Do you procrastinate?
Do you put things off? Are you misleading yourself, saying you will do something but then avoiding it? Even the word procrastinate has a certain deceptiveness about it, just like it’s meaning, Avoiding work. Procrastination is 5 syllables, it makes it sound almost scientific like there’s a real justification. What you’re really doing is no work but that’s only two syllables and makes it sound like you’re being lazy.
There are hundreds of tools and techniques to avoid procrastination. The Pomodoro Technique is one of them. I want to show you how you can tweak it further to make it even more useful.
Why is the Pomodoro Technique a good foundation?
At its essence pomodoro involves:
- Breaking things down into smaller chunks
- Promoting single tasking, staying with one task for 25 minutes
- Tracking your progress, only fully completed pomodoros (25 minute blocks) count
- Forcing you take a break every half an hour
- Reviews to compare your estimates with reality
This brings some major advantages. Breaking tasks down into smaller half hour chunks makes everything seem more manageable. This helps avoid procrastination. It helps you focus, one task is a reminder to avoid distractions. Tracking only fully completed 25 minute sessions means a 20 minute session doesn’t count. This can act as a good motivator to make sure you stay on track.
Once started with tasks, some people are so committed they forget to take a break. This can lead to a short flourish but if you want long lasting and consistent results then breaks are important. The review process is an agile concept that provides a great feedback loop. Over time it will help you to better estimate your tasks.
Why tweak the pomodoro technique?
The main problem I have with the Pomodoro Technique is still getting started. Half an hour is less of a commitment than a whole day. It’s significantly less than eg a New Year’s Resolution which often sets a goal at a year level. Yet, half an hour can still sometimes seem like a lot of time. Especially if it’s a task you’re not looking forward to.
What’s the tweak?
One key concept to avoiding procrastination is to make starting easier. Once you start it’s easier to continue. So I was thinking, “How could you make pomodoro easier to start?” I found a way.
If you can reduce the commitment further then you have less of an excuse not to start. My solution, I bought a five minute sand timer. When I’ve been in a procrastinating mood then this has made the difference and made it easier for me to jump in and start.
Why the tweak works?
Steve Chandler’s article sums up the benefits nicely and concisely:
Keep your life creative and simple: what needs to be done now in these three minutes?
He goes even further and says you only need three minutes. The sand timer I wanted was only available in five 🙂
It’s especially helpful for smaller admin tasks, things that I’ve been putting off for ages, like making a dentist appointment. It also works for longer open ended tasks. I’ve found it easy to switch from a 5 minute session to a full 25 pomodoro. If I’d started with the goal of a full pomodoro I’d have likely delayed, procrastinated and not started at all.
Some people may think “but just for 5 minutes, it’s not even worth starting” or “but that’s not the real pomodoro.” My answers, it’s amazing how much you can get done in 5 minutes and you should feel free to experiment with pomodoro. It’s no use having a perfect system if it doesn’t quite fit with you. You’ll end up not using it at all.
To summarise, use pomodoro as a solid foundation to help you get stuff done. But feel free to tweak it to get you over procrastination hurdles. I’ve found a 5 minute commitment makes starting easier and you can still get a lot done.
So what are you waiting for? Don’t think any further, just go and do 5 minutes of your next task now!