FW recently wrote a post explaining how Francesco Cirillo’s time-management ‘Pomodoro Technique’ is a great way to improve productivity and efficiency.Since then, I have tried using this technique both at work and in life and have discovered two key things.
Firstly, using the technique at work is AMAZING. I am a complete convert.I have never been so productive in my entire professional life.
Recently, I have been especially busy at work as I have had a sudden increase of email traffic to deal with as well as the responsibility of several other large projects at the same time.Some of these projects involve creating financial reports, others entail designing presentations and still others require me to coordinate lots of people in different regions.Whilst these are very varied, they are also all very time-consuming, and all require very close attention to detail and large amounts of concentration. It has been difficult trying to decide how much time to allocate to each, when to reply to emails, how to avoid being distracted whilst working on a particular task, and also how to constantly re-prioritise as new works comes up.
Pomodoro has completely changed my time-management skills. I have meetings every morning so I start the timer as soon as these meetings are over.For the past week, I have achieved more every day than I expected to the week before.A project I thought would take me three days took me one.Not only have I been both more productive and efficient, but I have also forced myself to confront the fact that I am much more of a procrastinator than I wish to admit!
I have three pieces of advice for using this technique in the workplace:
- If you find you are having trouble focusing on large projects because you are getting distracted by smaller emails/phone calls/people asking you questions, then use this technique and set aside time to focus on that project. Most importantly, during this time, turn off all email alerts! Turn off the ‘pop up’ box which informs you an email has arrived. Don’t check your inbox until the 25 minute session is over.
- If you’re putting off doing that large project in favour of getting the smaller ones out the way, then this is also a great way of forcing yourself to address that task which is most important.Prioritise: use the first 25 minute ‘sprint’ to focus on the larger project that needs doing.Once you have forced yourself to focus on it for 25 minutes, you will find that it is much easier to keep working on it and you will be able to finish it quicker.If you can’t just ignore the smaller things which pop up as and when, do two 25 minute sprints focusing on the large project, and then the third focusing on the smaller tasks.
- Use it to focus on emails. I have hundreds of unread emails which have been building up over the past weeks.I have had to quickly flick through them, ignore the less important/urgent ones and hastily deal with those important ones in between working on my projects. Now I instead set aside specific sprint time to simply address emails. I recommend you respond immediately to any email which takes less than five minutes to do. If it’s going to take longer, think about devoting a later 25 minute sprint to those larger emails which will require more of your time.
One question you may find yourself asking is what to do if you have long meetings in the day, or if someone comes up to you to ask you about something during one of your sprints.These things can’t be helped, so I just include them in my 25 minute time allocation.If the meeting runs on longer, I take a break immediately after the meeting for five minutes and resume.If someone distracts me for 10 minutes with a separate task during a sprint, I count that towards my 25 minutes.
Furthermore, if you’re finding it hard to categorise your tasks or decide which one to focus on in each 25 minutes, I would recommend using the below table to organise and prioritise what really needs to be done. If you feel you have too much to do and don’t know where to start, categorise your work in the below boxes, and start at the top left!
- Whilst this technique has been a life-saver at work, I have found that it only works for a very specific type of work.I work in a corporate office environment, dealing with emails/financial data/client technical queries and large information databases. What I have struggled to use Pomodoro with, is doing anything which requires creativity.
The tasks which I do can often be categorised and separated out, and whilst a lot of focus is required for these projects, there is very little creative thinking required.When I have been trying to think creatively (sadly mostly outside of work), I have found Pomodoro has not been very helpful.To give you an example, when trying to think of articles I wish to write about on this blog, the Pomodoro Technique itself has been useless (apart from as an idea for this post of course…!). Personally, I cannot force myself to ‘be creative’ in 25 minutes no matter how hard I concentrate.I usually get around this by changing my scenery, looking online for things to give me inspiration, or talking to friends. However when actually writing various articles where a specific task and focus is in mind, then the technique is perfect.
I would love to hear your thoughts on how you are finding the Pomodoro technique.If it doesn’t work for you, what does? At LLB we’re all interested in making the most of our time and maximising efficiency, so if you feel a different system works better or are struggling to use this please let us know!