Are you one of those people who takes a look at the projects you currently have in progress and wonder how on earth you are going to work your way through them? Do you find yourself looking at your to do list and deferring projects into the future on a regular basis.
I hear you, I promise.
I’m managing a large number of projects at the moment, both domestic and business-related, that cannot be allowed to stagnate. The hats I wear are as follows:
- I’m an IT contractor (ideally full-time but that’s not always the case)
- I write for my own website at SoliamSays.com
- I create content for Productivityist as well (helping out with Productivityist Coaching is on the horizon there, too)
- I’m studying for professional IT certifications
- I study productivity religiously with the 50,000 feet view to changing careers
- I’m a husband
- I’m father to three daughters
- I’m a homeowner
All of this means I regularly have many projects on the go at once.
We have all been in the situation where we will dedicate ourselves to a particular project, enjoy the pleasure and euphoria that surrounds getting it completed, only to have that bubble burst by the realisation that you have neglected to work on something else that has now reached an equal, if not higher level of importance. You then start working on that, yet cannot throw yourself into it fully, as the fear is always in the back of your mind that there is something else you should be doing, something that has a greater significance.
And so the snake begins to eat itself.
In order to manage this situation, I rely on two things (and regular readers of my blog will be raising their eyebrows, saying “I know already – just get to them”) and they are OmniFocus and The Pomodoro Technique.
What Is It?
The Pomodoro Technique was created by Francesco Cirillo during the late 1980’s. Strange title, I know! It is named after the small tomato-shaped timer that was first used by Cirillo when he was a university student. It works on the principle that frequent breaks will increase mental agility.
I’ve been a long time admirer and user of The Pomodoro Technique. In essence, if you decide to utilise it, you are going to break down your day into half hour chunks, or ‘pomorodos’. A pomodoro consists of twenty-five minutes focused work followed by a five-minute break. That break can be filled with whatever action you like. Being a caffeine addict, my five minutes is usually filled with stretching my legs while I put on another brew.
The amount of work that can be completed in that pomodoro is quite staggering, especially the first time you complete one. With my MacBook on Do Not Disturb, my phone set to only allow calls from VIPs and my Zen Spotify playlists cranked up, I can achieve in one pomodoro what could ordinarily take me a couple of hours, especially if I work in an office environment.
There are times when it doesn’t suit. For example, when I’m working on a consultation at a client site, I can’t expect them to fit in with my ‘alternative’ work regime. They are a customer and I need to do what I can to keep them. No, The Pomodoro Technique comes into play for me when I am at home and I have a direct influence on my surroundings, both animal and mineral.
Right now, The Pomodoro Technique is going into overdrive for me due to the sheer scope of my workload – and I think that is where it actually comes into its own. This is how I am working:
Find out what’s going on
Firstly, everything that you have going on at the moment needs to be collected. The whole lot. Every deliverable you know that you have an obligation to deliver needs to be extracted from that spaghetti junction you call a brain and laid out either on paper or digitally.
Next, work out that next action that needs to be taken in order to move the project on. This could be anything from responding to an email, researching the contents of a website or making a phone call.
Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, for all of your projects, just work out what you need to do to move that project on. All of a sudden you will enjoy a brief moment of clarity. Where you used to see a brick wall, you now actually see past that next task and you can envisage a path to the project’s completion. Once you have this vision, write down what needs to be done, calculate what those actions are going to be.
That’s very much entrenched within the Getting Things Done methodology created by David Allen and I live by this approach because it has proven itself to me.
Once you have the actions within your project defined, you are in a position to define your pomodoro chunks and let rip with your Pomodoro Power. Circumstance permitting, I will try to spend at least one, twenty-five minute period, moving each of those projects forward.
Admittedly there are times when you have you have to prioritize one over another, however, no system is completely foolproof and in my current situation, this definitely works a treat. It is so much easier to squeeze a twenty-five minute session related to a project into your evening, for example, then to tell yourself you are going to work on a project, only to procrastinate because you don’t have any idea how to really move it forward. Twenty-five minutes is just long enough to get some excellent results without growing bored with the task you are doing.
Being able to work this way makes me happy, safe in the knowledge that the most important areas in my life are being progressed. As said, it doesn’t suit everybody but that is what makes the world of productivity so interesting and exciting – there are methodologies and ways of working for everyone, you just have to find them.