While I was figuring out my passive income goals for 2010 – I went thru the tired but true exercise:
- What went well last year?
- What went badly?
Oddly enough – it was quite easy for me answer both questions – I think this is an important skill that being in business for yourself develops – one thing I cerainly hadn’t expected to learn while working online was to be much more aware of my own faults and weaknesses. Anyway back to the point – what went well – I haven’t had to get a real job that’s more than good! When someone asked me the other day whether Iwas going to get a job on my return to NZ – I looked him in the eye and said, why? I made over US$4000 last month – what would I want a job for?
What went badly – well unfortunately that was equally easy to answer my time management sucks! This is not a new development – but now my inability to focus is costing me money not just an employer! This has to stop and like now.
So what has NOT worked for me so far as time management is concerned;
- Public accountability – that was one of the reasons I stated this blog so that I could report and measure progress – after all I totally get about having goals and even about setting up SMART goals No the goal setting wasn’t the problem.
- I decided to record all the time I spent online and look at the time wasted. I found a free online time recorder system called SlimTimer that I recommend – the only problem with it was that it couldn’t tell me to turn itself on when I conveniently “forgot” for a week or two!
- I tried to get my head around GTD (Get Things Done) system – but frankly it seemed like I’d have to study for a week to even get to the start – it appeared more a way of life than a way to boost productivity – I wasn’t sure that I was ready for a way of life!
Pomodoro Technique to Rescue?
Several people of a forum a frequent mentioned they had found the Pomodoro Technique helpful – even though they usually struggled with focus – sounds like me I thought – I will give it a shot – oh and the comprehensive e-book is free – even better!
The system was developed in Italy by a guy who is now an IT Project Manager – but at the time was a student. Its well worth reading the e-book becuase it acutally explains the science behind why it works – with references eve – a slight change of pace to a lot of what you come across these dasys. Any – in essence the Pomodoro technique is:
- start working on your first task – work on it for 25 minutes then take an approximately 5 minute break;
- repeat until you have down 4 1/2 hour “pomodoros” (named for the kitchen timer from Italy);
- then take a longer 20 minute break.
- if an urgent interruption comes along (say the sudden urge to check your email) – you right it down on an urgent list and keep working. (It will either become another real pomodoro in its own right or it will be a quick task you do in a break, or you forget about it);
- if a really urgent thing comes along – house burns down or similar – you abandon the pomodoro and have to start again with that particular pomodoro;
- each task should be at leas 1 pomodoro (30 minutes) long – no task should be longer than 5-7 pomodoros – either group similar tasks together or split larger tasks down to fit this criteria.
My current implemenation of it looks something like this:
- write a list of everything you need to do (I tend to work in a “this week” or “this month” list);
- put the top priorities on today’s todo list – with a box per a pomodoro – in black – which get ticked off as I do them. If I have underestimated the time required which – I seem to do more than I realised – I re-estimate by adding more boxes in red so I can see where I under and over estimate. If I have an interurption I use a ” ‘ ” symbol to note it.
- At the end of the day I retrospectively fill in what I did over the day using Slimtimer and tag the activities as pomodoros – meaning I can easily see just how many hours of my so-called 10 hour days I was actually doing focussed “pomodoros” (4 or 5 at the start!)
Initially what I found that basically focussing for 1/2 an hour isn’t that hard – in fact it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. My issue seems to be more the time wasted in between pomodoros – but I can work on that.
Pomodoro – without the Kitchen Timer
The original is with using a tomatoe shaped wind-up kitchen timer – your grandmother may use one – I personally thought that was what the micowave was for. And in the midst of packing I certainly was not going to buy a kitchen timer! Fortunatly there is a software solution for that. Initially ithought I wanted a silent timer – but in some way I find the annoying ticking sound actually makes me focus – not sure if that will work long term but I have it turned for the moment.
Options for the timer abound – I ltried Pomodeiro and FocusBooster both of which are free and run on the Adobe Air (so will work across most operating systems). Neither really deals with the reporting on the amount of work done though – or not in format I liked. There are quite a number of Pomodoro apps for Macs but the only software I found came close for Windows was PomoTime – I really like this software – again free and a very cute interface unfortunately it had a couple of major flaws for my use: only 7 items on a ToDo list a day and only one ToDo list a day.
However the developer did respond to my comments so mayit will be upgraded.
UPDATE: PomoTime has now been upraded I am using it in preference to manual method I described below – up to 12 items on the daily todo list seems to make all the difference – try it you may like – and its free!
Pomodoro without Software
So currently my sytem looks something like this:
- A long todo list – about a week’s worth – on paper.
- Daily todo list – using the paper system described in the original Pomodoro e-book. Different colours when I underestimate tasks – which I appear to do more often than I thought…
- Slimitmer – to retrospectively fill in day – using tags to count tasks with pomodores – result can t rack total hours and total hours of pomodores a week
What Pomodoro Technique Has Taught Me So Far
- not as many internal disruptions – haven’t had to cancel a pomodoro over the first few days;
- the ticking actually seems to work! Although wish I could disable it during the breaks;
- I badly underestimate how long keyword research and installing sites takes.
So what do you use for time management – have you heard of the Pomodoro technique before – like it? Used another technique that you’d recommend.?