The Threshold

Supposedly the method of pomodoros is a great technology for overcoming procrastination: you work in twenty- or twenty-five-minute timed blocks, each of which are atomic, indivisible: you have to work through the block, and if you let yourself wander away to something else, then it doesn't count. Katja Grace explains why this is a good idea:

While working, there are various moments when it would be easier to stop than to continue, particularly if you mostly feel the costs and benefits available in the next second or so, and if you assume that you could start again shortly [...] Counting short blocks of continuous time working pretty much solves this problem for me. [...] [A]t any given moment there might be a tiny short term benefit to stopping for a second, but there is a huge cost to it. In my case this seems to remove stopping as an option, in the same way that a hundred dollar price on a menu item removes it as an option without apparent expense of willpower.

It is a good idea (I can only imagine), and yet one can't help but guess that, like spaced repetition software or any number of other technologies for living a better life, the number of people who have heard of the method of pomodoros and judged it a good idea is far larger than the number of people who have actually given it an honest try. I could lament how terrible this is, and condemn the human spirit as being lazy and therefore evil, but it seems besides the point—we have no reason to care about moral grandstanding, we want something that actually works.

One asks oneself: is this little piece of boring but genuinely-worth-doing work really that bad, really so terrible that setting a twenty-minute timer and actually facing it would be too much to bear? One wants to say that the answer can't possibly be Yes, that if one's actions betray an implicit Yes it can only mean that one wasn't really paying attention to the question. The natural inclination is then to ask if paying attention to the question is really that terrible, but that would be too obvious.

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