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Pomodoro technique and health and wellbeing

Along with using the Fitbit, I have also taken to reading some fitness mags. Not all, not all, I promise, and many bits still bewilder me!

One of the articles in Women’s Health really did hit home for me as an “office worker”: the one claiming that for every two hours spent sitting, we lose 44 minutes of our lifespan. You can read a version of the article online (clearer, actually, than the article I read in the UK version of the magazine!), or the NHS online page about “sitting disease” (ugh! Awful name…) and recent research.

This got me thinking about how long I spend sitting at my desk each and every day, particularly when I have lunch at my desk. Plus, at home, I will sit watching DVDs or reading for long periods of time, meaning that even though I might walk my 10,000 steps every day and do yoga/strength work-outs, I’m still sedentary for almost the whole day.

As a remedy, I downloaded StandApp, which is free and sets an interval timer for you (at 15, 30, 60, or 120 minutes) before alerting you to take a five-minute standing break, even giving you a little workout to do too, if you’re so inclined. I thought that this might be quite intrusive, but actually, it was the push I needed to start implementing the Pomodoro technique properly into my working life.

Pomodoro traditionally recommends working on a specific task for 25-minute blocks of time before taking a short break. This fits pretty well with what StandApp offers, and I’ve started using 30-minute blocks wherever I can, with breaks every 60 minutes as the absolute max (barring hideous meetings, when I at least try to dash out for a “bathroom break” every hour!).

I already have a to-do list system (a monthly list with tasks allocated per day and crossed off when completed), but had never actually made the commitment to breaking up my tasks and working day so consciously before. Knowing that taking the five-minute break every 30-60 minutes does my health good is therefore a valuable incentive for me to change the way I work for the better too, and I’ve even started using it during academic work at home, particularly reading. I find that my mind will naturally begin to wander every 20-30 minutes or so, especially when I’m reading something very dense or challenging (I’m looking at you, Lacan and Zizek!), so just standing up and getting the blood flowing again, allowing my mind to wander for a minute or two and digest what I’ve managed to get through, is working surprisingly well!

I am still struggling a little with the temptation simply to take my laptop with me when I stand (e.g. at my breakfast bar or kitchen table) and continue working, but I think by trying to combine both Pomodoro and a more healthy attitude to my sedentary working habits, I can get the mental benefit of taking standing breaks, as well as the physical.

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