📝 How to Get MORE Work Done
We've all been there. You've got an essay to finish, but 5 minutes go by aaaaaaaand you're on Instagram. Or maybe you've got a long to do list, but you aren't making any progress. Being productive and getting work done unfortunately doesn't just happen. For the most part, neither does mustering up the motivation to do so.
What we're looking for is a way to eliminate distractions and avoid burnout. This way, we can focus on what we're doing, make progress and most importantly, get more done.
We'll run through:
- 🤔 Why is it so hard to get work done?
- 😩 The effects of not getting work done
- 🍅 Introducing: the Pomodoro Method
- ⏰ So which is better - Analogue or Digital?
- 🧑🏻💻 Time to get more work done!
🤔 Why is it so hard to get work done?
The simple fact is, it's not easy to focus for a long period of time. Especially if the work isn't enjoyable or rewarding - and working from home might make this even more difficult. There's always a dog to walk, meals to prepare and odd jobs to be done. If you manage to avoid these, then there's the portable distraction machine in your pocket.
Sidenote here. Don't feel bad if you find yourself on your phone a lot, preventing you from getting work done. Every inch of the user experience is designed to gain as much of your attention as possible. From the red notification dots, to the dopamine vending machines of infinite scroll feeds, mobile phone software has been designed to pull you back in. Two easy fixes: turn off notifications, or leave your phone in another room.
Anyway, distractions aren't always the issue. American screenwriter David Ayer once said "The scariest thing in my life is a blank page." Whilst a bit of a cliche now, it still rings true. It's hard to start when you know you've got several hours of work ahead. Staring at an empty white Microsoft Word page is about as productive as staring at a blank white wall.
😩 The effects of not getting work done
Getting distracted, struggling to make a dent in your work or struggling for motivation can have frustrating consequences. Nobody likes working late to get stuff done, or watching your to do list pile up as you fail to get things ticked off.
It can be a bit of a vicious circle. You fail to make progress with, let's say, building a website. Because you aren't productive, you start to put off the task. Before you know it, it's bedtime and you haven't got anywhere.
Failing to make progress means you don't get to what's usually the most satisfying bit - the end. You don't get to move on to the next task, and you end up stuck. There might be consequences - a missed deadline, or failing to deliver on someone's expectations.
A lack of progress can cause anxiety as work builds up, or self-doubt seems to creep in. So the question is - how can we get more done? The answer is very simple. Let me introduce you to the Pomodoro Method.
🍅 Introducing: the Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro Method is an super-effective productivity hack that enables you to get more done. It's a great time-management method that helps you ignore distractions and stay focused. This got me through many a late night or revising or coursework writing at University, and it was one of the main reasons I managed to get a First in English.
Working in short, snappy bursts stimulate focus and productivity, while regular breaks encourage motivation and help avoid burnout.
This method was developed by Francesco Cirillo during his time at university in the 80s.
He used a mechanical tomato timer, working in 25 minute bursts (a pomodoro, named after the tomato timer he used), with a 5 minute break each time, noting a small pencil mark on a notepad. After 4 pencil marks, he took a longer break. Then he'd repeat the whole cycle. It looks like this:
25w - 5b - 25w - 5b - 25w - 5b - 25w - 5b - 25w - 30b - Repeat (w = work, b = break)
The beauty of the analogue version comes from the tactile experience. Twisting the tomato timer is a powerful signal to the self to work hard. The slow tick encourages you to keep going. And the satisfying pencil mark after each break gives a sense of reward - especially as you see them stack up. If you're looking for something similar, Amazon will some great options. Also, I may get in trouble for saying this, but it doesn't need to be a tomato - here's an eggxample....
This analogue technique was developed in the 80s, before apps and web apps. If you're cool and techy, you might prefer to use the Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant Chrome add on for a digital experience, like I do. It has a small tomato icon in the top right of my browser, with the number of minutes left. Once your 25 minute pomodoro is up, a new tab opens on your screen telling you to take a short break. This repeats for 4 full cycles, followed by a longer break (you can adjust the times in the settings).
In terms of productivity, however, they work exactly the same. Knowing there's a short time until your next break encourages you to leave your phone for juuuuust a bit longer. And seeing that you've got a break coming up makes you want to get as much done before it does.
One of my favourite things about the Pomodoro Technique is that it allows you to get into a Flow State. If you've seen Soul (link), you might understand this term. For me, this is holy grail of getting work done. The term "Flow State" was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his best selling book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:
One of the most frequently mentioned dimensions of the flow experience is that, while it lasts, one is able to forget all the unpleasant aspects of life.
I love these moments. You look up after what feels like only 10 minutes, and you've written a huge chunk of your essay! You didn't get distracted, and you followed your train of thought to the very end. This works for other examples, too - like working through your emails or clearing out an old drawer.
⏰ So which is better - Analogue or Digital?
Whilst the two versions work to the same effect, there are subtle differences that may encourage you to prefer one over the other.
- Noise - In some places, you can't get away with cranking a tomato timer, like the library. There isn't much more to it than that.
- Cost - To use the original analogue method, you'll need to pick up your own tomato timer. They aren't cheap, but if you're on a budget it'll be better to stick to a Pomodoro timer app (free on the app store) or the Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant Chrome add on (also free).
- Getting started - If it's 10pm and you've got an essay to submit tomorrow at 3pm, you probably won't be able to pick up a timer in time. Don't worry, we've all been there. Stick to using an app/add on - set up will take you less than 5 minutes.
It really does come down to personal preference. Try both and see how you get on - you could also use a timer app to replace the Tomato timer and get the best of both worlds!
For what it's worth, I would actually prefer to use a physical timer. The intention behind twisting the timer to 25 mins, setting it in front of you, and hearing the tick as it winds down, is an excellent way to help stay focused. In an increasingly digital world, analogue solutions provide an excellent opportunity to help stimulate your brain in different ways.
Also, one thing to remember. Productivity isn't about doing more work for the sake of it. It's to enable us to get more work done in less time, leaving us to spend more time doing things we like.
🧑🏻💻 Time to get more work done!
So there we go! We've gone through reasons why we struggle to get work done, and how using the Pomodoro Method can help. We all struggle to get stuff done from time to time, so hopefully this will help. It's especially useful for coders, developers, writers - anyone that needs to produce creative work. Have a go and let me know how it goes - it's been an absolute game changer for me 😎
Look out for my next post all about how to set up your sleep environment to catch those Zzzs!
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