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Long Live your Calendar

Long Live your Calendar

I have discovered that there is some degree of productivity training necessary in virtually every kind of management and leadership coaching I do. Coaching is about helping people achieve their goals, and along the way we cultivate good productivity habits. If we are successful, new goal-achieving habits merge into a trusted work system: Newer, different goals will be set in the future, but the productivity system which we customize to the way a person works best remains the same. It becomes habitual and instinctual for them.

I have also discovered that the single best productivity tool we all share is one we take too much for granted: Our Calendar.

It doesn’t matter if you prefer low tech paper calendars or high tech electronic ones. The one that’s best for you is the one

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    you are most comfortable with using
    and you are fastest at using
    so you use it more consistently.

Virtually everything you do gets captured in it, and so you can see the twists and turns your days, weeks and months can take.

What’s important is the habit of using it to capture your whole-life productivity, not just what you do at work. There is only one of you, and you can only be in one place at a time, so why have two calendars in two different places?

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If you are to be optimally productive, you have to take advantage of being able to get things done at the right time and in the right place. If you are to be optimally productive with goal achievement, you have to have intentional focus on your goals wherever you may be when opportunity strikes. Your calendar captures those opportunities.

There are two basic functions associated with your calendar when you harness it as the best productivity tool you can have. However most of us only use the first function and not the second:

1. First, you capture all the ways you will fill your time proactively. As your appointments and other commitments are set, you fill in the blocks of unallocated time with allocations associated with the project work that will help you achieve your goals. You plan.

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2. Second, when the week is over, you look back and evaluate what happened, and how you can correct any glitches. It is this habit of doing a weekly review which we too often neglect, not giving ourselves the opportunity to learn our own lessons of when and how we work best, and when we don’t.

It takes self-discipline to evaluate your calendar on a weekly basis and turn it into a productivity tool versus a log-book which is data rich but never utilized. Give your calendar the attention it deserves, and I guarantee you will discover it to be the willing servant it was meant to be for you.

Related article: Loving my Weekly Review

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Rosa Say, author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. Rosa is founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership.

Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: Coaching Persistence.

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Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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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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