Thursday, 28 March 2013

Time management

You don't need me to tell you about the Pomodoro Technique for time management as there is a free pdf booklet by its inventor Francesco Cirillo, available here:

I first came across the concept in a newspaper article. It is an extremely simple way to avoid becoming distracted by interruptions, and is ideally suited to people who work on computers in the internet age.

Basically it involves working for 25 minutes then taking a 5 minute break. The working period is named a pomodoro after Italian tomato shaped kitchen timers. Every four pomodoros, the break can be extended to 15 minutes.

I thought I needed to give this a go when I was holed up with lots of work to get through in January this year. After setting timers to force me to concentrate on the task in hand - no even looking at emails until the alarm had sounded - I decided to keep at it. It took me a while to get around to reading the booklet by Francesco Cirillo as it seemed to me there was little to add to the technique than the description given above. However, there is a little more to it in terms of work planning, evaluating the time particular tasks take and increasing productivity.

After I started to keep a paper record of tasks, it occurred to me there must be a smartphone app to help with this and, sure enough, there are quite a few. Having investigated them, I've actually gone for the simplest, a simple timer, and use this with a paper record.

The app I use is called Focus Time, available for iPhone via the following link (this is my own independent choice and I make no money from linking to it - see my advertising policy):

There are still plenty of opportunities to prevaricate, of course. My 5-minute breaks often extend beyond this. Other tasks can come along and divert me - though the technique is to note these down as new tasks and assign pomodoros to them.

All the same, when I start the timer I know that I will give 25 minutes undivided attention to the task in hand. And at the end of the day if I want to know what I've actually spent my time on, I have a record.

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