Category : Productivity

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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Productivity

S like system

Recently, while I was listening to the radio I heard an interview with Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine. She said that recording the third album is the hardest task because after the first album, in which you’re searching for your own style, and the second album, in which you’ve found and mastered that style, everyone expects that the third album will be something new and fresh. That it won’t be the same as the previous ones. I wonder if it is similar with a third blog post ;)

Today I’m going to write about my productivity system. I will treat this post as a kind of table of contents that lists all the components of my system. The description of each point I will add over time as separate blog posts.

The components that make up the center of my productivity are:

  • the values that are the most important for me,
  • the main rules that I use to make choices in everyday life,
  • the priorities in different areas of my life,
  • and the long term goals that are related to the above points.

Then there are the apps that I use to manage my productivity:

  • Nozbe – an application that implements David Allen’s GTD guidelines, and is the main application I use everyday;
  • Goalscape – an application that allows me to write down and visualize my long term goals, which I also use to track the status of those goals;
  • OneNote – I use this application to store and manage all my notes.

The last but equally important part of my productivity system are the habits and techniques that I implement and use regularly to reach my goals:

  • daily planning sessions for the day,
  • week review,
  • the pomodoro technique,
  • visualization techniques,
  • rules for efficient meetings.

The current “look & feel” of my productivity system is a result of three years of work. Marcin Kwieciński’s workshop called “Embrace the Chaos” had the biggest impact on it. He helped me to change the way I work by streamlining my system and introducing new techniques to improve it. Like the technique described in last post.

What I do now is only fine-tune the system to my needs. I read a lot about productivity and try to be on top of all new discussions on the subject (like the technique I described in the last post).

I will elaborate about each point I listed above in a separate post. Stay tuned!

 

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Productivity

Start the morning with closing your e-mail app

Today I’m writing about the latest productivity technique I have implemented in my everyday work – checking my inbox 2-3 hours after the beginning of the work day.

Plenty of techniques exist to increase one’s productivity. While reading books, magazines (like Productivity Magazine), listening to talks, and reading blogs, I am overwhelmed with a number of new ideas on how to be more productive.

I’ve tried many of them, and checked how they work in practice. Some are very good and I’ve incorporated them into my productivity system (I will describe it soon). Many of those ideas do not work for me but they are still worth discussing. Maybe they will work for you.

My work is a mix of conceptual and operational tasks (strategic vs tactical). By conceptual, I mean defining new services, optimizing the way my team works, and creating reports. Operational tasks are all of those that I need to do every day to allow my team to work smoothly – e.g. task assignment, communication, and meetings.

I receive a lot of e-mails every day – several dozens. I bet you do too. Till now, checking my inbox was the second thing I was doing in the morning, just after planning my day. I am in the office at 7AM, which means that I used to process the first e-mails around 7:30AM. By processing emails, I mean applying David Allen’s GTD methodology (Delete, Defer, Delegate or Do – this I will cover in a separate post). Very often “Do” means answering the e-mail.

Now you’re probably thinking – what is so bad about answering e-mail?

What would you do if I answered your e-mail? You would probably answer me back. This is what happens in most cases. One processed e-mail results in a new e-mail to process. Because of this, I end up processing e-mails for the first 2 hours of my day.

I’ve decided to change my approach to e-mail. For the last few weeks I’ve had a new rule – no Outlook till 9AM. What do I do instead? I work :) Now each morning is the most productive part of my day. This is the time when I do the most important tasks scheduled for the day. And after two hours, I can start working on other ongoing tasks. This simple change revolutionized my productivity. I’ve noticed that I have moved forward in many of the projects that I was stuck on because I had no time to focus on them. You may ask – but what do others think about your new approach? Aren’t they impatient because you don’t answer their e-mail immediately? No! In most cases it is more than enough to answer them after 9AM. If there is anything that is very urgent, I will find out about it in a way other than e-mail.

In a separate post I will write about how I choose what to work on during those two precious hours.

Question: what do you think about planning your day in this way?

Photo by Lauren Hammond / CC BY

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