Monthly Archives: Jul 2014

Productivity

How many pomodoros did you do today?

In Polish “pomodoro” is very similar to the word for “tomato.” Is it similar in your language? When you hear “pomodoro technique” do you also think about a delicious vegetable? :)

Jokes aside, today I am writing about a very useful and popular technique of time management – the pomodoro technique.

I am pretty sure that you all know this technique. In this post I will just briefly summarize its main rules. I will also write more about how I apply this technique in my everyday work.

The rules are very easy and there are only a few of them. You need a list of tasks to work on and a timer (the name of the technique comes from the timer used by its creator – it was in the shape of a tomato). You should set the timer for 25 minutes and start to work on one chosen task. You should focus only on that task. Don’t answer any calls, e-mails, or IMs and do not talk with others. When the 25 minutes is over you set the timer for 5 more minutes – this is your break. You do not work during the break. Congratulations! You have finished your first pomodoro :)

Photo from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Il_pomodoro.jpg

Photo from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Il_pomodoro.jpg

If you finished your task in the first pomodoro, then in the following one you can start the next task. If not, then continue with the task from the previous session. After four pomodoros, you should have a longer break of 15 minutes.

Why does it work? I can’t answer for everyone, but for me 25 minutes is short enough to stay focused on one task. And after 25 minutes, I can see that I am much closer to finishing the task. Thanks to this, I am motivated to continue working on it in the next pomodoro.

We are done with the theory. That is really everything you should know (almost – you can read more on this site).

Why do I use the pomodoro technique? Throughout the day I have a few meetings. I have noticed that it is hard to get focused and push things forward in the breaks between meetings. Sometimes I have several minutes, sometimes a couple of hours. I spend them in Outlook, reading documents, talking to people, etc. I thought that if only I were able to spend that time doing stuff from my todo list I would be able to do a lot more each day.

Then I read about the pomodoro technique and decided to give it a shot. Now each time I have more than 30 minutes I use that technique. I prepare one task, turn on the timer (I use Moosti or Tomato TImer for that) and try to work without any breaks for one full pomodoro. If I have more time, then I do more pomodoros, remembering to take breaks.  And you know what? It works! I noticed that since I started to work with this time management technique, I am able to do a lot more. My tasks and projects have progressed in a visible way.

There is also an additional and surprising result of using this technique. When I start the timer I put it on my second screen (like in the picture). While I work on the laptop, the timer on the big screen is visible. After a few initial questions from my colleagues (what is it? why do you do that?) they stopped interrupting me when they see the timer on! If there is anything they want from me, they wait till the break. It is an unexpected but very productive outcome.

 

I have been using this technique more and more. Whenever I have time for at least one pomodoro I start a timer and just do my tasks, fully focusing on them. I do more thanks to this.

I hope that I inspired you a little bit to check it out for yourself. I think it is worth giving it a shot. :)

Photo by  The EwanCC BY

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Book

“Power of habit” – how to change your habits

A couple of years ago I found an interesting methodology of managing productivity called “Zen to Done” by Leo Babauta. The core of that methodology is based on habits. The author describes ten of them and claims that by implementing any of these habits productivity can be increased.  I managed to implement a few of those habits which helped me to complete my tasks. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to implement all the habits I wanted, even when I tried really hard. I was wondering why I could implement some and I was not able to do the same with others. Recently I read a book called “Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and I found a few possible answers to my question.

powerofhabit

Duhigg describes how the habits of individuals, companies, and societies work. He introduces us to the neurological basis of how habits are formed and how we can use that knowledge to consciously work on our own habits. It is very easy to follow what he is trying to explain. He includes many examples, maybe even too many…. On the other hand, thanks to this it is impossible to forget them :)

The one thing from the book I remember the most is a description about what a habit consists of. He lists three components of a habit:

  • Cue: something that starts an action we call a habit. It can be the sound of an alarm clock, the smell of your favorite cookie, etc.
  • Action: the habit itself. For example, getting up at 3PM everyday and going to the canteen to have a cookie.
  • Reward: the feeling we have after an action (joy, happiness, etc).

Some intriguing advice that I found is that the easiest way to change a habit is to reuse the cue and reward of the existing one.  The only thing you have to do is change the “action” part. That way we have a bigger chance to change the “bad” habit.

I am going to use this thinking on habits that I failed to change in the past. Maybe if I find a real cue and a reward for those habits I will be able to change my behaviors.

I listened to the audio version of the book. At times I felt it was too long, but overall it was very nice and informative. I encourage you to read it yourself.

Good luck in fighting with your habits!

 

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