I have found a technique that just about doubles my productivity without burning myself out.
Parkinson’s law says that work fills the time allotted. I have found this to be true. If you don’t set deadlines, and enforce them, things won’t get done on time.
This is especially true if you don’t have any sort of project management system in place, but that’s a story for another blog post.
My answer to Parkinson’s Law is to decrease the time allotted. I use the Pomodoro Technique to do it.
- What is the Pomodoro Technique?
- Steps to do the Pomodoro Technique:
- What to do if you’re interrupted:
- What to do if you have extra time at the end:
- What to do if you don’t have enough time:
- How to avoid burnout:
- Pomodoro Tools and Apps:
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
A guy named Francesco Cirillo coined the term in the late 1980’s, and pretty much came up with the whole thing. It’s a time management technique where you break projects into smaller pieces, then manage your time in short 25 minute blocks with 5 minute breaks. At the end of 4 sessions, called Pomodoros, you take a longer break.
Your focus is intense for those 25 minutes so after a few of these sets, you’ll be as tired as if you worked 8 hours.
And you’ll have 8 hours of work done.
But, it’ll be done in 6 hours or less.
Steps to do the Pomodoro Technique:
First, you have to be alone and uninterrupted.
This is going to sound crazy, but don’t worry. It’s not for long, and after you see the power you will agree it was worth it.
Go into your office. Close your door. Set your phone to be silent without vibrate. Set it somewhere you won’t even look at it.
You have to be completely distraction free.
For example, I can’t do this in the AIBD office because there are too many interruptions.
However, when I get home I’m able to focus on my side business and get a lot done in much less time. I’m essentially doing two jobs, but in only one and a half the time.
You’re also going to need a pomodoro timer. Cirillo suggests you have an actual pomodoro kitchen timer. They’re the ones that look like a red tomato, and you twist them to get them going.
His theory is that the physical act of winding the timer, combined with the ticking during the Pomodoro session, completed by the ringing of the timer, sets your mindset right.
Down in the tools section, I’ve listed some apps and other physical timers you can pick up. I usually just use my search engine of choice and search for one, and then start it there. I don’t need anything fancy, but you might.
You’ll also need some way to plan and record your tasks. Cirillo again recommends using something analog, like a paper and pencil.
I have found that my project management software works fine for me, but perhaps you want to do it “right” or you have another system already in place for managing and tracking progress. That’s great; use it!
You need to plan your day of pomodoros. This is where the pencil and paper or your project management system come into play.
One of the best features of the Pomodoro technique is that’s it’s strictly measured so you know exactly how much time this is going to take. Here’s an example of the Pomodoro planning I did for writing this blog post:
|7:25pm||5 minute break|
|7:55pm||5 minute break|
|8:25pm||5 minute break|
|8:30pm||Find + Edit images|
|8:55pm||35 minute break|
I do an extra 5 minute break for the longer break because it keeps all my times uniform.
It’s important that you have the check mark spot, whether it’s on a piece of paper or in your project management software. You need to be able to actually see yourself checking off the session.
You might not consciously know it, but this is releasing chemicals in the reward center of your brain. These help keep you focused and motivated. This part is extremely important to the success of the technique.
3. Set the Pomodoro timer
I shouldn’t have to explain this step for you.
4. Work on the task:
“Just do it.” – Nike, and also Shia Leboufe.
5. Check mark when session done:
Again, this is important! Check off the session as done.
6. Set the timer for break:
Most people do 3-5 minute breaks. I like to give myself a full 5 minutes. Stretch, step outside, get another glass of water or coffee.
7. Check off your break:
You might as well.
8. Repeat steps until 4 sessions complete.
9. Set timer for longer break:
You earned it! Go get some lunch, or something.
What to do if you’re interrupted:
Most of the time, you should note the interruption and attend to it later.
Of course, if it’s an emergency such as your office is on fire or your husband had a heart attack, you should attend to that immediately.
Otherwise, write it down and get back to it later.
I keep a Notepad file open on my computer all day, every day, which I use for notes throughout the day. At the end of the day, I clear it out by sending each note of information to its proper place.
You can also use a physical notepad if you wish. That’s what Cirillo would suggest.
Either way, it’s extremely important that you have somewhere to quickly write down the interruption so you can attend to it later.
It needs to be quick, but it also needs to be put out of your mind.
If you write (or type) it down, you know it’s been acknowledged and you know you won’t forget. It can now be put aside without any stress.
After all, it’s only a few more minutes until your next break. You can attend to it then.
Finish your Pomodoro session.
If it’s a phone call, you can call them back. If it’s a text, you can read it later. Email should be assigned a Pomodoro session.
What to do if you have extra time at the end:
The general consensus for what to do with extra time is to dedicate the time to something called “overlearning.” In a nutshell, this means to dedicate some time to learning more about something you already know.
Perhaps look at some AIBD blogs.
Or use this time for deliberate practice.
Either way, you don’t get an early break just because you finished a session early. Something took less time than you thought, and that’s great. But use the time wisely.
It’s also good not to get a head start on your next session. It’s important that you stick to the plan you set for yourself and only adjust if you need more time, not less time.
Use the extra time to improve your practice. Maybe do some sketches for fun, or read up on new marketing techniques.
Whatever you do, use the time to improve yourself. There’s no better time than time you didn’t even know you had!
What to do if you don’t have enough time:
First of all, don’t feel bad. This happens to me all the time. I even follow the “it takes three times longer than you think” rule when planning, and I still come up short sometimes.
No problem. Just rearrange the rest of the day’s Pomodoro sessions.
This leads to another benefit of why you should keep track of all your pomodoro sessions either in a project manager or on a notepad. You can see how long it takes you to complete certain tasks and learn to plan better in the future.
Knowing how long it takes to complete a task will also help you in figuring out how much to charge in your business.
How to avoid burnout:
You have to stop when you need to. If you’re doing what used to take you 8 hours in 4 hours, maybe consider only putting in a little extra time and taking the rest of the time off. After all, you’ve doubled your productivity.
In the US, we’ve been so focused on becoming more and more productive, but we forgot that increased productivity was supposed to me increased leisure time.
Instead, we treat increased productivity as increased time to work.
Doesn’t that kind of suck?
This isn’t they way it should be.
I recommend you use the Pomodoro Technique, get stuff done in less time, and spend more time with your family.
Pomodoro Tools and Apps:
The best Pomodoro
browser tool I have found is https://www.tomatotimers.com.
It has all of the timers, plus a built in check list. Plus, it has a
cute dancing tomato in a tie.
Here’s a kitchen Pomodoro timer on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/60-Minute-Kitchen-Timer-Tomato/dp/B00EEUHJHO/ref=sr_1_7?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1547149244&sr=1-7&keywords=pomodoro+timer
You should be able to find your own pens, pencils, and notebooks if you need them.