Thursday, 6 June 2013

Productivity aids.

Back in February (wow, it's been that long now!) I blogged about a form of to-do list that gamifies life. I'm quite happy to tell you that even though the productivity spike from trying something new has ebbed, and even though there are some things I'm still doing badly at, I have stuck with the game and actually get stuff done a bit better, or so it feels. (This is always hard to tell, I think. How do you know that you are more, or less, productive than you would be with another method? Or none at all? Unless you go from, say, 5% good use of time to 95% good use of time and stick with that over several months at least, it's pretty hard to say.)

However, it was time to try something new in addition to the list. I'm suffering from the same problem many freelancers do - very little structure in a given day. Yes, there's getting up, there's the need to eat something at some point, and there's the need to sleep, and to take a break. But otherwise, my time can be arranged quite freely.

While that can be an asset - for instance, being able to take half a day off easily in case of unforeseen stuff, or re-arranging for something that came up suddenly - it can also be a hindrance. I can do that later. I can take a break now. I can read now and write later. Or whatever.

So yesterday, I decided to try the Pomodoro Technique. You may have heard of it - it's actually really simple, even though there's a whole book been written about it (a free pdf copy is linked to in the article above, or in the Wikipedia article). You take a timer (any sort will do) and set it to 25 minutes. That's time for work, and nothing else. Then you take a short break, 5 minutes, before starting on your next slice of worktime. After 4 slices (or pomodoros), you get a longer break - 15 or 20 mins, for example. Rinse and repeat.

The intention behind it is to give some structure, cut the worktime down in manageable slices that make it easier to concentrate and to tackle things that seem daunting, and provide enough breaks for recovery. It might work well, or it might not, but I'm giving it a go. After all, the worst that can happen is that I am not going to stick with it as it won't help. Should you be curious now and also want to try it, here's a link to several free timers intended especially for the technique - and there's lots more suitable on the ol' Interwebz.


Cathy Raymond said...

I tend to so something like pomodoros naturally, working in 20 minute bursts. On the other hand, after a while it gets harder, rather than easier, to keep going back to work. So I'll try the pomodoro method and see if it helps with that.

a stitch in time said...

Let me know how it works for you!