The 33⅓ RPM Vinyl Album Technique

Do you ever listen to music while you work? Does it sometimes distract you from getting things done? Here’s a way that can make music help you to focus, instead of being a distraction.

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique, is a system for “getting things done”, that was devised in the late 80’s by an Italian called Francesco Cirillo, to help him with his university studies.

In The Pomodoro Technique, at its most simple, you plan, prioritize, and estimate the things you want to get done, using an old fashioned pencil and paper. “Pomodoro” is Italian for “tomato”, after the simple fruit shaped kitchen timer used to time 25 minute long time boxes.

At the end of each Pomodoro, you have a 5 minute break, and after 3-4 Pomodoros (Pomodori?), you have a longer break. It helps to prevent fatigue, and it can help you avoid distractions, or at least contain them. By tracking and visualising your Pomodoros, you can set up the conditions for self improvement, for example reducing the number of distractions recorded, or increasing the number of Pomodoros completed in a day.

It can be an effective way to help you focus, improve flow, and get through a bunch of stuff you want to do. Some people start to combine this technique with their personal kanban techniques. A tool like KanbanFlow (review), incorporates a timer for Pomodoro timing. Another timer tool is Focus Booster .

The Vinyl Album Technique

Portable turntable

I have an extension to The Pomodoro Technique, that I call The 33⅓ RPM Vinyl Album Technique™ or The Album Technique for short.

For The Album Technique, I have another way to define work intervals. Instead of the ticking timer sound of a kitchen timer, or a timer like Focus Builder. I use the much more pleasant sounding vinyl LP.

The stereo in the next room, has a Cambridge Audio amplifier, a pair of Wharfedale speakers, and a Sherwood turntable, which put out a decent sound. A standard 33⅓ RPM, 12″ vinyl album lasts for 18-28 minutes per side…around about the duration of a Pomodoro; just perfect. You can add the challenge of trying to finish a sub-task or task before the end of a track, or the end of a whole album.

At the end of Side 1, I get the benefit of getting up, having a stretch, walking to the next room, returning the tone arm of the turntable, flipping the LP over and starting side 2. At the end of side 2, I do the same, and spend a few moments choosing another LP. At the end of 2 whole LPs, I indulge in a longer break, perhaps for a beverage, or a quick look at cyclingnews.com.

Vinyl? Turntable?

Of course, there are two obvious barriers to widespread adoption of The 33⅓ RPM Vinyl Album Technique:

  • Access to vinyl records — If you already have some vinyl in your attic, drag them out now and get started with The Album Technique, today. Otherwise, you could pop into a charity store, or a second hand store, for some bargain vinyl. You may be lucky enough to have a specialist secondhand music store, such as Dixon’s, in Melbourne. Or, you could find a online record store, or use EBay.
  • Access to a turntable — Did you know that you can pickup a portable USB turntable with built in speaker, that can be powered from the mains, or by battery? It’ll cost $80-$100. It probably won’t sound as good as putting it through a good amplifier and speaker. However, you could plug in some headphones, plug it into a stereo, or run it through your computer’s speakers. The added bonus is that you will be able to impress potential dates, with your musical tastes, when stopping off for a drink on the way home from a record buying expedition, as the dapper gentleman in the above photo, demonstrates.

The Digital Album Technique

What happens if you can’t get yourself some records and a turntable, but still want to use music to help you focus? You could still do this with a digital solution such as iTunes or Spotify, by creating some 25 minute long playlists. Of course, you won’t have the physical prompt to get out of your seat to change the record, like you do with the The 33⅓ RPM Vinyl Album Technique.

It’s pretty quick to create a Smart Playlist in iTunes that is limited to 25 minutes. Or you can just create a few playlists and fill up 25 minutes worth of music.

iTunes. Create Smart Playlist

iTunes TAT Smart Playlist

In the example below, I flipped a few songs I wanted to listen to into a new Spotify playlist. In this case, Side 1 of New Order’s album, Technique. As you can see, it’s only 20 minutes, but that’s fine. This is The Album Technique, not The Pomodoro Technique!

Just make sure that you don’t have the media player set to repeat, and that it doesn’t go onto another playlist, or you won’t get a cue that your Pomodoro has ended.

Spotify. The Album Technique.

I won’t always listen to music, when working, so I won’t always use The Album Technique. Sometimes, I just need to completely focus on the task at hand. However, I seem to work well when I have some music on, most of the time. Setting up time boxes helps  me focus, and allowing for regular breaks is also beneficial. Maybe it can be useful for you too?

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