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The Secret To Completing An Overwhelming Project Effectively

The Secret To Completing An Overwhelming Project Effectively

You’ve just been assigned a monster project at work or school.

You’re feeling a bit intimidated and rightly so…there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.

Where do you begin? How can you ensure your work moves along at an even pace and doesn’t fall through the cracks?

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Here are seven tips that will help you take on that huge project like a productivity pro!

Plan slowly to move quickly.

Making plans before starting work on a project is always a good idea. An even better idea is to take the time to develop well-thought out and solid plans. Don’t just slap down a brief three-sentence plan and get to work! Get to the heart of your project by thinking about all the different components involved, including goals, targets, deliverables and tasks. Write down the general stages or sections for your project, and then work your way down to specific tasks. Create a first, second or third draft of your plans as necessary. The more thorough you are in your planning, the easier and quicker it will be to execute each specific task or item in future.

Build-in time for testing and reviewing.

Working on any project is difficult enough and you certainly don’t need the added stress of trying to find time for your project when you’re in the thick of things. As you develop your project’s plans, be sure to include time for you to test, review, proof and finalize your work or materials. Depending on the length and scope of your project, you may need to add in a couple of extra days, weeks or months. Even if you don’t use your time buffer for testing and reviewing purposes, you’ll still have the luxury of using this time to take care of any other loose ends related to your project.

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Define and accept when something is good enough.

While you should be proud of the work you produce, being overly nitpicky and obsessive about the quality of your work when it’s perfectly fine as is won’t be much help to you if it makes you miss a deadline! There really is such as thing as work being just “good enough.” Set specific guidelines as to the features or aspects your project must have as a finished project and quantify information where necessary. When your project has reached your guidelines, it’s time to stop working on it, no ifs, ands or buts.

Make a clear division of labor.

Projects can become unnecessarily complex and confusing when roles and responsibilities aren’t properly spelled out. Take into account the people who will actually be working on the project. Who are the project managers, supervisors and staff? What are their roles? What specific tasks are people responsible for? Who should people report to if there is an issue or concern? Be sure to review your notes a couple of times to make sure items are not duplicated, repeated, or improperly assigned. It might also be helpful to have someone else take a look your notes to make sure you didn’t forget or overlook something.

Ask for help when you need it.

Even the best worker needs a bit of help now and then. If you are in need of help during a project, don’t be afraid to be vocal about it! Be specific in your request including what type of help you need, when you’ll need the help, where you’ll need the help and so on. You should also be sure to keep in touch with your helpers to make sure they are completing the assigned tasks as directed and address any questions they may have.

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Keep communications clear.

Communication is key in any project. Lots of time can be wasted when information is misinterpreted, misread or misconstrued. Give instructions and directions in clear and simple terms so there’s no confusion. You should also strongly consider specifying communication methods people should use for a project, be it via in-person meetings, phone, text or email. This way, information can be communicated quickly and efficiently.

Document your progress.

You don’t have to create a full-blown status report each and every day as you are working on your project, but it is helpful to take general notes to track your progress. Write down what items have been completed, what issues came up as well as other concerns or snippets of information you’ve learned along the way. You’ll have a helpful reference tool to show you where you are in your project and how far you have to go until you complete it.

What concerns you the most when it comes to completing a large project? Leave a comment below.

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Featured photo credit: VFS Digital Design via flickr.com

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Rashelle Isip

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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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