Getting through that to-do list is easier than you think

Do you wonder where all your time goes? Are you always busy but never seem to get through your to do list? Does thinking about everything that needs to be done send you into a panic wanting to run away and hide?

Today I am going to share a technique that was recommended to me that will completely change your day. In an attempt to get more organised and productive I joined an online 5 day challenge ‘My Wildly Productive Week’ with Jo Bendle. As part of her approach she advocates the ‘Pomodoro’ technique which was developed by Francesco Cirilio in the late 1980s.

I am a master at writing lists and planning. You could revisit notebooks from 5 years ago and find many of the same ideas in varying degrees of detail. My focus over the last 6 months has been to translate these ideas to action. I am certainly getting better at working through the lists but I know that I can be easily distracted and waste a ridiculous amount of time scrolling through social media and generally faffing.

The Pomodoro technique introduces interval training into all aspects of your life. Now intervals are familiar territory for me and I can go into great detail about the benefits of short bursts of activity with breaks for partial recovery. I would happily explain how you can do more this way and see quicker results. What a simple idea then to adopt this approach for your to do list. Talking to clients I discovered that lots of people do this all the time. Housework is made more manageable by ‘intervals’ of specific activities – ironing for 25 minutes then rest, hoover for 25 minutes and so on.  If you think back to studying for exams you will remember being told to schedule a particular topic and then take a break before doing something else.  The idea was that you would come back refreshed and ready to concentrate again.

How does the ‘Pomodoro’ Technique work?

Firstly you choose a task – it needs to be something that deserves your full attention. Set a timer for 25 minutes and commit to eliminate all interruptions and distractions. Work on the task until the timer rings. You then take a 5 minute break away from the task. You then go back and do another 25 minutes on that task or another one. Every 4 intervals you will need to take a 20-30 minute break.

This technique is designed to get you to work with time and not against it. You focus your attention on the tasks that matter and get them done. In doing so you will create a better work/life balance and really enjoy your time off knowing that you have already got through your important tasks.

Does it really work?

At this point you will either be reaching for a pen and a timer or about to shut the blog. I was sceptical too. How would setting a timer help? Surely that would be another pressure or distraction to deal with!

But it really does work. Take writing this blog for example. I used to sit down to write and do a bit and then check my phone, then get a drink, have a wander, write another list, check my phone and so on. What happens now is that I work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. By then the task is done and I can cross it off the list. I know exactly what I need to do next and give it my full attention for 25 minutes. What is a very simple approach actually transforms what you can achieve in a day and how you feel too. You get rid of all the guilt and overwhelm and get things done instead.

Why not give it a try and let me know what you think? I have one client who is already a convert and has started working through those tasks that never moved from her list. For me the Pomodoro technique gives me that same sense of satisfaction that comes with getting to the bottom of the ironing basket! So thank you Jo – I’m now off to enjoy the rest of my day guilt free having already completed my work tasks for today. The sun is shining and I am off to drink my coffee outside (now that really is a treat in Scotland!).

I would love to hear how you get on and to read your comments. Please also share with anyone else suffering from overwhelm!

Clare x

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