By Hayley Arkovitz
In your job, you know what needs to be done in order to make money. In my business, it’s reaching out to people, sending emails and cold calling asking if they’d be interested in a particular position. If we don’t really stop to think about it, we assume we come to work every day and do what we need to do to make money.
Well, stop and really think about it. How many hours in your day do you spend on REACTIVE tasks vs. PROACTIVE tasks? If you started to pay attention, you might notice that you didn’t spend your day doing what you needed to do. You were distracted responding to emails, answering phone calls, and other admin tasks… maybe you spent two hours trying to fix your printer (REACTIVE tasks).
This was an every day struggle for me. I had to get out a certain number of emails a day. No problem, right? Oh wait, it’s 5:00pm and all I’ve done is responded to the endless incoming emails and updated a spreadsheet.
I ended up doing leftover tasks after hours, struggling to start the next day without any straggling responsibilities. It wasn’t until my amazing boss (Dylan Campbell) introduced me to Pomodoro (www.pomodoroapp.com), that I thought it was possible to get all I needed to get done in one workday.
Pomodoro is a free application you can download on your computer at work. Basically it’s a task management timer that runs in 25-minute time periods, “pomos” as we call them, giving you a 5-minute break between each pomo.
WORKING IN POMOS
Think about what it is you do at your job that actually makes you progress and move forward, what makes you money, what really needs to get done.
Once you decide what your top proactive priorities are for the day, you can list them on this app and then begin your pomos.
Set your tasks and then work them one at a time in pomos. This means you do nothing but that one task until it’s complete. If you need to, exit out of your email and turn off your phone. Eliminate distractions.
When you’re in a pomo, you do not break away from it to answer an email. You can give yourself a pomo specifically for the miscellaneous reactive tasks (responding to emails, filing papers…etc.) at the END of the day.
You do that task and nothing but for 25 minutes. When the 25 minutes are up, you get a 5-minute break to get up, stretch, grab a snack… but then you start the 25-minute timer again and get back to it…until you are done.
HOW IT WORKS
So here is a picture of what my tasks on my Pomodoro app looks like:
You can see that I have “Today’s Tasks” ready to go (click on the image to make it larger). I start my day with emails. I have to send out 50 personalized, targeted emails a day. So I start my 25 minute pomo and begin emailing. I do nothing but email for 25 minutes and when the 25 minutes is up, I take a 5 minute break and then start another pomo and continue… I do this until I’ve gotten out 50 emails. It usually takes me about 3 pomos.
Once I’ve gotten out 50 emails, I move on to my next task and work the same way until I’ve reached my daily numbers/goal.
WHY IT’S A GOOD IDEA
So as you can see, I am able to get out 50 emails in 3 pomos (1 hour and 15 minutes) whereas, if I tried to send 50 emails throughout the day while multitasking such as responding to emails and filing papers, it might take me 6 hours. The trick to doing these pomos is that the task you’re doing is UNINTERRUPTED.
It’s extremely difficult to ignore incoming distractions. A lot of people in the working world are used to being reactive all day. I, myself, had a really hard time at first implementing this. I’d get on my computer and see that there are a million and one emails to respond to, but I had to FORCE myself to not tend to these until later.
This method of task management is beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, you are getting out of the way your most important tasks in the first half of the day. This way, you don’t spend all day doing admin type tasks and then realize you’ve run out of time to do what really matters.
I found it extremely stress relieving to feel like I got all my emails out and my phone calls done before 2pm. This way, I know that even if I had to leave for the day right now, I can feel pretty accomplished.
This method also helps manage your energy. Rather than sitting there for hours on end trying to bang out a task and realizing you don’t know the last time you went to the bathroom, you can look forward to those 5-minute breaks. It personally helps me work more effectively and feel more focused because I don’t have to dread burning out; I know that soon, I have a 5-minute break to re-energize.
The breaks (which take just as much will power to abide by as the pomos themselves, but you must take them!) helps you remember to stretch, stand up, use the bathroom, and have a snack. I know first hand that you can get so into a task that you literally neglect your body.
So whether you use the actual Pomodoro app (which I highly recommend) or just a stopwatch, this can change your work/life balance for the better.
You can get done what you absolutely need to get done by ignoring the petty distractions and then use any leftover time to take care of the rest. You can go home feeling like you had a productive day and you aren’t tossing and turning in the night dreaming of unfinished tasks.
Questions? Comments? Experiences of your own? Drop me a line!