Time Management Lessons from a Tomato

Hands down, my favorite time management technique is Pomodoro.  I don’t claim to be a Pomodoro expert, and didn’t really know there were Pomodoro experts until I began to research for for this post. In fact, the technique is trademarked, so perhaps I should say I practice a Pomodoro-type of time management. I love Pomodoro because it is easy to do and IT WORKS!

The technique is quite simple and all you need to get started is something you probably already have:  a kitchen timer.  Here’s how I practice Pomodoro:

  1. Sit down at my workspace with a specific task I wish to accomplish.
  2. Set the timer for approximately 20 minutes (official Pomodoro practice says 25–I adjust this according to task and how I am feeling).
  3. Work like crazy until the timer goes off.  After that, it’s break time for 5 minutes.  I often work a bit over the time limit as Pomodoro is a great way for me to stop procrastinating and get to work.
  4. Repeat.

The video below describes some advanced ways to use the technique to further master your time.

Sleep Procrastination

I admit it, there is not much I procrastinate about, but I sometimes procrastinate about going to sleep.  That’s why I was so fascinated to see this article published this summer in Frontiers in Psychology.  The authors conclude that bedtime procrastination is the result of difficulty with “self regulation,” otherwise known as self discipline.

Perhaps this is important from a psychological research perspective, but it certainly doesn’t help me to know that basically I just need to make myself stop procrastinating and go to sleep.  Equally unhelpful is the conclusion that those who struggle with bedtime procrastination are likely to suffer from insufficient sleep.

I have long thought that my bedtime procrastination results from a desire not to let the day go, because some aspect of the day was unfulfilling and I’d like to change that in (literally)  the 11th hour.  I feel I want to spend more time with friends or my spouse who worked late that day or finally finish up the project I’ve been working on or otherwise work on something that gives my life meaning and purpose.  I find I am less keen to go to sleep on days when I didn’t or couldn’t get the most of out of my day.  So I’m going to work on reducing my sleep procrastination by doing my best to get the interaction, productivity and personal fulfillment I need each and every day–during the day!.  How about you?

Eating Frogs

Sometimes a quote will hit me so hard that it changes the way I do things.  Here’s one:

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

This quote is attributed to Mark Twain.  Whether or not he actually said it irrelevant:  the take-away is that sometimes you just have to sit down and get to work. Not everything you have to do is your favorite.  Sometimes tasks are downright unpleasant, but they still need to get done.

Is it the most important task should be tackled first thing?  I think it’s a little more than that.  It’s the important task that that you don’t want to do that should be tackled first thing.  Eating the frog is a great exercise.  It helps you to get over only doing tasks that you want to do, or prioritizing tasks that you intrinsically know how to start.  When you force yourself to eat the frog you are forcing yourself to figure out how to get started on something.