I get distracted easily. I haven’t gotten to the point where I can turn off my e-mail notifications while I’m working. I worry this will be the biggest challenge in striking out on my own.
But I’m trying a time-management technique named for a tomato as a way to work through my own personal game of Whack-A-Mole with an increasing number of projects.
Simply put, the Pomodoro technique asks you to work on a specific task — and that task alone — for 25 straight minutes. Then you get a five-minute break before you move on to your next Pomodoro. Shut everything else off. Turn off your e-mail, unless you’re expecting something that’s absolutely critical.
The “system” includes a To Do Sheet, an Activity Inventory Sheet, and a Record Sheet that you can get from the Pomodoro website. You put all the things you need to accomplish on the Activity Inventory Sheet. At the beginning of each day, you put the specific tasks you need to complete on the To Do Sheet, prioritizing them where possible. Then you just work through the sheet. If you’re interrupted, you capture the reasons why.
I could see someone deciding not to do the paperwork and just focusing on the 25-minute segments. But the important thing is the effort to focus, to “get the checkmarks” if you will. How often do we try to juggle a number of different projects, jumping back and forth as input arrives via e-mail or a visit to your office or cube? This technique offers a different way to compartmentalize your day-to-day tasks. There’s even an application to let you put a Pomodoro clock on your desktop.
What do you do to fight all the distractions that rear their heads during the day?