Following up Thursday's post about saving time, I wanted to share the following time management technique, brought to my attention by the sickeningly talented PJ Holden (follow him on Twitter: @pauljholden).
I know every third person thinks they have some magic solution to time management, but I've only been working like this for a few days, and have found my productivity noticeably increased, so I thought it was worth a blog post.
I've started using the Pomodoro technique which, put simply, involves working out your tasks for the day, ordering them and working through them. You work absolutely flat out, with no interruptions and no distractions for 25 minutes, and then you take a 5 minute break before resuming. Each of these is called a pomodoro and, every time you complete four of them, you take a longer break.
You don't need anything more sophisticated than a kitchen timer for this, but you'll be unsurprised to hear that there's an app for that, and a variety of Android apps, too. There are actually several iPhone apps, too, but I'm using the free LE version of the app linked above and it seems more than sufficient.
To be honest, I don't have a problem with my work ethic, which is pretty strong. My problem is with my ability to become distracted, and for those distractions to quickly start eating into what should be working time…
|Up - TM & © Disney/Pixar|
(In fact, there's been an unexpected peripheral benefit, in so far as five minutes is almost exactly enough time for me to boil a kettle, make a cup of tea, and get back to my desk. This has largely eliminated my habit of snacking and forced me to schedule a proper lunch break into my day.)
Obviously, you still require a certain amount of willpower, without which the exercise is ultimately futile. It's still an effort of will, for example, dealing with e-mails. When one announces its arrival, I permit myself to quickly switch to my mail application and check the sender and subject line. If it's not work-related, it can wait for a break.
If the e-mail is work-related, I permit myself to read it but unless the message is saying: "OMG! My regular letterer on Captain Stupendo just fell into cement mixer! Can you letter all 24 pages of #47 by this time tomorrow?" Then, frankly, it can wait!
An additional benefit, for me at least, has been a more acute appreciation of how my regular working tasks break up into these 25 minute chunks; just a better understanding of how long things take which, as a freelancer, is pretty important when making a judgement on how much to charge for a job!
So… all in all, a deceptively simple time management technique that I've found to be of surprising value. Give it a try -- it might be of benefit.
* From Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"