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Let’s finish up this whole business of Time Management, and yummy pomodori, shall we? If you missed the previous discussion, don’t forget to check out my explanation of what the Pomodoro Technique is, and my Pomodoro test run.
So after 100 mins of focussed house cleaning, and 4 breaks, half of the apartment looked fantastic. There’s no denying it. I had done a great job… far better than had I simply spent 100 mins cleaning on my own. Probably better than had I spent 200 mins cleaning on my own!
But the Pomodori technique is only as good the person using it. Like any system, you can’t expect to see results if you don’t put in the work. It’s not a magical solution. It’s an exercise to break me of some of my bad habits, and instill some good ones. While Saturday was a good day, Sunday was not. There wasn’t a time management system anywhere that could have salvaged Sunday. I failed to use the Pomodoro technique, and the results showed. It wasn’t the system’s fault. I think the system works… if you’re willing to work with it. It’s not for everyone, but for those of us who are easily taken off-task by random distractions, I think that the Pomodoro Time Management Technique is certainly worthy of consideration.
In the last post I talked about what the Pomodoro Time Management Technique is. At its basic, the idea is to focus solely on one task for 25 mins, and then take a short break. Train your brain to avoid distractions. Seems simple enough, but how well did it work on my initial test run?
I started Saturday with a list of chores that I wanted to get through. I’ve been using a check list for months, trying to get into the habit of making sure that everything gets done on a regular basis. I’ve had varying levels of success with that check list. Making the list isn’t difficult. Sticking to it.. that’s where my time management needs work.
I brought up my list, which started with “Living room” and set my electronic timer to 25 mins. I spent the next 25 mins picking up everything that didn’t belong in the living room, dusting, sweeping, and watering the plants. To give you an example of how this is different from my regular routine… I picked up a dirty glass and took it to the kitchen, where I immediately felt as though I needed to pick up something that I saw there… I was totally distracted from the task at hand, which was to concentrate on the living room. Several times during that 25 mins, I found myself getting pulled toward another room.. but the living room wasn’t totally clean yet. Each time I realized what I was doing and went back to my goal until everything looked immaculate in the living room. It didn’t take the full 25 mins, so I crossed living room off my list, and went to my next task, the bedroom.
The bedroom is a pretty big order, and my timer went off before I got very much done. I sat down with a glass of Coke and enjoyed a 5 min break. Let me tell you… 5 mins goes by super quick.
After 4 pomodori (25 mins of focussed attention) I rewarded myself with a 30 min break. I looked around… 100 mins of focused cleaning had resulted in both the living room and bedroom looking at though they were being featured in a Canadian Living magazine. They were really that good! The kitchen was the third thing on my list, which looked considerably better than when I had started, but would require more time.
So that was the good. My next post will discuss where Pomodoro fell flat.. or more precisely where I let it down.
It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a scatter-brain sometimes. I’m one of those people who lacks focus, taking on too much, and accomplishing very little. Easily distracted. That’s me. It doesn’t even have to be something “fun” that distracts me… it might be something as simple as deciding to clean the apartment, and starting in the kitchen, but then noticing something that needs to be done in the living room, and going to work on that instead. After an hour’s work things look better, but nothing looks great. There is zero sense of accomplishment, and probably even a little “why bother?” frustration bouncing around in my head.
“Why don’t you just work on one room at a time?” I can hear people asking. Absolutely that’s the best way to approach it. I know that. But this extends to all aspects of my life, and not simply cleaning. Any sort of household chore. Writing. Exercising. Even work, although I find that I’m considerably better at the office. So while I know what I need to focus on, training my brain to do that is what this exercise is all about.
I’ve looked at a few different Time Management techniques, from Getting Things Done (GTD) to the Seinfeld Principle… There is only one that appeared to be a good fit for me and my brain… The Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is designed to eliminate distractions by forcing you to concentrate on a single task for 25 mins. At the end of that 25 mins, you take a 5 min break. Then continue with the task for another 25 min block (called a pomodoro because of the use of a pomodoro kitchen timer, although any timer can be used and there are several free digital ones designed specifically for this technique). After 4 pomodori, you reward yourself with a 30 min break.
Now if you’re thinking “This seems a little too structured… if you know that you have tasks to do, then just do them” then you probably don’t require any Time Management Technique. Certainly many people do not. I envy you. But I’m 40, and I know that this is something that has hampered my efficiency for years. Sure, I’ll get stuff done. Eventually. But there has to be a better way, and I haven’t come up with it on my own. So I think that this is worth a shot.
This past weekend was my trial run of the Pomodoro Technique. Curious how I did? Stay tuned for my next post where I explain in detail what went right… and what could have gone better.