Lately, I’ve been on a mission to find new and creative ways to stay focused and become more productive on my work from home days. Especially since I can get sidetracked so easily.
Sidebar: The ULTIMATE at-home distraction are our two little feisty kittens. Sebs and Max. I mean, our kittens just too fun to play with!
ANYWAY, I’m usually working from home at least once, if not twice per week. It’s my day to catch up on work emails, personal stuff, catching up on the news, blog, admin work, and even more paperwork, etc. etc. etc. (hello self-employment!)
After many failed attempts to have an amazingly productive work from home day, I created ‘The Rules‘ for myself. Which works — when I stick to them. But I wanted something more structured than a list of rules.
I came across the Pomodoro Technique, loved the name, found the technique intriguing, and thought I’d give it a try.
Here’s what it is, and what my experience with it was like.
WHAT IS THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE?
It is a very simply productivity management system which involves a timer, and the tasks for the day that you want accomplished broken down into 25 minute intervals, with short breaks in between each interval. Break up your daily to-do lists into manageable tasks (or lump a few small ones together). Each of these tasks will now be referred to as a Pomodoro.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes. Complete said tasks.
- When the 25 minutes is up, and the timer rings, take a short break, 3-5 minutes.
- Pick another set of tasks, reset the timer for another Pomodoro, 25 minutes.
- Complete the tasks, take a short break, 3-5 minutes.
- After four Pomodoro’s in a row, take a longer break, 15-20 minutes.
OK, so now that you understand the basic guidelines, here’s how I went about it. I took 10 minutes to write down ALL of the tasks I wanted / needed to get down that day. I then organized and sorted them into groups, and then wrote out a schedule for myself. Here’s what my very first Pomodoro Day looked like:
I know, I know. You’re not supposed to mix in household work (laundry / cleaning) into a work day, but my workload somewhat light. I figured if I kept myself organized, and on track, it would be fine. And for the most part, it was! I felt by the end of the day, I had done a ton, and was pretty proud of myself.
Some tasks take much longer than 25 minutes. Like preparing invoices, emailing clients their menus and grocery lists for the following week, and writing blog posts! Totally laughable to think I could write and edit an entire post in 25 minutes….
Each time I was interrupted by the timer, I just wanted to finish said task, especially is I was in flow. Sometimes, I’d keep working well past the timer. Which sort of went against the grain, but it’s really hard to stop when you’re in the middle of a flow!
There were a few times that I’d push less important tasks down to Pomodoro #9 and #10 — which I decided halfway through the day would be my ‘free and open’ Pomodoros to make up any tasks I wasn’t able to get to earlier. Example, I needed to use Pomodoro #3 to finish up a task I wasn’t able to finish in Pomodoro #2. So I moved the task from #3 to #9.
What I learned from this?
Do not overestimate how much can be achieved in a 25 minute block. 25 minutes isn’t really a huge amount of time, so sometimes less is more.
When I orginially planned this out, I naturally grouped like tasks together. But I quickly learned that while, yes, they were related, they couldn’t both be able to get finished in the same Pomodoro.
With all of the negatives, the main one being, 25 minutes isn’t enough time to complete a majority of my tasks, I still enjoyed it. I felt like it kept my day organized and very focused. Each hour of the work day had a purpose, and was planned out.
It’s also nice to be reminded to take short breaks, even if it’s only 3-5 minutes. There are so many times where I am glued to my computer for hours on end.
WOULD I CONTINUE?
Absolutely! In fact, I still use the technique every time I have a work from home day. Which usually falls on Fridays. After I wake up and go through a quick morning routine (which looks much different now than it did six months ago!), I sit down and plan out my day — Pomodoro style!
What method do you follow to stay on task?