Hey there! Yep, I’m talking to you! With those big, beautiful dreams and lofty-but-totally-attainable goals you’ve set for yourself. I see you over there. But I also see that your life is preeeetty busy.
How can you possibly start a business – or pursue whatever it is that really moves you – when your schedule is already loaded up to the gills?
The key for me was to get serious about productivity and time management. I’ve tried just about every time-management strategy under the sun, but eventually, I landed on time-blocking to help me be more productive and crush my goals.
You’ll hear a lot of people talk about time-blocking as it relates to time management, and personally, I’ve found it to be a fairly effective way to get things off my to-do list. But when I added one little twist to my time-blocking strategy, my productivity shot through the roof! Stay tuned, I’m going to tell you exactly what that twist is in just a minute, but first:
What Is Time-Blocking?
I want to make sure we’re on the same page when we’re talking about time-blocking.
Time-blocking is when you split your day into smaller chunks of time, and assign to each block a dedicated task or a set of related tasks to work on.
In theory, it should eliminate the multitasking that so many of us are prone to doing, and force us to focus on doing just one thing at a time until it’s completed.
The Problem With Time-Blocking
But, here’s the thing: time-blocking relies heavily on a character trait that I must admit I don’t always have: self-discipline!
I have to trust that I will truly honor the time that I set aside to do said task. I have to try not to respond to text messages, or find my way to Facebook, or make that dentist appointment for my kiddos that I should’ve made two weeks ago.
And, I have another confession: I struggle with focusing intensely on a particular task for long stretches of time. So, even though I tell myself I’m going to spend 60 minutes writing a blog post, I find the reality is I can only give it my undivided attention for about 10 or 15 minutes before my brain has wandered onto something else.
What can I say? I am FAR from perfect…
So what’s a girl to do when even though the time is blocked, I still find myself dilly-dallying on things that I could do at another time??
Introducing the Pomodoro Technique!
My life completely changed for the better when I began using Pomodoro within my time blocks! Essentially I needed to deploy a “time-blocking within a time-blocking” strategy! It may sound a little redundant, but stay with me…
The Pomodoro Technique was created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. The word “Pomodoro” means “tomato” in Italian, and Cirillo named this time-management strategy after the tomato-shaped timers that you twist at the top to get them going.
The Pomodoro Method couldn’t be easier to implement. Here are the four simple instructions:
- The first step is the most important one: put yourself as far away as possible from your distractions. Turn off your phone (or at the very least, turn the ringer off and flip the phone so the screen is down), put your email on Do Not Disturb, and you may even want to consider installing a website blocking app or browser extension so that you can’t cheat your way to social media or other time-wasting websites (if you use Chrome, this is one of my favorites.)
- Choose a task or set of batched tasks to work on.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work, work, work on that task until the timer goes off. No cheating! No breaks, no interruptions, and no distractions.
- When the timer goes off, take a 5-to-10-minute break.
After 4 Pomodoro cycles, you should take a significantly longer break – at least 20 or 30 minutes. This gives you an opportunity to refresh and refocus your brain so you can do another round all over again.
Pomodoro is great for me because it allows me to give my tasks short, focused bursts of intense, undivided attention in exchange for the ability to do all my favorite time-eating activities during my breaks. It’s so much easier for me to bargain with myself to stay focused on a particular task when I know that a break is coming.
Also, the Pomodoro Technique is flexible. While a 25-minute working time is the traditional method, you really can adjust your Pomodoro increments to whatever makes the most sense for you. As I mentioned earlier, I peak at about 15 minutes of intense energy and focus on just one thing. Then my mind starts to wander. Knowing this about myself, I’ll adjust my Pomodoro increments accordingly.
Alternatively, there has also been a time or two when the timer goes off and I’m in a groove. If I find that I have the stamina to keep going, I’ll simply take a few more minutes to finish up my thought or that activity.
If you know my blog, you know I love a good bonus tip! So here it is:
Keep a place to take notes close by.
Believe me when I say that initially, your brain will fight this new way to work. As soon as you commit to working 20-25 minutes nonstop on a task, you will inevitably think of all the other things you need to do, appointments you need to make, that restaurant you’ve been meaning to look up on Yelp, etc. My solve for this is simple: write it down and keep going with your task.
My favorite note-taking app is Evernote. When my mind starts to wander and I begin thinking about everything else except the task-at-hand, I’ll pop open a new Evernote note, title it On My Mind (Date) and jot my note down quickly so I can do it later (e.g. Order Jen’s baby shower present). This prevents me from actually going toTarget.com and searching for her registry right at that moment (and then, in the process, remembering that I need 42 other things from Target too). But I know to check it out later, either during a Pomodoro break or in my downtime in the evening or on the weekend.
Time-Blocking Can Work For You!
So, you see? With this little tweak, time-blocking CAN work for you, too! Even if you have trouble with self-discipline. Even if your mental load is off the charts. Even if you’re easily distracted, or live in a distraction-rich environment. Add a little Pomodoro, and kick that productivity up a few notches.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you tried time-blocking, and if so, how is it working for you? What about the Pomodoro method? Would you be willing to give them a try? Let me know in the comments! And as always, if you think this article can help someone, I’d love it if you shared it with your network! Sharing is caring!
Cheers to the journey, with your bad self!