Thursday, 13 February 2020

Stretches for Authors and the Pomodoro Technique

Stretches for Authors and the Pomodoro Technique

Okay so I know, as authors/bloggers/desk jockeys, we are all guilty of sitting ๐Ÿ’บ still too long and, I don't know about you, but this plays havoc with my shoulders and neck. However, I have found a solution. Hence I have come to share.

Now this isn't a complete cure if you're past 30, sorry, we all know age is not our friend when it comes to odd aches and pains, but I have noticed a huge difference since changing my routine.

What We Need:

  • Focus To-Do ap - a Pomodoro technique ap available for most devices - has a free and paid option
  • A water bottle or other receptacle
  • A little space to walk around/move


Pomodoro is a focusing technique involving work elements and break elements. This idea is we:
  1. Do some work for a certain amount of time (I use 25min, but the Focus To-Do ap lets you choose)
  2. Take a break for a certain amount of time (I use 5min, but again the ap lets you choose)
  3. Repeat and every 4th time the break is longer. (I pop down and have a little peddle on the exercise bike๐Ÿšด‍♀️ during the longer break, but I realise this is impractical for those who don't work at home ๐Ÿ˜‚).
Focus To-Do also lets us set up lists of tasks in projects, so we can work our way through our list as we use the technique. It also stores what you have been doing and how many Pomodoro sessions it took,

Now I know that working and then deliberately taking a break just because the machine tells us too seems counter intuitive, especially with authors. Surely it will break the flow, I hear you say. And actually, it doesn't.

Personally I can bang out more words using this technique than by just writing non-stop, and it helps when doing covers or blurbs or even social media. Of course if I happen to be in the middle of doing something really important I can keep going for a minute or so, but I have learned to trust the timer. 

The good thing about Focus To-Do is we can use the timer strictly and have it move from work to break to back again automatically, or we can opt to do so manually. I use the manual option so I have the flexibility, but most of the time I simply click the start button straight away so I don't cheat too much.

The breaks allow me to rest my brain and my body regularly, which recharges both for the next element of work. It also means I don't think about twitter or email or anything like that, allowing them to distract me while I am working because I know a break is coming up and I will have a chance to look then.

Stretches and Stuff

So we have our break, but if we just sit there surfing email or twitter, it might help our brains, but not our bodies. Hence I have a little routine.
  1. Take a drink of water or beverage of choice.☕ (Of course you can drink at other times, but only refil during the break and make sure to drink as well because we all forget๐Ÿ˜‰).
  2. Do shoulder and neck stretches (see below for details).๐Ÿ’ช
  3. Walk up and down my stairs, twice (my office is in our converted loft, so I sit right next to the stairs, but any walking around is good).๐Ÿšถ‍♀️
Using this routine every 25mins during the day, I have noticed a huge difference in how I feel. I started with only the walking, which, although I am slow, has really made me feel better. I have an ankle condition that makes walking hard, but my measured up and down the stairs gets the blood pumping even though I take it gently. 

Then I added in the stretching, which is all done in my chair, which has helped my shoulders so much. When I am out of the house I use crutches to help me get around, and it plays havoc with my shoulders along with all the typing, but these help to keep everything mobile and mostly pain free๐Ÿ˜Š. Now these are not full stretches that have to be held for 30s or anything like that, they are just about keeping moving and not stiffening up.

The Stretches

[Edit: Forgot to mention, my PT gave me these stretches as part of my warm down routine]

Sit forward in a chair so nothing is in the way and hold each of this for a few seconds and then release, being gentle and slow so as not to pull anything. If you want you can hold them for 20s each, but I only do that when I'm using them after a workout ๐Ÿ˜Š. It also doesn't matter what order we do these in, we should all find our own rhythm.

1. Cross shoulder stretch
Hold one arm out straight and use the other to pull it across our body so that it remains parallel with the floor while stretching the shoulder. Repeat for other arm.

2. Overhead shoulder stretch
Place one hand on top of the other, lift arm directly about head and stretch upwards.

3. Front shoulder stretch
This is the same as the overhead shoulder stretch, but with our arms held out directly in front of us. Also, drop the head forward to stretch out the neck at the same time. (No doubt there will be some crunching and clicking from our over worked tendons ๐Ÿ˜‚).

4. Side shoulder stretch
Hold arms at right angles to body straight out at the sides with palms out, and push outwards to stretch. (This one is surprisingly hard, although the more we do it, the easier it gets).

5. Chest and upper arm stretches 
Arms pointing down at 5 and 7 o'clock positions, palms towards the back, thumbs pointing down, bring shoulder blades together and twist palms out to the sides at the same time.
Keeping shoulders back twist palms to the front as far as possible so thumbs are pointing up and slightly to the back, bending arms at the elbow.

And that's it, simple and easy to do, and it keeps everything moving.

My apologies for not having piccies for the last 3, but couldn't find any. I hope the descriptions are sufficient.

Do you have any tips on making sure we writers on't stiffen up while we're working, or lose focus?

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