“Finds it hard to concentrate”, “has a short attention span”, “is easily distracted” – these were some of the staple phrases that graced my school reports. I guess they weren’t allowed to write “was bored shitless”…
OK. So I’ve a little trouble keeping my mind on things, especially if these things are tedious. Like work. Don’t get me wrong – I actually like my job. Out of all the things I’ve ever done to earn a living, this is by far the best gig. After all, I get to write about FOOD! All day! However, it’s tricky to come up with new angles on stuff you’ve already chewed over a zillion times. So, it can indeed get a tad dull. If it weren’t, I figure, I’d not be paid to do it, but I’d be bashing it out for free. In fact, it would be like blogging, or eating cake.
Anyway, ever since I started freelancing a decade ago, I’ve been on a quest for productivity-boosting strategies. A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested something called the “Pomodoro Method”. Without going into too much detail, it basically involves setting a kitchen timer for 25 minutes, within which you DO NOTHING ELSE BUT STRICTLY FOCUS ON YOUR WORK. Then you can google kittens for a bit. You repeat the cycle as needed, until you get the job done.
So, off we went, my productivity midwife and I, trundling down the East Finchley High Road (I was still living in London then) to procure the essential equipment from the local kitchen supply store.
And there I found him, the last of his bovine kind, wedged between the pepper shakers and the butter dishes, with only a couple of penguins for company. My friend insisted that he needed a name, and suggested Graham. He reminded me of a Graham I used to work with when I still had a proper job, a rotund and docile kind of a chap, so the name stuck.
Graham worked miracles. My productivity soared over the next few months, I was a one-woman-article-writing-machine. Needless to say, Graham moved to Spain with me. He even got to go on the plane, rather than being shipped in a box with the rest of my detritus, such was his status.
Over the past year, sadly, Graham had been ailing. It started gradually. He’d just stop dead in mid-rotation. At first, dinging his midriff with an impatient flick of the finger would re-animate him, and when that no longer worked, I figured out that weary Graham could still perform as long as he was lying down. It seems that middle age is a tough bitch, even for a plastic kitchen gadget.
This touch-and-go state of affairs continued for several months until prostrate Graham started making weird strangulation noises that sounded a bit like a metal chain being pulled through an air vent. Within a couple of weeks, no amount of rolling, cajoling, pummelling or bashing his horns with the tea mug had much of an effect. He’d just utter a faint “tick tock tckzzz…”, before his innards ceased up again.
I had to face the awful truth. Graham had popped his cogs.
OK, time for a confession: Graham had long lost his power as a productivity totem. I’d been breaking the “no distractions” rule left, right and centre, and these days I’m about as productive as a Spanish government office in August. But, dammit(!!!), I can’t actually work AT ALL now without something ticking away right next to me.
So, last week, I ventured, heavy-hearted, into the new Tiger shop that had recently opened up in Toledo. Right by the entrance, I spotted a pink kitchen timer and plonked into my basket. Tiger, a Swedish chain, seems to have copied the infuriating store lay-out invented by its compatriot IKEA, which makes it impossible to get to the till without having to pass through the entire length of the store.
And then, right in the neon-lit back of the shop, I saw it: The Egg. I tossed the whimsical pink ticker aside.
The Egg commanded respect. The Egg would take no nonsense. No more Mr Nice Graham. The Dark Orb would vaporise any illegally googled kittens in one tick-tock. I would heed The Egg.