Working from Home with Pomodoros

Working from home most of the time presents a variety of challenges.  If I am to get any work done at all, I have to be almost entirely self-motivated.  Distractions abound (particularly in the form of two cats).  Sometimes it can get lonely.  Sometimes I feel as though I cannot stand to be in the house another second!  Of course, there are advantages to working from home as well, such as having no commute, not having to pack a lunch, being able to do chores on my lunch break, and, perhaps best of all, having the pleasure of feline company while I am working.

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I mean, really, how could these faces not be at least a little bit distracting?

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In addition to the intrinsic challenges that accompany working from home, I also have found it sometimes difficult to balance the multiple projects on which I have to be working at any given time.  This summer, I have been able to focus a bit more than usual on my dissertation research, but I have also been working on a project with Stow Historical Society, the local history organization in my hometown.  I wrote and we received a grant from the Ohio Humanities Council for a series of exhibit panels to be displayed in the SHS’s recently acquired one-room schoolhouse dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  I am glad to be finished with the grant, but lately I have been drafting the panels and seeking images for them, which has proven a little more difficult than I thought it would be.  Next week, classes start, and I will soon be working at a local historic house museum for a few hours a week.  It’s going to be a hectic autumn.

I am sure that everyone who works from home and/or engages in multiple tasks at once has a particular method or process which works for them.  I have found that a modified version of the Pomodoro Technique works well for me.  I have not bought or read anything on the technique, other than browsing the website, but I created my own modification of it.  I set a timer for 52 minutes and devote myself exclusively to a specific work-related task during that time.  When a distraction pops into my mind or I think of something else I need to do, I allow myself to write it down, but do not abandon the task at hand.  After 52 minutes, I take an 8 minute break in which I can do whatever I want (have a snack, stretch, play with the cats, go on the Internet).  Then I move on to another Pomodoro.  The system is not perfect; sometimes I do still get distracted and off track while I am in the midst of a Pomodoro.  But I find that I can be much more productive using the system.  At the end of the day, I tally the number of Pomodoros that I have completed, and I feel a greater sense of accomplishment than I otherwise would, especially when I am doing work that does not produce an immediate concrete result, like dissertation research.  Of course, putting in Pomodoros does not necessarily mean that I will finish everything, but I usually find that if I put in the time, one Pomodoro after another, the work will get done.

What are some strategies that you have found to be successful in enabling you to work from home and/or juggle multiple projects at a time?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Obstacle Course.”

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