Using The Science of Breaks for a Productive New Year

This is a guest post by Ryan Parker of

With the New Year in hand, most of us have ambitious plans and a huge laundry list of things we want to get done. It might consist of writing, getting more organized at work, or whatever you envision yourself becoming this year. But like many of us, as the year goes on those old habits somehow creep back into our lives. Maybe it’s watching too much TV or spending more time on Facebook. Whatever your vice is it somehow sneaks back into your life. Fortunately, there is hope for fixing this and it all starts with changing the way you build new habits.

We all get that burst of energy or excitement when we start something new and we work extremely hard to quickly get that new habit into our lives. We put considerable effort in the beginning. But what we don’t realize is that by overworking ourselves in the beginning we’re setting ourselves up for failure later on.

The Reason: Willpower is Not Everything

In an experiment done with heavy smokers, researchers broke the individuals into two random groups. One group was told they had “high impulse control“ and the other group was told they had “low impulse control”. In reality both groups had the same level of willpower. Each group then watched the movie Coffee and Cigarettes and we’re offered rewards for resisting to smoke. It turns out the group that was told they had high impulse control ended up smoking overwhelmingly more! The reasoning being that they relied more on their own impulse control and will power, which is often when you’re most vulnerable to fail. So with this knowledge how do we avoid falling into the same trap of running only on willpower?

The Solution: Short Sprints

Everyone is guilty of being too ambitious at times. Instead of treating a new habit as a marathon we need to start viewing them as an activity we do in short bursts.

In order to break old habits it’s important to work in small focused blocks of time.This philosophy is commonly known as the Pomodoro technique and is based on the science of breaks to improve your mental agility and reduce the chance of mental exhaustion.

The Tool: GrooveOtter

There are plenty of tools out there that help with this process, one that really sticks to the spirit of the Pomodoro Technique is Grooveotter. Simply put in the time you want to work and the activity and what you want done. From there you can track how many things you’ve gotten done and how well you’ve accomplished those activities. The key piece being the break that follows it allows the mind to recuperate and keeps you fresh. This New Year get started on the right foot and give those new habits a chance.

“Give it a go and Let me know how you get on”

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Comments (5)

What an interesting concept! I can’t wait to try this tool out!

It’s very useful when you are finding it hard to focus. You only have to commit to a short space of time. Kinda tricking yourself into being more productive!

Can I suggest to try our new product (still in alpha but it works)? It’s there:

We combine Pomodoro Technique to your existing task/note management tool (eg Trello, Evernote, Asana, Wunderlist etc) and let you pomodoro the work on tasks or notes writing – and store the log to let you analyze it.

We’d really appreciate your feedback.

Sounds great Alex, I will definitely check it out.

This will bring me back to my school days with exams and time limits, but I guess if it worked then why not give it a go.
Thx for the tips Ciara, and a great blog post as usual.


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