Have a conversation on productivity, and you will encounter two enemies: “focus” and “procrastination.” Most of us struggle revealing our true potential despite our best intentions. These two keep lingering around.
Recently, my wife took a picture of my desk. It had five screens on it – a MacBook Pro, a monitor, iPad, iPhone, a small Tivoo. Every couple of seconds, one would light up and display a notification. Not a great place to focus and be creative.
By the end of the day, I would feel exhausted by having worked according to somebody else’s timeline. Plus, impossible to focus on my big rocks.
There is always this task that I wanted to finish the following day. That can be an email that I couldn’t answer on the spot. Or something that required some added research to get every element. Instead of seating down and doing the hard work, I would push this to a different time. Was I hoping the impact wouldn’t be significant to others?
Starting using Pomodoro
As part of my desire to better structure my time at work, I started using the Pomodoro technique. It is a project management system to help break down work into smaller chunks. You focus for 25 minutes on that project, removing distractions and mono-tasking. Time’s up and you get 5 minutes of rest. Repeat until completion of your master plan.
The magic happens when you realize that with 25 minutes of focused work, you can deliver a lot. And by containing that max-productivity in a short interval, you stay in control. If I notice dozens of important notifications during my 5 minutes of rest, it’s easy to address them accordingly. I am using “Be Focused” to track the time and then focus on getting things done.
I started with the goal of running 4 Pomodoro cycles a day. That worked some days and failed many others. Today went well, and I closed 8. That felt like a pretty solid achievement. I could clear every digital inbox and as a result, found plenty of time to work on long term strategy projects.