Time Management & Pomodoro – Feel Like You’re Running a Marathon?
I will start by referring to the Pomodoro; it is a type of tomato AND a technique to help with time management, and more on that in a few paragraphs time.
Here in Bath the city is buzzing as the annual marathon event known as the Bath Half will take place this coming Sunday. People will flock to the streets all cheering on their friends and family taking part to get fit and raise goodness knows how much money for their chosen charities, all good stuff indeed.
In our very busy lives it can feel like we are running a marathon simply by the management (or lack of in some cases) of the tasks that have to be completed. We rush around like headless chickens from task to chore in the hope of being able to draw a lovely fat red line through our to do list items.
The thing is, when we create a to do list, we attach ourselves emotionally to the content. We choose to do some tasks we really like first, or we choose the others tasks first because they are a quick win, and get the ‘red line’ action off to a good start. In another way we also put off things we do not want to do, or are not possible yet; indeed in my case, such items go into what I call the ‘too hard tray’. Not great is it.
Now that I am running my own business, I have quickly realized how much I took for granted departments in organizations that keep the wheels greased, such as marketing, accounts, sales to name a few. I am now all of those departments as well as being the product that is being sold. With all the client management that goes on in terms of sending out proposals, taking and making calls, creating material for delivery as well as invoicing and advertising it can get overwhelming. Oh and don’t get me started on Social Media, essential doesn’t being to cover it when you run a business, and you need to carve out time for it. All I will say is thank goodness for timed releases.
In order to get as much out of the day as I can, I follow a simple system that is based on reward and discipline. The latter is hard, but when used in tandem with the former, it really makes a difference.
Each day I get up early and walk the dog. He needs it and it puts me in a zone, when we are back I do the domestic bit and then employ what I call a reward/discipline mechanism and that for me is 90mins in the gym. Once that is done I need to do enough work to justify that reward and so the next 7-10hours make up the working day. Good coffee forms another reward mechanism but that is another story.
Now the science part.
I create a to do list addressing and prioritising everything in terms of urgency (tasks driven by time) and importance (those tasks deemed important by opinion, mine or others). Using a simple method I was taught many years ago and have employed ever since I then subset each task into three. Those being, in the grand scheme of things, Very Urgent, Urgent, or Not Urgent. Then I repeat this with tasks being Very Important, Important and Not Important. Starting with the ‘very’ words I assign a number 3, then a 2 to the middle ones and a 1 to the ‘not’ words. By assigning two numbers to each task e.g. Invoicing 2 (urgent) and 3 (very important) then multiplying them together, so in this case Invoicing gets a total of 6, I can clearly and without emotion, identify which tasks need to be completed first. My list might look like this as an example. It only there was five items then I would be living the dream it is closer to about 35 each day hence the system!
- Invoicing Client 2 (urgent) and 3 (very important) Total 6
- Send Proposal to new client by end of month 1 (not urgent) and 2 (important) Total 2
- Print out notes for session tomorrow 3 (very urgent) and 3 (very important) Total 9
- Book train tickets for next week 2 (urgent) and 2 (important) Total 4
- Call 3 new clients 2 (urgent) and 3 (very important) Total 6
You can see that my 9 score must be done first and my 2 score is last. If I do not get these things done today then by recompleting the process tomorrow the number will go up and the time runs out. If any two tasks get the same number then the time driven element will be the decider and for this I simply add on a .5. I do it this way and ensure that the numbers never go above 9 as when things go into double figures they can get out of control! And that leads to coffee!
Bring on the Tomato!
While I am working it is vital that I do not let time run away with me, and being conscious of it makes a world of difference. To this end I have started employing the Pomodoro Technique, which is essentially a kitchen timer (in the shape of a tomato, or pomodoro to be precise and setting it to 25 minutes. My tasks then get broken up into 25-minute chunks. It is very simple and tremendously effective. There is more to it as well and I would recommend the book to anyone looking to improve his or her skills, the one I have is called Pomodoro Technique Illustrated (I like a picture!) by Steffan Noteberg it has a forward by the creator Francesco Cirillo and makes for a cracking read. It really is make a huge difference to my efficiency when combined with the number technique.
If you find yourself in a position where there are not enough minutes left at the end of an hour or enough hours left in a day, then you might find your marathon of tasks easier to work through by trying these two simple techniques. You could also come to one of my Time Management training sessions. We could drink a lot of coffee there too. Thanks for reading this and don’t worry too much if you don’t get everything done, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter, take time for yourself, give yourself a little reward and sometimes you can get much more done.
This blog is part of the Journey Through Time, and if you would like to develop the time management skills of your teams further then use the form below or drop me Simon an email at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for reading and drop by again soon.