Are you having trouble concentrating?
If so, you're not alone. People everywhere are expressing challenges with "Pandemic Brain," experiencing mental fatigue, forgetfulness, and a lack of focus.
This makes sense - chronic stress takes a toll on the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brains that is responsible for memory, focus and learning. "Brain Fog" is also a medically documented symptom for people who have contracted COVID.
So there are many good explanations for what you may be experiencing.
Dusting Off the Pomodoro Technique
When I worked in corporate Learning and Development, I did a lot of coaching and consulting around personal productivity. As someone who is naturally pretty productive, I haven't given much thought to the tools and techniques I used to share with clients - until very recently.
I have found myself suddenly in the US supporting one of my daughters through a surgery and her recovery process. As I've been managing jet lag, my "usual" pandemic-induced mental fatigue, working across time zones, and caregiving - I've needed to pull out some of those tried-and-true productivity techniques to help myself complete simple tasks that were just dragging on endlessly, and dragging my mood down with them.
One of the most popular techniques I shared with past clients is known as the "Pomodoro Technique," which was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s to support his own ability to focus as a teacher and graduate student. He developed the technique using a tomato-shaped timer on his kitchen table, hence the name "Pomodoro" Technique.
For the first time in years, I've been using a Pomodoro Timer this week to help myself focus - and I'm LOVING it all over again. My motivation, focus, productivity, and mood have all improved significantly, and I'm managing interruptions more effectively. I'm also standing, stretching, and drinking water more frequently through the day on my Pomodoro breaks.
🍅 In fact, my favorite free digital Pomodoro timer is ticking right now as I write this!
How to Pomodoro
There's plenty of scientific evidence that taking short, frequent breaks significantly improves our ability to focus (e.g. Ariga & Lleras, 2011) - and this is the core practice of Pomodoro - short periods of deep-concentration broken up by even shorter energy/attention-boosting breaks.
Are you ready to give it a try? Here's the technique at a glance...
Choose a task you'd like to get done.
Set the timer for 25 minutes (1 Pomodoro).
Work on the task until the timer rings.
When the timer rings, put a checkmark on paper.
Take a short break (5 minutes).
Every 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break (20 minutes).
You can read much more about the Pomodoro Technique on Cirillo's website.
Resources for Further Reading
For more information about the causes of Brain Fog and many more strategies for overcoming it...
How About You?
Are you experiencing Pandemic Brain? ...and if so, what helps you overcome it?
Feel free to send me a chat message anytime (at the bottom of the screen) and/or follow me on LinkedIn where I share research-based positivity and wellbeing micro-coaching questions each week.
About the Author
Kristin Lowe is a former international school teacher who now works as an organizational psychologist and positive psychology coach.
Kristin’s work centers around helping international school communities cultivate what is best within themselves and leverage these strengths to support our next generation of changemakers.
You can read more about Kristin’s background and qualifications here.