I actually spent 3 hours last week testing time management apps and reveling in the irony of it all. Each app had its own attractive life-saving combination of promises and features, user interfaces and API integrations. None of them offered to actually do my work for me and none was obviously more helpful than the others.
The one valuable discovery I did make during this otherwise complete waste of a morning was the Pomodoro technique which is actually a concept not a proprietary product. In other words it’s useful (and free). The idea is you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Repeat.
The concept of 25 minutes is easy to visualize, especially if you grew up watching TV sitcoms. During a standard 30-minute TV show a dramatic problem is both introduced and resolved. An entire family can learn a valuable life lesson (e.g. Full House). A dynamic duo of teenage youth compete to get the shit scared out of them by surprise attacks from evil “temple monkeys (e.g. Legends of the Hidden Temple). You get the point.
The Pomodoro technique works because it forces you to do the following:
1) Focus – Suddenly you’re on the clock and you only have a relatively short amount of time to actually get something done. Yet it’s long enough to be considered a waste if nothing comes of it.
2) Prioritize – Working within concrete, regular intervals enables you to conceptualize projects into individual tasks. You ask yourself ‘What can I get accomplished in the next 25 minutes, that will move my project forward?’
3) Stay sane – We’ve all been there; you’re so overloaded you don’t know where to begin. Because the Pomodoro technique includes taking a break, you’re left with no excuse but to simply Start. Somewhere. The break gives you a chance to either remove yourself from the task or take a step back and evaluate your approach.
So give the Pomodoro method a try using your watch or phone. During your first 5-min break, watch this 4:41 artistic interpretation on the meaning of Time. Take the remaining 1:19 to scrape your thoughts from the ceiling. I warned you!