Yes, organizing begets productivity, but the two are not synonymous. More time in one's day is an obvious benefit of getting organized, but just as organizing takes thought and maintenance, so does time management. As long as papers and objects are entering your life, organizing remains a process. As long as distractions and life outside of your goals enter your mind, time needs ongoing managing.
Personally, time management has been a challenge for me ever since school homework assignments grew beyond half-page worksheets. It might not surprise you to hear that I use organizing as a distraction! I've been known to leave my chair, mid email, to start cleaning the refrigerator or scan my receipts. No matter how focused I get on a work project, that focus is not guaranteed to be there the next minute. I've tried a few tools in the past that have helped, but my tendency is to still start wandering the house after about fifteen minutes of work.
Things changed though back in January when I re-discovered something that has proven to work magic on my productivity. To keep this from you any longer would be a sin of omission. I was working with a client in Alabama who wanted help managing her time at work. On the spot, I remembered a time management technique that was shared with me years ago by one of the most productive people I know: The Pomodoro Technique. I explained it to my client and promised that I would commit to using it right alongside her.
It's this simple: Work for 25 minutes at a time, allowing five minute breaks in between spurts. There is nothing you have to study, read, or buy. Watch a video about it here. It's important that you take your breaks even if you are on a roll, as Pomodoro is based on studies that show our focus deteriorates rapidly after about 25 minutes. To skip a break renders your subsequent Pomodoros weaker and weaker.
This technique has kept me honest. Almost immediately I found that I'm much better at estimating how long a task will take. For example, I had been putting off some light bookkeeping for months. When I set the timer, I found that this dreaded task only took about fifteen minutes. On the flip side, I'm learning that some important tasks of mine require more than I had thought. Now I can properly schedule them into my week. (Writing this post took exactly two Pomodoros).
A surprising benefit has been that there is less gray area in my day and work life in general. When the timer is running, I'm working. When it's off, I'm off.
Though it's a free tool with no gimmicks or gadgets, I chose to buy a timer app for $1.99. In your app store, just search for "Pomodoro Timer" to see dozens of results. I keep the ticking sound on as added anchoring of my attention. The "tick, tick…" works like crazy glue, sticking me to the chair until the chime sends me off to pet the cat, check Facebook, grab a snack, or organize a drawer.
Intrigued? Here's how to start: 1. Learn more and watch the video at www.pomodorotechnique.com 2. Download a Pomodoro Timer app - not required, but strongly recommended 3. Before your first set of productivity bursts, write down exactly the tasks you hope to accomplish in your 25 minute blocks of time.
Do you already have experience with the Pomodoro Technique? If not, do you have a feeling this could change your life too? How many Pomodoros would you like to work into your day? What recurring tasks do you have that should be done only during defined blocks of time? Please share in the comments below!