francesco Cirillo
(3)Pomodoro Timer: You can use the regular stopwatch on your phone. I use the BeFocused app