Time and task management

Lemon timer
One of the problems I face as an entrepreneur working from home is distraction management!

I’ll just check my emails… and follow a link to Facebook to delete a Spam post from a group… and stop to read a few other posts… and answer a Private Message… and go back to my emails…

Hold it!

I was supposed to be working on a piece of copy for a client – where did that last hour go?

If you can relate, if you find yourself wasting huge chunks of time on non-productive trivia, then listen up – I may just have the solution for you.

I’ve recently come across the Pomodoro Technique, developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo to help him get through his University degree course studies. This is a method of focusing, getting stuff done, and keeping your brain fresh.

The name comes from the Italian for tomato – pomodoro – because the developer originally used a tomato kitchen timer. My kitchen timer is a lemon, hence the image above!

The idea is simple:

Select a task
Set the timer for 25 minutes
Work on the task until the timer goes off
Take a 5 minute break

Congratulations, you’ve just completed one pomodoro.

There are a few nuances to the technique. After every 4th pomodoro take a longer break – 20 minutes or so. And while you’re working don’t allow ANY interruptions. Let someone else get the phone, answer the door, hang out the washing or whatever else you might distract yourself with. Close down your emails, put your mobile on silent and out of sight, shut down Facebook and LinkedIn. And close your office door.

You’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish in 25 minutes of focused work.

The technique works because you do.

Instead of frittering away your day on busy work that gets you nowhere, you’re focused and productive in short, sharp bursts.

A word of warning here – this technique only works if you use it! And it doesn’t matter what sort of timer you use. A simple kitchen timer or an app for your smartphone.

The important thing is to work in focused, concentrated periods of time. It’s the focus that will enable you to get through so much more work. And, working in 25 minute bursts stops any task being overwhelming. Taking regular breaks keeps your brain fresh when you return to the task.

You can change the length of time to suit your tasks and your personality if you wish. Just remember to take regular breaks – they are as much part of the technique as being totally focused during the work periods.

If you have any difficulty focusing and getting stuff done then I can highly recommend practicing the Pomodoro Technique.

If you want the full explanation from Francesco Cirillo himself, then check out his website at www.pomodorotechnique.com