When I first started working for myself in 2012, I wasted so much time online. It's a reality when you work for yourself; if you're not disciplined with time you can really hurt your business.
After wasting literally hours in social media rabbit holes I realized I was going to be out of a job real soon if I didn't start focusing on my business. This is where my new fascination with productivity developed. I started to read a lot about productivity, and realized it was something I really love (and love to talk about).
One of the first big game changers for me in my business was reading 99u's Manage your Day to Day. I have had workaholic tendencies for a very long time, basically all of my adult life until I read this book. I truly believed working long hours meant that I was getting stuff done. But Manage Your Day to Day severely shifted my thinking and made me see I was actually wasting a lot of time and not being strategic about working. (I talk about my workaholism and how Manage Your Day to Day was life changing for me here.) Once I had this a-ha moment I started to figure out ways to work smarter, not harder.
Then came along the key that made it all work.
Around 2013, a friend mentioned that I should look into The Pomodoro Technique. I was intrigued. I did a Google Search, and found the website. I was immediately interested because I've found that gamification of anything encourages me to not only nerd out on getting stuff done but make things happen too.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo to help him improve his study habits. Since its first introduction its taken off and become a go to productivity hack within management and business industries. It'sThe idea behind it is that you set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on one task. When that task is done you get a 5 minute break. After you have completed 4 pomodoros - you get a 15 minute break.
Why does it work?
Depending on how your brain sees it; you only have to work for 25 minutes, or you get a break in 25 minutes, or both! So if you have something you don't want to work on, there's an understanding that you only need to sit down for 25 minutes, and then break time!
It's super easy to get started immediately!
What's great about the technique is all you need is a timer. That's it. And it doesn't need to be fancy. You can use your phone's timer, a kitchen timer, or buy an app that lives on your desktop. I've been using the technique for about 3 years now, and I use an app that I bought in the Apple App Store that I love. It's the best $2.99 I've ever invested in my business! (If you're a PC user here are Pomodoro apps in the Google Store.)
The benefits are huge!
Using the Pomodoro technique has saved me enormous amounts of time. There's something about knowing you only have 25 minutes to get a task done that makes it much easier to concentrate. I've found it really to be the only thing that works to help me make strides in my day to day tasks.
Here are a few other added benefits I've found through using this technique:
I get my work done faster in smaller amounts of time because I don't allow myself distractions - I wait for that 5 minute break for those.
Because I've used the technique for so long, I now know how long most tasks within my business will take. This allows me to be more reasonable about dedicating time and scheduling.
It actually helps me save time. Doing spurts of solid work without distractions allow me to focus and get things done quicker. With no distractions I'm not dragging things out.
It finds time for me. No really. If I have a meeting coming up, or a busy day, I know I can always find a few 25 minutes to get things done that I need to -- even if my day feels full.
It's really helped me stay balanced. This summer I almost burned out, and I realized because I was not using my timer. When I use it, I am more cognizant of how much time I am working, because I have a timer right there with all of the time I have spent that day!
It keeps me productive and puts boundaries between workaholism and procrastination for me. Because I know it's only 25 minutes, if I dread doing something I know there's a break coming up. If I love doing something I don't work myself to the bone, and I take a break. It's a win win!
There are times that I've slacked on either using the timer or working through the break. And as we all know, if we don't do things correctly, they don't work. But the great thing about this technique is you can implement it at any point. So when I have neglected using the timer, I just turn it on and start over. It's really that simple.
If 25 minutes is too short for you, feel free to adjust the time. I go back and forth between 25 and 45 minute increments depending on the task at hand. As I write this blog post, I'm doing 45 minutes increments just because a 25 minute time block isn't enough time for me to focus.
I hope this helps you to find some time within your day. I have found the Pomodoro Technique to be a valuable way to help make sure I'm not overworking or wasting time. I hope you find the same.
What's your favorite productivity hack? What helps you stay focused and effective in your work? Let me know below or holler at me on Twitter.