Way back in February when we started putting out teasers for the blog, the #1 thing people said to me is, “How are you going to have time for that?” I admit, it was also the #1 thing I was saying to myself, along with #2, “Does doing a lifestyle blog mean I can’t wear gym clothes everywhere?” I am definitely a person who likes to be busy. There’s a lot of talk right now about becoming unbusy, and I hear that. My version of busy is filling my days with as much “want to do” and as little “have to do” as possible. So when you hear me say, “I’m so busy!” hear me saying it as if I was Buddy the Elf and not Eyeore. Asking me to sit still is simply asking too much. I find days when we do nothing to be very exhausting, similar to how my introvert husband feels after leaving a party.
Since I have a lot of pots on the stove, I have to be organized about my time, especially my time in front of a computer. It is very easy to get sucked in to looking at websites, tweets, and status updates, especially when your blogging hobby requires it. I work from home as well, so productivity is a major issue because I literally have something I could do in every room. Every time I leave my home office it’s like If you Give a Mouse a Cookie:
If you let Sincerely Megan out of her office to get a glass of water, she’s going to see a sock on the floor. The sock on the floor is going to remind her of the wash that needs to be done before a weekend of sports. Thinking of sports will remind her of the soccer picture order she didn’t fill out yet. Ordering pictures will make her realize that she never bought a frame for that family photo. She will go to Michael’s for a frame right then so she doesn’t forget. When she is at Michael’s, she will look for her 40% off coupon and find a coupon for target instead. Of course it expires today so she goes to Target. When she is at Target she, like every other person at Target, spends the rest of her day and money on stuff she thinks she needs. When she gets home, she carries the bags upstairs and trips over a sock on the floor. And if a Sincerely Megan sees a sock, she’s going to need to do laundry…
And poof, nothing has been accomplished! So, I set out to find a better system, and I think I did! It’s called the Pomodoro technique and I feel so productive when I do it. There is a book on the Pomodoro technique if you really like to dig deep, but in the interest of time management, I’ll summarize it for you here less than 60 seconds:
How to Pomodoro:
- Make a to-do list. You can prioritize it if you like, but that comes naturally later on.
- Download a Pomodoro timer app. I use the free app “focus keeper“. The app will divide your time into 25 minutes of active work followed by a 5 minute break. You get 4 of these, then a longer break after your 4th work period.
- Pick a task for your first 25 minute work period. Put your phone in airplane mode. If you are on a computer, your e-mail is muted and only necessary windows are open.
- Buckle down on that task and only that task for 25-minutes. If you finish early, move to the next thing to focus on. If something else pops in your head, write it down on your to-do list.
- Every time you get to a break, you should stretch, change the scenery, and reward yourself. It’s ok to check your phone here, as long as it is only for 5 minutes. It’s amazing how fast you can read texts and messages when you do it all at once. The Pomodoro Police are watching!
- Before starting the next 25-minute session, determine your priority for that chunk. Lather, rinse, repeat until you’ve done 4 work cycles, then take your longer break.
I find that whenever I use this method, I am very focused and productive. Instead of thinking of I have 8 hours of a task in front of me, I think I have 25 minutes, which seems much more manageable. I don’t jump from thing to thing. I am also a little competitive with myself so I like to see how many I can do in a day.
Written planners still play a role in my life. Without one, I just have 40 lists of scraps of paper that I lose. I start off my week by writing down things I have to accomplish that week and what day they are due. My planner is nearby as I do my Pomodoros so I can jot down other things that pop into my head without having to remember them. I have a whole little system here that would make sense to no one but me, but I’ll break it down anyway. I “X” a task when completed, highlight in pink ones that did not get accomplished, and highlight in yellow the ones that must be done that day.
The planner I am currently using (left) is more of a to-do list and currently clocking in at a cool $14.95. If I have something happening at a certain time of day, I just write it on top. If you are more of a person who likes time and to-do lists in one planner, I recommend the Day Designer (right). They are both pretty and effective, as long as you look at them. I’m kind of obsessed with planers and could probably do a whole blog post on them, if you ask nicely.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is how the magic happens. The unstoppable combo of Pomodoros and Planners makes me more efficient and allows me to do more of what I love, including this blog. What are your strategies for staying on task? Are you a paper planner or an electronic planner?
~ Sincerely Megan