Me: *Checks personal email* 140 emails with way too many unread.
Me: *Checks work email* 200 emails that all require some sort of response or action.
Me: *Goes to get coffee.*
That happens to me at least a couple times a week. I check my email or my to-do list and, when faced with a tidal wave of work, I cave and do something else all together. It's the opposite of productive and usually by the end of the week I've created an even bigger mess that requires even more time to clean up.
Enter: The Pomodoro Technique. I'm not certified, I haven't taken any classes, but I have done 6 pomodoros this week already and damnit I feel good! Basically, The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method...and it's going to help you get some major shit done!
Prepare For Ultimate To-Do List Take Down
Just like the image above indicates, using The Pomodoro Technique is really quite simple. Starting with your to-do list, you pick a task or set of tasks to complete. I use the free pomodoro app (there are quite a few versions on iTunes) to set a 25 minute timer, and hunker down on those tasks.
#ProTip: I close every window on my computer that isn't related to completing my task, including my email. Eliminating distractions is key to focusing during your pomodoro.
You'll learn over time what kind of tasks take less time or more time, grouping them together or separating them out. For example, I do a weekly email cleanse on Fridays. At first I thought I could do that in one pomodoro, realistically it takes two. I now budget my time accordingly. Responding to emails, writing plans or drafting presentations are all going to take multiple sessions, but you can break them into chunks like research, outlining, finding images, etc. that can each be focused on in one pomodoro.
Once you've completed your task and crossed it off your to-do list, you get a five minute break! Yay! Dance around the office, talk to a friend, check your Twitter! Once your five minutes is up, you're back at it. Once you do four pomodoro sessions (that's two hours worth of focused work), you get a longer break - an hour...or maybe a long lunch...with a glass of wine...but maybe that's just me.
Putting Pomodoro To Use
I like to think of pomodoro sessions like interval workouts...you know the ones where you run like a bat shit crazy banshee for 30 seconds and then walk for one minute, over and over for 30 minutes? The idea, neigh, the motto, for those sessions is always "I can do anything for 30 seconds! This is horrid and I hate it, but I can do anything for 30 seconds!" Same at work with pomodoro. I might hate email or writing plans or filing expense reports, but I can do anything for just 25 minutes! Right!
#ProTip: Schedule Pomodoro time into you day. That awkward 30 minutes between meetings where you never get anything done? Schedule a pomodoro into that time and identify a few, easy tasks to complete so you're maximizing your time.
I habitually avoid the same kinds of tasks every week, so I now just use a few pomodoros to get them done and out of the way. Here are tasks that I find are best done using pomodoro sessions:
- cleaning out email inboxes
- updating to-do lists based on those email cleanses
- writing blog posts, searching for images
- filing expense reports
- listening to voicemail (oh I hate voicemail so much!) and responding to it
- issuing contracts, filling out time cards
- checking my Feedly/RSS reader (let's get real, sometimes I just fall into the internet and an hour later I'm looking at pretty pictures on Pinterest! Best to confine these sorts of things to a pomodoro session.)
- cleaning my house (it becomes a bit of a competition with myself to get everything done in one session)
I have to admit, not only do I feel so much better about my workload or to-do list after I do a few sessions, my brain actually hurts a little from focusing so hard on the task(s) at hand! Not only have I done my work, but I know I've done my best work because I am so focused on it.
Everyone has things they don't like doing, or projects that seem insurmountable - but when you break it up into little bite-sized work sessions, nothing is as bad as it seems. So, what have you been avoiding that could get done in a pomodoro? Got any other #protips for using The Pomodoro Technique? Share it all down there in the comments!
Photo credit: The Pomodoro Technique.