After working from home, or working from anywhere, for nearly 2 1/2 years now, I feel strongly that the freedom to make my own hours and schedule makes me a better, more productive worker. When I can jump out of bed in the morning and am happy to get right to work, then I think I am doing things right. Don’t get me wrong, there are days I sleep in a little bit more or get off track. However, I know my office worker counterparts have the exact same plight.
A few months ago, while reading with my morning coffee, I stumbled upon an article “How to Get 40 Hours of Work Done in 16.7,” and I of course had to click. The article by Chris Winfield, features the Pomodoro Technique, a productivity strategy inspired from the old tomato kitchen timer (Pomodoro is tomato in Spanish). The way it begins is by setting a time to work (normally 25 minutes) to work on one specific task only. Then, at the end of 25 minutes, you take a 5 minute break and use that time to stretch, check email, or whatever your heart desires away from your work. Then repeat. You start the day by listing out all the tasks you need to accomplish and repeatedly check off these tasks or “Pomodoros”. Obviously not all tasks can be done in 25 minutes, but you can break things down to smaller chunks.
For me, this has revolutionized the way I work. I immediately adapted this strategy into my work day. I may not have cut my work down to 16.7 hours, but I do feel I am more productive and more importantly, I am less stressed in my daily work life because I feel accomplished at the end of the day. I have reduced that feeling of spinning my wheels where I worked all day yet got no where.
The way I have incorporated the Pomodoro technique into my day is both digital and analog. I start the day with my notebook, a black pen, and red pen or crayon then I start a 25 minute timer on my iWatch. I used to use a Chrome Extension that blocked certain websites then I tried a few iWatch Apps but I settled on just the built-in timer. I just say “Hey Siri, Start 25 Minute Timer” and I am off. Then, I write out the list of all the tasks I want to complete that day starting with POD (or Plan of the Day) & Email. Once I check email, I have a better idea of my tasks I need to accomplish as well. I also take a look at the previous day’s list to see what I didn’t get done and move over what I didn’t get done. I tend to start with very long lists on Monday and they get shorter as the week goes on.
Note: 1 Pomodoro down for this blog
Once I choose my task, I draw a little outline of tomato and at the end of my 25 minutes, I fill it in red. It is very satisfying coloring in the little Pomordoro, much more than a check mark! Then, I get up from my desk and walk around, fill my coffee/water, check email, and move on to the next task. Sometimes that means continuing on the same task and sometimes that means moving on to another. Especially with coding, I can get frustrated or fixated on bugs, so in these times, I move onto another task for the next Pomordoro and revisit in an hour with a fresh perspective.
Gamification is the idea of applying the motivation that games have to other non-gaming facets of our lives. For me, the Pomodoro technique has “gamified” my work day. It keeps me on task, helps me work efficiently, and motivates me to try harder the next day. I always want to beat my previous Pomodoro record, or the number I accomplished in a day. I even reward myself with days that I have been extra productive with a longer dog walk or an afternoon off on another day. By chunking my days into Pomodoros, I know I am getting just as much, if not more, work done.
There are still days where phone calls, meetings, and general life keep me from being perfectly efficient and others were I get so fixated on a project that I forget to get up and take those important breaks or track my time. However, the more I use the technique, I develop a rhythm for working. I can predict how long a certain task will take me which helps for quoting work and planning my projects. I also have a great record of the work I have done each day, week, and month for accountability. The Pomodoro Technique is the epitome for me, of working smarter, not harder, which in turn makes me work happy.
This blog took 2 Pomodoros. Now after I change the laundry and get some more coffee. I will be onto the next task. #worksmartlivehappy