Matt Made Life

Tiny stories and meaningful moments

Productivity, performance and the Pomodoro technique

I had always struggled with assessing my own productivity. I couldn’t fathom why you would shoehorn performance indicators on tasks, no matter how insignificant. Though over the past 6 months, it's all begun to make sense.

Without meaning to, or realising it, I have been assessing, judging and optimising my productivity. I've been focusing on understanding and improving my workflow. I've started carrying a notebook, or, at least, having one to hand. And above all, I've found ways to overcome the pain of writer's block.

I hadn't really clocked these things until I had to write about them. Blogo, a great startup out of Brazil - and a regular client - asked me to write about productivity as a remote writer.

It hit me that even though I had sought to improve my productivity since starting out as a full-time freelancer 6 months ago. I'd never sat down to think about what I actually did.

The post was a journey of discovery. I was able to realise and highlight a couple of things that I have learned to do that help me to stay motivated as a remote writer. And one area that until recently, I had not been brave enough to attempt.

In the Blogo post, I talk about the importance of time-management. Specifically highlighting the Pomodoro technique. And I admit, I hadn't attempted it until very recently.

What was holding me back, was how difficult it can be to get started with the Pomodoro technique. Though lots of people talk about how beneficial it can be, few talk about how difficult it can be to get going.

Like many, I thought it was as simple as sitting down and working in 25-minute blocks. If you're anything like me, unfortunately, that's not the case. Actioning that kind of discipline is tough.

My first foray into the Pomodoro was a mid-Monday morning. It was the start of a week, the perfect time to try this technique that everyone has been raving about.

On suggestions of many a Pomodoro enthusiast, I took a few minutes to plan my day's tasks, set my timer for 25 minutes, grabbed a coffee and went for it.

Although the first Pomodoro was great and felt like it worked, the following 3 were a disaster. I must have suffered every interruption imaginable. From the post being delivered, to simply losing focus.

This was the story for a couple of days.

If by some miracle I did manage to get a full set of 4 Pomodoros, I was exhausted. That much intense focus can be devastating for someone who is used to letting his mind wander.

It wasn't until 3 days into it that I started to get it. Something happened, and unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure what! I'd planned as I had before. I'd decided my tasks, set my timer and had a coffee to hand as I'd done before. But something felt different.

Perhaps it was the looming deadline, forcing a sink or swim mechanism. Or maybe I'd just had a good night's sleep. No matter the cause, I was ready.

I managed a full day of Pomodoro. And it was intense. It felt like every successful experience with mindfulness had scaled. Nothing else mattered, just me and the single task I focused on at any time.

I’ve also come to realise just how difficult taking a strict 5-minute respite can be. Particularly when you're in a "flow". It's not 5 minutes of respite per se, it's more 5 minutes of intense, focused rest!

I still find such intense focus can be exhausting. I'm only a week in and I still have a low stamina. Though the rewards are obvious.

The Pomodoro technique has helped me improve my workflow no end. For a start, it has forced me to think more realistically about it! I now plan out 2 Pomodoros for research, 5 for writing, and 2 for editing.

My hopes are that using the Pomodoro technique will continue to aid in my posting productivity. And in 2016, I hope to get these times to 2 Pomodoros per activity.

I will be documenting my progress with the Pomodoro technique right here on the blog. So if you would like to stay up to date with my latest posts, sign up to my newsletter!

Do you use the Pomodoro technique? How are you finding it impacts your work, productivity and focus? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me @MattMadeContent