Normally I enter a new year having completely blocked out my Google calendar with all sorts of new routine blocks that I am intending to stick to. I never do just a few time blocks, it is always trying to schedule ALL OF THE THINGS, ALL AT ONCE including laundry, date nights, work blocks, reading blocks, exercise blocks, etc. My calendar on January 1 typically looks like something drawn by a 6 year old who just received a new box of markers. It is overwhelming from the start and therefore typically only happens for about a week or two and then I revert to becoming reactionary again.
This year, not really even by design, but perhaps more due to my new mindset and way of being — I have been easing into a new rhythm and testing out what works for me. I’m slowly adding a new activity to my weekly schedule and then testing it out to see how it feels. Does it feel rushed? Do I have enough down time? Is there enough time for reflection, writing, joy? Are my clients getting enough of my attention before I start to add new ones?
I have been reading a lot about what successful people that I admire do. I have been reaching out to mentors and asking them how they schedule their time. I’ve been reading about how successful thinkers throughout history made sure they had time for creative thought.
I recently re-read a wonderful post by Greg Head on productivity hacking. Greg is is a local start up consultant in Phoenix and a person whose schedule is often filled with hours of helping others. I often wonder how he does it all. But in this post it was very clear. He talks about how he uses the Pomodoro Technique to schedule out his day using this method. He even did an Ignite Phoenix talk about it.
Pomodoro is an italian word for tomato and the technique got the name because the timer the originator used looked like a tomato. The Pomodoro Technique is a time-blocking system where you basically schedule out your work in “Pomodoros” or 25 min blocks of focussed work followed by a short break. Every 4 Pomodoros you take a longer break. These time blocks are actually timed using a kitchen, phone or computer timer. I have downloaded the Pomodone App for my Macbook.
Now again, rather than go to town and start scheduling 25 min time blocks all over my calendar at the start — I have slowly begun to add in time blocks of work for weekly activities and have begun to estimate how many “pomodoros” that I need for them.
In between adding these new items I am asking myself questions like — Do you need more buffer time? Did you have enough time to debrief? Did you use that Pomodoro wisely?
It has also allowed me to eliminate the distractions that often interrupt my work. Because I know I only have 25 min, I turn off my email, social media, my phone and really dive in focussed for the block of time.
I have even started using the method subtly with my clients. Today I am going to be doing a brainstorming session with a client and I have split up the ideation time into 3 separate parts to focus on the 3 separate goal areas so that we don’t spend too much time on one and never get to the others.
What I love about this method is that it makes everything intentional. Rather than starting the day with my BIG 3 — or the top 3 items on my to do list and then just working, working, working. I am thinking about how much time each item is going to take, breaking down how much time each component of the tasks is going to take, and scheduling them in not only where the time allows — but at times of the day when my brain functions best for that type of work or when it will give me the most impact on my day.
An example of that is that I am scheduling a “mentoring pomodoro” call every morning with one of the mentees that I advise on projects. This call is taking place between 8:30–9:00 which is my drive time between my son’s daycare and the office. While it seems this is something that would be my generous time, in reality I have scheduled these calls strategically because I get so inspired and optimistic about the world after talking to these world change-makers. This time is actually somewhat of a selfish play on making sure that each morning I am reminded that there are wonderful people out there doing incredible work to change the world.
I know this Pomodoro call will inspire the rest of my day. Energy will be increased. Optimism will be at maximum levels as I sit down to my desk to dive into my own work.
My first 8 count of the day will be strong.
I have made a big shift this year in how I even think about scheduled time. I no longer look at it as something rigid. One of my Desired Core Feelings this year is flow — meaning that I want to get into a more seamless way of being and operating specifically with relation to my to do list and schedule.
I have started to think of my scheduled time as more of a rhythm and dance. Dancers hardly every choreograph their routine perfectly on the first try. And they don’t do it all as one big chunk. They split it into 8 counts. You learn and practice that 8 count and then you add on another one. And then once that one is mastered, you add another.
This is how I am approaching scheduled time in this New Year — in “Pomodoro 8 counts” that collectively form a beautiful dance using all of my talents and passions.
5, 6, 7, 8…..