Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.
Jim Rohn said that and its truth is plain to see but we struggle with time keeping and deadlines and lost time well… all the time. Today I’ll be a looking at a simple system of time blocking that could make all the difference to you if you are struggling to get stuff done.
“Time management” is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities. Good time management enables you to work smarter – not harder – so that you get more done in less time, even when time is tight and pressures are high.
Last week I looked at 10 ways in which we can sabotage our own efforts and top of my list of self-sabotaging behaviours was that age old chestnut procrastination. It’s also certainly the most commonly raised problem that I hear about from listeners. If I ever put anything out there on social media asking for what people are struggling with right now, by far the most common response is procrastination. It’s a topic I’ve covered before and I suspect it’s one I will deal with again in future, but this technique is a good solution to it. Conversely it can also cure that habit of overworking, by imposing breaks at timed intervals.
Today’s episode covers what is perhaps the most famous of all anti procrastination techniques – It’s something I’ve mentioned in passing in previous episodes but today I’m going to delve into this really quite simple but also very successful anti procrastination method. THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE
We all know that procrastination makes easy things hard and hard things harder, so any edge we can give ourselves when it comes to countering it has gotta be a welcome one. The pomodoro technique is tried and tested and to all intents and purposes is pretty much free.
It was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s but it has been widely popularized in recent years by dozens of apps and websites which now provide timers and instructions. I have mentioned it before whilst talking about an app on my desktop called Forest. Forest is a fun app which plants a digital tree that slowly grows to full height every time you complete a particular segment of allotted time. At the end of a week you will likely have a small wood of them digitally growing there and by the end of a year, you will have a complete forest. The extension to the pomodoro technique that this app offers is that kinda reward, a fully grown digital tree, for each segment of time you have completed.
Unlike some other topics that I have covered on the show I think I can sum this one up quite succinctly. The concept is this. The Pomodoro Technique encourages people to work with the time they have—rather than against it. Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for 'tomato', after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used to time his work segments as a university student. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly-refilling inboxes. With time it can even help improve your attention span and concentration.
As the timer ticks along in the background it quietly instills a sense of urgency. Rather than feeling like you have endless time in the workday to get things done and then ultimately squandering those precious work hours on distractions, you know you only have 25 minutes to make as much progress on a task as possible.
The forced breaks will also help to cure that overwhelmed, burnt-out feeling most of us experience toward the end of the day, or sometimes well before that. Using this system it’s really impossible to spend hours in front of your computer without realizing it, if you have that problem, as the ticking timer reminds you to get up and take a breather.
Pomodoro is a cyclical system. You work in short sprints, which makes sure you’re consistently productive. You also get to take regular breaks that bolster your motivation and keep you creative.
It is probably one of the simplest productivity methods to implement. All you’ll need is a timer. Beyond that, there are no special apps, books, or tools required (though plenty of them out there) Cirillo’s book, The Pomodoro Technique, is a helpful read, but Cirillo himself doesn’t hide the core of the method behind a purchase.
Call to action:
If you want to trial this system then all you need to do is get hold of a timer. This could be a cooking timer, a stopwatch, an app like forest or pomodor, there are loads of them. I recommend pomofocus.io website on desktop because if you go into settings you can set the ticking sound which a lot of them don’t offer. It’s totally free on desktop. There are tons in the app stores too. Just find one that works for you and trial it. Just remember, the focus of the Pomodoro Technique is on the work, not the timer you use. If you would like an actual tomato timer like Cirillo uses, this one is available for not a lot on Amazon.
I’ll make this your call to in this week. Here’s what to do.
1. Choose a task to be accomplished.
2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes.
3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on a sheet of paper
4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
That “longer break” is usually on the order of 15-30 minutes, whatever it takes to make you feel recharged and ready to start another 25-minute work session. Repeat that process a few times over the course of a workday, and you actually get a lot accomplished—and take plenty of breaks to grab a cup of coffee or refill your water bottle in the process.
It’s important to note that a pomodoro is an indivisible unit of work—that means if you’re distracted part-way by a coworker, meeting, or emergency, you either have to end the pomodoro there (saving your work and starting a new one later), or you have to postpone the distraction until the pomodoro is complete. If you can do the latter, Cirillo suggests the “inform, negotiate and call back” strategy:
Inform the other party that you’re working on something right now. Negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue in a timely manner. Schedule that follow-up immediately, then call back the other party when your Pomodoro is complete and you’re ready to tackle their issue.
Of course, not every distraction is that simple, and some things demand immediate attention—but not every distraction does.
On next week’s show I’m going to talk a little bit about clout chasers and social media. If you don’t know what a clout chaser is, then tune in to find out more.
Let me finish with a quote about this topic from Charles Buxton, who said:
You will never 'find' time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.
Jim Rohn also said something significant on today’s subject – he said
Either you run the day or the day runs you.
Now take control of your own destiny and of your own time, keep on shootin’ and join me next time on FILM PRO PRODUCTIVITY AND SUCCESS!
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