I’ve dabbled in many different time management and productivity techniques over the last few years as an entrepreneur - self motivation is something I've wrestled with a lot if I don't have a strict deadline in place. I think it's a retaliation against years of a boss standing over me, timsheets to fill in and unnecessary 'emergency' deadlines causing stress in the corporate world - but as much as those things strangled my freedom at the time, I must say, they ensured I got sh&t done. Working for myself isn't always so easy...
It's not that I don't 'want' to work - I LOVE what I do - but it's more a matter of focus. When 100's of emails come in constantly all day everyday and there are multiple hats to juggle as an entrepreneur, it's all too easy to fall into the trap of being 'busy' but not really getting anything important done.
The Pomodoro Technique and Working Dates are two of many productivity techniques I've tried before with mixed success but when I decided to make 2015 the year I mastered working 'smarter not harder' these were the first techniques I pulled back out.
I've read a zillion times about working on the 'Important' tasks before the 'Urgent' tasks, but only recently did I make the decision to finally implement that advice for good. And I realised that my habits had to change in order to really Get SH&t Done without working around the clock.
Step 1: The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management/productivity theory whereby you set a timer for intervals of 25 minutes ‘on’ and 5 minutes ‘off’.
You can either use the standard timer on your phone, or there are dozens of free apps to download to keep your Pomodoro timing on track. (I use the iPhone App '30/30')
I have a pre-written list of 'important' tasks to do for the week and each time I sit down for a Pomodoro session I don't waste time reviewing my to-do list or coming up with a new one (sound familiar to anyone else) - nope, I just choose the next one on the list and DO IT!
It seriously amazes me how much I can get done in smaller and more focused bouts of time. Every single time I shock myself at how quick the tasks are to complete that I have put off forever, when I actually just sit down and do them - no distractions!
Step 2: Accountability/ Working Dates
I add to the potency but adding my second step which is meeting a buddy for a work date each Wednesday afternoon so there is no cheating!
When Sam and I first started meeting for working dates we used to end up chatting for hours and getting no work down - so in came the Pomodoro technique to hold each other accountable. That’s double accountability - and guess what - it WORKS!
(Click here to read about some of my favourite cafes to work from >>)
At first it is quite funny to watch myself naturally try to avoid tasks by flicking to Facebook to reading my email, but with my accountability partner the guilt kicks in way too quickly and I settle down and get on with the task at hand.
(Case in point, half way through writing this blog post my clever ego decided it needed some raw cacao chocolate. If I was working alone at home I would have taken 'just a minute' to go get that... but with Sam sitting opposite me right now I catch myself and keep on writing)
Pomodoro Technique + Working Dates = SUPER Productivity
Most weeks I now find I get most of my 'working on my business' done on Wednesday afternoons alone - and the more I do this, the more I trust that I don't have to 'push' the rest of the week as long as I turn up and take action on Wednesdays.
And the last few weeks we have added a twist by also meeting on a Friday afternoon for a cheeky Pomodoro session followed by an end-of-week celebratory drink.
Since implementing this powerful combo I am getting so much more done is way less time. My husband actually looked confused at first when he started arriving home and I was off my computer before 5.30pm.
Because the truth is when we just DO the tasks at hand we really can choose to stop creating ‘business’ in our business. We can close the office door at 5.30pm and walk away - there really isn't any need to be on email/facebook/instagram all night long justifying that it is 'work'...
Implementing the 'Important' tasks in your business is the key to working smarter not harder. Operative word = IMPLEMENTING.
And hey, because I am now dedicated to the these 2 'implementation' steps you get a new blog post today that otherwise would have got lost amidst 'urgent' emails and endless to-do lists. That's a much more joyful and beneficial use of my time and energy.
Let me know in the comments below your top productivity tips for Getting Sh&t Done!