Automating Meditation With Inverted Pomodoros

Automated focus through systematic rest

This isn’t going to be a long one, but I think it’s quite an important idea. It could possibly be one of the most useful productivity/mindful things I do. Definitely one to share, at least.

The problem is focus. Some days it is very hard to stay on track with work, becoming frequently derailed if no major deadline is pressing. I also find it hard to make time to meditate.

To solve both of these issues at once, I’ve set up a system of automated Pomodoros, but I’ve inverted the concept so that the work periods set you up for the break instead of the other way around.

Every 25 minutes I get an audible notification to take 5 minutes to meditate, work out and focus my mind. Half-way through each work period I get a notification to remind me to review my goals (mentally) and check whatever I’m doing is in line with those. I’m basically guiding myself back on course, while calming the mind and letting it rest before starting work again.

I’ve tried Pomodoro counters of various types before but none have worked for me because 1) I had to remember to use them, 2) I had to not ignore them when they were on.

In this new arrangement, solving 1 was done via a scheduler on my PC between 9am and 5pm. No more remembering to set something up every day. Solving 2 was done by switching the reminder focus from “start work” to “stop work”. It’s a psychological trick of some kind. Now I’m just getting reminders to rest, instead of trying to force myself back into some unknown task. Much easier to comply with a request to stop work than to start it.

Investing a few minutes every hour to make sure I’m centered and focused on the task at hand has made a real difference. Especially on days where I’m tired. It’s really no trouble to get back into something when my mind is calm. When it’s feeling pressured it tends to grind to a halt much more often.

So that’s essentially it. Set up alerts to remind you to meditate and re-focus. Read on to find out how.

Detail - how I do it

I use a script that displays notifications, reads certain ones out, plays tibetan meditation bells at the right time and starts and stops at the right time. Happy to share the script, although I’d imagine less than 5% of the readership will be Linux users. It shouldn’t take much to adjust it for Mac users, however, and Windows has the Linux subsystem nowadays, so happy to work on something with anyone who is interested.

However there is a simpler solution. You can set an alarm on your phone to ping at 25 and 55 minutes past the hour between 9am and 5pm. That’s your cue to down tools, close your eyes and clear your mind. The meditations only have to be 1 or 2 minutes, it’s actually quite hard to stretch them to the full 5, then you can start work again as soon as you’re ready. If you’re anything like me, those next 25 minutes will be much more productive.

I’m hoping it also has the side benefit of eventually allowing me to get into that meditative state much quicker in the future as it is trained every hour.

Thanks for reading, anyway, and I look forward to any comments or replies by email etc. if you have anything to add.

Thanks for reading. I do translation from French and Swedish to English, so if that's useful to you, feel free to connect and message me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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