I hate to-do lists…I mean I really, really hate them. I hate making them, I hate looking at them, and I hate the underlying feeling that I am not going to be able to complete them.
Which of course leads me to procrastinate…and ultimately fail to complete the list of things I need to do.
This last month I’ve started to use a different technique for time management – a technique referred to as the pomodoro technique. Developed by Francisco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the idea uses a kitchen timer (in this case shaped like a tomato, which is pomodoro in Italian) to focus your attention on the task at hand. Obviously, the tomato timer is optional (I use my phone).
Briefly, the technique goes proceeds as follows:
- Decide on the task to be done (let’s say writing a blog).
- Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
- Work on the task until the timer rings. If a distraction pops into your head, write it down, but immediately get back on task.
- After the timer rings, put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 1.
- If you have more (i.e. after four pomodoros) take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero and proceed to step 1.
I find the technique particularly useful when you’re either stuck in a rut and don’t know where to start, or when you’re overwhelmed with all sorts of tasks and that creeping feeling of ineptitude starts rolling around in your brain.
Furthermore, the technique minimizes the disruptions while at task and keeps you in the zone.
All you need to do is start with one task. One task. After beginning with that one task, you’ll have broken your stagnation and your inertia will continue throughout the day.
There’s nothing better for the creative (and somewhat ADHD) mind than having a tallied list of completions at the end of the day. You’ll feel great, and you’ll look back with a sense of achievement on your day – all because you decided to start a single task.