I want to get things done!
Do you often have that feeling that you didn't accomplish one thing in your day? It seems like you rush from one thing to another and nothing on your list is done? Well you can feel accomplished in as little as 15 minutes and here's how!
For years I used what I thought was my own made up process to complete work. I would break my tasks down into 15 minute increments and take breaks often. Recently I learned that this a modification of a technique called the Pomodoro Technique. The original technique breaks work down into 25 minute increments. Using these methods I have been able to to teach classes, take classes and provide consulting services all while holding a full time job!
This technique can be useful to anyone: parents, students, office workers, professionals and entrepreneurs alike. The key is intense focus for small periods of time with short breaks to allow your mind and body to reset so that it can focus on the next task. Let's get into how this technique can help you be more productive!
What do I need to use the Pomodoro Technique?
A timer and a list. That's it.
How do I do it?
Follow these six simple steps.
Step 1 - Plan
My experience as an individual and as an instructor shows me that planning for 6 hours of your day is realistic and doable in most cases. Life with all its unexpected glory makes it unrealistic to believe that we can control every minute. Therefore, I have made it a habit to only plan about 6 hours of my day. This means that I have a particular focus of things I absolutely want to accomplish. If I am fortunate to have more time, then I can go to my secondary list to get things done. Planning can be done in three steps:
List the tasks you want to accomplish for the day and estimate how long you think it will take you to complete each task.
Select the high priority things on your list and add up the time. If it is more than 6 hours, then cut some items off the high priority list until you whittle it down to 360 minutes.
Now that your high priority list is done, break those tasks up into 15 minute increments.
You are done with step one. This is likely to take you the most time when you start using this technique, but as time progresses, it will only take you 15-20 minutes at most.
Step 2 - Set your timer
You can go high-tech or low-tech with this. If you have a kitchen timer, you can use that. They are often available at your local dollar store. If you prefer, the clock function on your mobile phone will work as well. Set the time for 15 minutes.
Step 3 - Get to work!
Set your phone face down to minimize distractions and work on your task intently. If you think of something else that you need to do, write it down and get back on task.
Step 4 - Review
When the timer goes off assess if you completed the task. If you did, awesome, congratulate yourself and check the task off your to do list. If not, congratulate yourself because you were able to focus and complete some things. This will also help you estimate in the future.
Step 5 - Short break
This is your reset time to clear your mind for the next task. Reset your timer for 5 minutes and meditate, do a quick exercise, read an article or grab a drink or snack.
Step 6 - Repeat to complete a cycle
Continue completing your task list that you identified in Step 1 by repeating steps 2 and 3. If you did not complete the task in the prior pomodoro (15-minute group), finish that first before going to the next task. You should complete 4 pomodoros followed by a longer break. This break can be anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Use this time to relax and absorb what you accomplished in the previous cycle.
Using the suggested times, a complete cycle is approximately 90 minutes. If you plan for 4 cycles that is 6 hours and 16 task groups that you can work on.
Top 5 Benefits of using this technique
Understand how you are using your time - This technique helps you understand how much effort is required for the things you need to do.
Minimize interruptions - Most people can find 15 minutes to work uninterrupted. Emails and phone calls are rarely that urgent, so delaying a response for 15 minutes is acceptable.
Sets a time limit - Parkinson's law says that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." By setting boundaries for the task, you are more likely to complete it in that time frame than if no boundaries are set.
Define your objectives - This technique helps you identify and achieve what is important for you to complete. Coupled with number 1 it helps you see where you may need to prioritize your work.
Small wins - Provides small, noteworthy accomplishments. Many times we feel that "we didn't accomplish anything all day." However, with this technique you feel confident and reassured that you are getting things done.
Why do you call it a "modified" Pomodoro?
The beauty in this technique is that you don't have to complete a "cycle" to get things done. All you need is 15 minutes! Each 15 minutes you get can be used to intensely focus on a task. The times do not have to be consecutive either. Part of the challenge is being aware that the short amount of time available to you can be used and that you believe you can do it in that time. The key is the initial planning. You may not have time to plan everyday, but that is okay. You can plan once a week and work your 15 minutes from your weekly list instead of your daily one. Whenever you have 15 minutes you can complete a task and get closer to your goals!
Let me know how it works for you on Twitter!