The irony that I write so much about productivity, making the most of the time we have, and working smarter…not harder is that I used to be the antithesis of what I now espouse.
I would regularly work 80 hour weeks, and what my amazingly understanding girlfriend can attest to, have been known to slip some 100 hour workweeks in there as well.
The sad thing is, I wore it all as a badge of honor. I was so inundated with being inundated, that I was completely oblivious to the toll it was taking on my well being, both emotionally and physically.
It unfortunately, took some serious health implications for me to wise up; an all out adrenal shutdown to be precise. I was unfathomably fatigued, my body now unable to control autonomous responses like body temperature. I, someone who loves human interaction and great conversation, became horribly anxious in any social setting because my brain stopped working, and I could no longer process the appropriate words that I wanted to come out of my mouth.
Fortunately I learned my lesson and it forced me to gain new perspective in life, and that is why I now am such a passionate advocate and geek with productivity, efficiency, and hacking.
All that said, my overwhelming and inundating workload wasn’t going anywhere so I had to take a new approach.
Here is the technique I learned and now utilize to cut hours out and eventually save days, and in the long run, probably years on my life.
It’s called the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique will seem too simple, however, when applied, you will be amazed at its effectiveness. The main reason it is so effective, is that when applied, it requires unbridled focus from you, something we struggle with mightily and don’t realize just how much quick glances at our text messages, email, and social networks can affect our focus and subsequent productivity.
Here are the 4 Basic Principles.
- Don’t fight time by working against it.
- Avoid and ideally eliminate all burnout.
- Manage or eliminate distractions.
- Focus on work/life balance
Don’t fight time by working against it. Many of us get caught up in the proverbial rat race of life and are constantly fighting the clock by attempting to race against it. The Pomodoro Technique changes this mindset and teaches you to embrace the time you have, rather than trying to work against it. This simple change to your mindset can have incredible results alone.
Avoid and ideally eliminate all burnout. A focus on short, scheduled, frequent breaks will keep the mind from wandering when trying to focus on a desired task and also help avoid mental and physical burnout from working too many hours too consistently. This helps you get so much more out of the time you do utilize.
Manage or eliminate distractions. The entire world is busy, too busy. We are constantly bombarded with distractions and constantly cause our own as well. Email that isn’t urgent, text messages that can wait what you’re going to wear to a wedding in a couple weeks, agonizing over what you’ll eat for dinner tonight. These are all distractions that suck productivity and efficiency out of you. Proper application of the Pomodoro Technique will remove all of these aside from an alotted time for them.
Focus on work/life balance. Many of us have come to what we consider a realization and simple fact of life that “work/life balance” is a thing of the past. It’s that exact mindset that keeps us running this rat race that we run though. If we kindly accept our fate as many of us do, we do nothing to change our circumstances. The Pomodoro Technique teaches a focus on work/life balance because it is about the bigger picture; an understanding that the more time we take away from work to spend on our own wellness, whatever that entails for you personally, the more effective and efficient we become while working, allowing us to accomplish far more in far less time.
So how does this work?
- Choose a task, just a single task to complete.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes. Do set an actual timer!
- Work on that task until the timer sounds indicating your 25 minutes are up.
- Take a 5 minute break. (This is considered a “Pomodoro”. I will have completed 3 “Pomodoros” by the time I finish this blog)
- Repeat these steps 3-4 more times, then take a 15 minute break.
Why does this work?
The key is in the 25 minutes of highly attentive, focused work. Since the commitment to avoiding all distractions is only 25 minutes, it sets us up for success, as anyone can commit 25 minutes to wholly focus on a single task.
As a result, you;