We all want to get the most stuff done in less time - especially if that stuff is not all that enjoyable. You can tell what people like and are good at by what they spend their time doing. Well, it is pretty obvious that I do NOT like, nor am I particularly good at, reviewing giant, dry policy documents! Recently I had a document like this that needed my review and edits, and I procrastinated long enough that I HAD to get it done at home over a weekend. I needed to come up with a strategy to just get it done and in the least painful way possible.
I read and listen to a ton of productivity content, so I was certain I had the secret sauce, the Pomodoro Technique. Basically this is where you set a timer for a certain amount of time (suggested 25 minutes) and plow through your deep work until the timer goes off. Then you force yourself to take a small break (suggested 5 minutes) when you get up, move and do something you like, and then repeat over and over until you’re done. It works, but it still doesn’t make it fun…. Here’s how my Pomodoro-assisted day went, and what I learned.
I was ready to slay this thing and arranged for my family to be away for a few hours so I had the house to myself. I got everything situated to give myself every opportunity to succeed - and hopefully succeed quickly. I got out my laptop, my lap desk, my document for review and sat in the most comfortable place in my house - the recliner in the living room. I set my iPhone’s timer for 25 minutes - now I don’t call it cheating that I set the timer before I logged into my computer - I call that smart because that eased me into that first 25 minutes of reading and editing this document. I worked diligently, but AS soon as that timer went off, I jumped up with a little “Woohoo” escaping my mouth. I set the timer for 5 minutes and did something I wanted to do. Wait for it….organized my coupons. The 5 minute break went so fast, but I did obey the rules and go back to my work for another 25 minutes. I did this three times, and by that third, 5 minute break, my coupons were organized which was pretty cool. By this time I was really hating the Pomodoro Technique. Doing the review of my document was so boring, and there were all sorts of other things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday - especially a Saturday at home ALONE - that never happens!
So by this time I was fizzling out a little so I decided it wouldn't hurt, and I’d still be following the spirit of the Pomodoro Technique, if I set the time for 20 minutes instead of 25 (right?). Then I was like, “maybe I’ll have a snack during my break.” I chose Death By Chocolate ice cream, so I rationalized that my break would have to last just a little longer than 5 minutes because I didn’t want the ice cream to melt and then get my hands all sticky and in turn ruin my computer’s keyboard. Then I was back at it, but I was B-O-R-E-D with this process - I mean I had done over an hour and a half’s worth of work, so I decided maybe it would be ok to just do 15 minutes of work this session. This 166 page document was just SO long, and I was only halfway through. I started watching the clock, and time crawled until it was finally break time. I decided with this break, I should take a shower (I did have that sticky ice cream after all…). Honestly, it was longer than a 5 minute break. But the important thing is I went back to work, and I kept going til I was done.
I think by the end, my break time was longer than my work time, but the moral of the story is - - even with a boring task you may dislike - be it reviewing a document or organizing your closet, the Pomodoro Technique DOES work, but you don’t have to do it exactly as advertised. If you need a longer break, take a longer break, and don’t make yourself feel guilty for needing to! Productivity is individual, so a one-size-fits-all approach will not work and may actually produce the opposite results if you get discouraged. Give yourself permission to “cheat” at being productive as long as you get to the finish line.
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!