I admit it, I have tried and failed at various “work better” “getting things done” whatever systems for years now. You all know that I’m often rather scatter-brained and a tad forgetful. I’m just a tweed jacket and pipe away from absent-minded professor. I still try to keep things organized. No, my office is still a disaster area. No, I haven’t changed my “organization by piles in stratigraphic order” technique of filing. However I do have tools like Yojimbo and Instapaper where I stash links and notes for things I’ll need later (especially for the various book projects I’m working on). As far as the day-to-day things go, I can be pretty scattered though.
I’m not one for keeping a good to do list (beyond the giant one in my head), but the one thing that I hate is the “what next” and “oh wait I’ll do this now” feeling that I have during the day. Those two things, more than anything else, are probably what keep me working all the time instead of working (relatively) sane hours and take breaks.
Yesterday I posted on the Future Shop blog that I was trying the Pomodoro Technique—You say tomato, I say pomodoro: trying a new gtd approach—and I thought after following the system pretty well for the day that I felt satisfied and that I had really gotten a lot done. Also, I had managed—during my mandated breaks—to get a slew of housework done too. Okay, double bonus. Today, however, didn’t start out so well.
Oh sure, I updated the to do list (I’m keeping it in Yojimbo for the time being), but when I started my first “Pomodoro” of the day…things started to go off the rails. I let me myself get distracted. I didn’t take the breaks I should have. I just worked and work. And by 2:30 I felt pretty crappy.
So being the smart person I am, I saw that something wasn’t working so I needed a break. I laid done to just focus my thoughts…
And woke up two hours later.
I took this as a sign that I was a) tired and b) just not working up to snuff. So I tried again. I decided that I was going to attack Chapter 4 of Teach Yourself Foursquare—again. I wasn’t happy with how it had turned out as I was in my much-hated “conversion to Word” process and since Catherine was already plowing through the first three chapters, I thought I really needed to step up to the plate here.
So I did. I set the timer and wrote (I also quit TweetDeck and a few other distractions). After 25 minutes I took a break for 5 minutes. Then I worked some more. Then another 5 minute break. After about two hours of this (which flew by, by the way), I was really happy with chapter 4 and chapter 5. Yep, I plowed right on and took another look at chapter 5, and gave it some more detail.
No, two days doesn’t signify a major change or that I will continue to have success with this technique. I do think the idea of a focused amount of work time, followed by a mandated break< is a good way to keep from getting burned out. Also, I haven't really gotten into the whole notation part of Pomodoro. I'm not a fan of having sheets of paper lying around that I scribble into. Maybe if I'm feeling technically creative I'll make a cool spreadsheet or something. Or maybe just search around online until I find more templates and tools that I like. Regardless, I'm happy that yesterday was a success and I'm just as happy that this morning failed. By seeing how my old way of working, wasn't working, and then in contrast to how the afternoon went. It made it pretty clear that I might just be onto something.