Thursday, December 10 2020

waking up early, the pomodoro system, and starbucks nostalgia

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Happy Thursday. It's a good feeling waking up on the other side of the halfway point in the week. The kitchen is clean. The dishes are put away. The smell of fresh coffee lingers in the air. The house is put together, except for that single stray lego brick that pierced the bottom of my foot. I hadn't even had any coffee yet, but let me tell you I felt alert enough to land an airplane after that nice little jolt of adrenaline.

Yesterday, Marissa and I were talking about when we wake up in the morning. She marveled at how I wake up so early in the morning after we go to bed at the same time.

"I don't mind it," I said. "The funny thing is most of it happens before I have coffee. It's a nice little reward for when I can finally sit down by the couch and read for a half hour."

My alarm goes off at 6:30, but I usually don't make it down stairs until 6:45 when I promptly let the dogs out and feed them their breakfast. From that point, I have 45 minutes to tidy up. I put the dishes away, catch up on any chores I shrugged off from the night before, and finally brew two pots of coffee while feeding the sourdough. I do coffee and sourdough at the end because both chores need cold water and that way I only have to wait for the sink's temperature to change once.

I pay back the accumulated sleep debt on Saturday morning. On weekends I write in the evening, so it makes Saturday morning a special treat. Still, I aspire to be one of those people that wakes up at the same time every day and instead just take more power naps.

"Who would want to wake up early on Saturday morning," Marissa scoffed.

"That's just it," I laughed. "That's the appeal. Nobody wants to. So you have the whole house to yourself, and you also get to lord it over everyone else who spent the morning sleeping in."

As it's almost time to start thinking about new year's resolutions, I'm going keep that one in the chamber. Maybe 2021 will be the year I finally commit to being a more consistent morning person.

Sip. How's your circadian rhythm these days? Do you wake up at the same time on every day of the week, or do you leave room for sleeping in? And how has your week been so far?

I've had a notably productive week. This past Tuesday, the interns and I conducted a retrospective on the work we had finish this past sprint. We took turns creating virtual sticky notes, calling out the things that went well and the things that slowed us down.

"I'm having a hard time focusing," I admitted, taking my own sticky note from the pile. "I feel like I've hit the point where I have so many different priorities, it's hard to be effective on any one of them. You two are in college, do you have any tips?"

"I use the pomorodoro method," said Ritik quietly. "I'd recommend it."

Later, it took me a few tries to find it in a Google search. The word pomodoro is one of those simple words that makes me feel dumb when I try to spell it. I read that pomodoro is a system invented by a French medical student in which you use a timer to guide short bursts of focus. The word pomodoro is the Italian word for "tomato". Apparently he was inspired to name the system after his tomato shaped kitchen timer.

So I've been taking the pomodoro system for a spin, and I'm really excited about it. A unit of work is twenty-five minutes long followed by a five minute break. I do three units of work, then I take a twenty minute break.

My first trip around the pomodoro timer, I completed a ticket I had been assigned to for two days. The ticket sounded like it had a daunting complication, but sure enough I was only twenty-five minutes from understanding that my concerns were irrelevant and the ticket was in fact very easy.

The genius of the system is in how doable it sounds. Twenty-five minutes doesn't sound like a lot of time, so it really helps you overcome that emotional activation energy of starting something new and daunting. Not to mention the promise of a glorious twenty minute break in the near future. In the middle of a work day, twenty minutes is a long time. Twenty minutes is a leisurely coffee break downstairs, a walk around the block, or even an entire episode of Seinfeld downstairs.

I've been using my bread timer all week. The alarm is loud and jarring. At least once, it woke up a napping baby Miles across the hall. I took a peek at Amazon and discovered a whole series of "productivity timers" with quieter alarms. Ignoring the fact that most of them were marketed for keeping children with ADHD focused on their schoolwork, it sounds exactly like what I need.

In between work, the subject of working at Starbucks came up in our family chat. My sister Sarah and I continued the conversation in private. At the time, we hated working at Starbucks, but these days we share the same pining nostalgia for our first job.

"I still think about it too," I said. "I miss the small talk. All the free coffee you could drink. Operating a giant industrial dishwasher."

"And the Clover press," said Sarah. "I loved how when I used it, customers would marvel at me like I was a scientist. They'd ask me questions about it, even though I had no idea how it worked."

A good Clover spiel was important. Mine went thusly: Well, sir, it's simply a reverse extraction through a micron filter, using carefully calibrated settings to match the coffee's ideal temperature and steep time.

That's what I got today. Thanks for stopping by - I hope you have a wonderful Thursday. Here's to almost making it to the end of the week, hang in there everybody.