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Keeping Yourself Busy All Day Long Doesn’t Mean That You’re Productive. You’re Simply Procrastinating.

Keeping Yourself Busy All Day Long Doesn’t Mean That You’re Productive. You’re Simply Procrastinating.

Many people like postponing challenging work tasks by completing the ones that don’t require much cognitive power first. Usually, they think it is better to fill in the time rather than stay idle when they procrastinate. At least, doing something means they are being productive. Does this situation happen to you often in the workplace? If yes, you’ve already fallen into the trap of mistaking the two kinds of tasks: “reactive” and “proactive”.

Reactive tasks are those tasks that are somewhat urgent and maybe even important but don’t have a high long-term value. Proactive tasks are those that we know we should do, that have a high long-term value but are often blocked by procrastination and reactive tasks.

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Examples of reactive tasks and productive tasks at work

There are plenty of reactive tasks that need to be done at work, like replying to email, documentation and and repetitive tasks that maintain the operation of your company. But that doesn’t mean you should always use them as an excuse to postpone your proactive tasks, like coming up with new ideas for an upcoming project, thinking ways to improve the performance of your company’s products in the market, improving the communication and cooperation with other colleagues etc.

Typically, we spend 80% of our time on reactive tasks and only 20% of our time on proactive tasks. That explains why most of us are only busy but not genuinely productive at work.

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To reverse the situation, first you need to clearly know where you are by taking the following actions:

1. Look at your to-do list and count the number of proactive versus reactive tasks

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2. Calculate your ratio

  • Count the number of tasks (for example, 20 reactive and 5 proactive for a total of 25)
  • Divide by 100 (0.25 for our example)
  • Divide the number of reactive tasks by that number (eg. 20/.25 = 80%)
  • Subtract that percentage from 100 to find your proactive ratio (eg. 100% – 80% = 20%)

How to shift the ratio to make time spend on the right tasks

  • Reduce the number of reactive tasks : Are they all that important that they really need to be done? If not, take them away.
  • Create more proactive tasks : Think of the things you’re passionate about and the goals you want to complete. Add those things to your to-do list, regardless of whether or not you feel they’re urgent. It’s the things that are important, but don’t have a deadline that will make all the difference in our lives.
  • Learn to say “NO”! : Knowing when to say no to someone is a powerful thing. Remember that every “yes” is a drain on your time and energy and it keeps you from being able to say yes to something else – like your dreams!

Takeaway: Keep in mind that reactive tasks only keep you busy and distract you from genuine productivity. To ensure your time is fully well-spent, you shouldn’t shy away from doing more proactive tasks. Good luck!

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Bill Widmer

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

If you spend any time at all researching life hacks, you’ve probably heard of the famous Pomodoro Technique.

Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the more popular time management life hacks used today. But this method isn’t for everyone, and for every person who is a passionate adherent of the system, there is another person who is critical of the results.

Is the Pomodoro Technique right for you? It’s a matter of personal preference. But if you are curious about the benefits of using the technique, this article will break down the basic information you will need to decide if this technique is worth trying out.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy that aims to provide the user with maximum focus and creative freshness, thereby allowing them to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue.

The process is simple:

For every project throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically.

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You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes.

Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal timer, and thus the method’s name.

After four “pomodoros” have passed, (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of break time) you then take a 15-20 minute break.

Every time you finish a pomodoro, you mark your progress with an “X”, and note the number of times you had the impulse to procrastinate or switch gears to work on another task for each 25-minute chunk of time.

How the Pomodoro Technique boosts your productivity

Frequent breaks keep your mind fresh and focused. According to the official Pomodoro website, the system is easy to use and you will see results very quickly:

“You will probably begin to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two. True mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.”

If you have a large and varied to-do list, using the Pomodoro Technique can help you crank through projects faster by forcing you to adhere to strict timing.

Watching the timer wind down can spur you to wrap up your current task more quickly, and spreading a task over two or three pomodoros can keep you from getting frustrated.

The constant timing of your activities makes you more accountable for your tasks and minimizes the time you spend procrastinating.

You’ll grow to “respect the tomato”, and that can help you to better handle your workload.

Successful people who love it

Steven Sande of The Unofficial Apple Weblog is a fan of the system, and has compiled a great list of Apple-compatible Pomodoro tools.

Before he started using the technique, he said,

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“Sometimes I couldn’t figure out how to organize a single day in my calendar, simply because I would jump around to all sorts of projects and never get even one of them accomplished.”

Another proponent of the Pomodoro Technique is Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal. Shellenbarger tried out this system along with several other similar methods for time management, and said,

“It eased my anxiety over the passing of time and also made me more efficient; refreshed by breaks, for example, I halved the total time required to fact-check a column.”

Any cons for the Pomodoro Technique?

Despite the number of Pomodoro-heads out there, the system isn’t without its critics. Colin T. Miller, a Yahoo! employee and blogger, tried using the Pomodoro Technique and had some issues:[1]

“Pomodoros are an all or nothing affair. Either you work for 25 minutes straight to mark your X or you don’t complete a pomodoro. Since marking that X is the measurable sign of progress, you start to shy away from engaging in an activity if it won’t result in an X. For instance…meetings get in the way of pomodoros. Say I have a meeting set for 4:30pm. It is currently 4:10pm, meaning I only have 20 minutes between now and the meeting…In these instances I tend to not start a pomodoro because I won’t have enough time to complete it anyway.”

Another critic is Mario Fusco, who argues that the Pomodoro Technique is…well…sort of ridiculous:[2]

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“Aren’t we really able to keep ourselves concentrated without a timer ticketing on our desk?… Have you ever seen a civil engineer using a timer to keep his concentration while working on his projects?… I think that, like any other serious professional, I can stay concentrated on what I am doing for hours… Bring back your timer to your kitchen and start working in a more professional and effective way.”

Conclusion

One of the best things about the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s free. Yeah, you can fork over some bills to get a tomato-shaped timer if you want… or you can use any timer program on your computer or phone. So even if you try it and hate it, you haven’t lost any cash.

The process isn’t ideal for every person, or in any line of work. But if you need a systematic way to tackle your daily to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique may fit your needs.

If you want to learn more about the Pomodoro Technique, check out this article: How to Make the Pomodoro Technique More Productive

Reference

[1] Aspirations of a Software Developer: A Month of the Pomodoro Technique
[2] InfoQ: A Critique of the Pomodoro Technique

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