081613vintageboxers

what is pomodoro time boxing?

081613pomodortimer

Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by everything that I need or want to get done, that I can’t even think what to do next.

At these times, reading blogs and Facebook seems like a great idea. But two hours later, when it’s time to go to bed, I think about everything I should have completed in that two hour block and go to bed feeling worse.

I may have made a breakthrough this week! No, I didn’t hire a housekeeper (sigh), instead I have found help with maximizing my time: Pomodoro! (and Vitamin R)

Pomodoro is a time boxing/time management technique developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. The technique is named after his tomato- (“pomodoro”) shaped kitchen timer.

As Cory Bohon describes in his March 9, 2011 Chronicle of Higher Education article, “The Pomodoro Technique: An Overview”:

This technique uses 5 basic steps:

1. Identify your tasks to be completed
2. Set your timer to 25-minutes (or 1 Pomodoro) and begin working
3. When the timer ends, put a checkmark beside the completed tasks
4. Take a 5-minute break to rejuvenate yourself before the next work session
5. Wash, rinse, and repeat (minus the wash and the rinse)

After 4 consecutive Pomodoros (4 25-minute sessions, or almost 2 hours), you will take a longer break, say 15-30 minutes. After this break, you will repeat the normal process until your tasks have been completed.

I use a pomodoro Mac software called Vitamin R. They offer a 14 day Trial version, which so far I have been using for 4 days and I love it. I have been incredibly focused and efficient at work (no so much at home yet). It’s $29.95 after the trial version expires.

There is also a free pomodoro app for iPad/iPhones called 30/30 that I started using at home. It’s much more basic than Vitamin R (which will block applications and/or windows for your timed work period if you want it to, and it offers white noise, and verbal time updates when you schedule them), but 30/30 is still useful.

There seem to be many time boxing apps for iPhone and iPad. You may want to try find some online reviews.

So at work, I open up my Vitamin R, type in the task I will be working on, let it know if I want it to block applications and windows, then I set the time and I begin. I have it set up so that every 10 minutes it let’s me know how much time I have left. If I have I wandered off task, hearing “you have 20 minutes left” jolts me back to work. When the time is up, I am alerted by a sound (that I select) and then I rate how productive I was.

Next I decide if I want to take a timed break, an open break, or move on to another task. After 25 minutes of work, I always take a 10 minute break during which I make myself get up and move around. At work, I usually sit at my desk for hours on end, which is really terrible for my health, and for my legs in particular, since I sit cross-legged and hunched over.

My break often includes standing over a recycle bin while I go through stacks of papers on my desk. Once I’m through my piles, maybe I’ll take my breaks outside, or I’ll walk up and down stairs.

Once my break timer goes off, I settle in for another 25 minute work session. I really do feel more focused during these timed blocks.

The trickiest part of this technique, for me, is handling interruptions by my family and co-workers. I can turn my email off; I can set a limited amount of time to read the news and blogs; but I can’t tell my kids or boss to go away. I don’t WANT to tell my kids or boss to go away (most of the time).

I have decided, at work I’m going to announce that I will be closing my door to cut down on distractions for the morning/day/afternoon. I know people will understand, though it seems a little anti-social. But we have a pretty standard time in the morning where we share stories about our kids or discuss the latest news. I can shut the door after that.

At home, I may have to wait to use this technique when my family is away or occupied, or just pause my timer when they need me. I don’t consider that time as wasted. I see them so little these days.

To learn more about Pomodoro, like how to get better at estimating time for particular tasks, and how to increase focus, download the pdf of the book here (I have not read it).

If you come across, or already use, time management software or apps that work for you, please share!

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060513finnylookingup

060513lemonbuttermilkcake

060513spideroutsidea few photos from the past week

It has been an intense week, as they all will be in June. I run a few summer programs and this year many of my trusted instructors have left this transient college town to pursue graduate degrees or for real jobs.

So there have been many evening and weekend meetings and trainings, and more responsibilities that others used to take on. I can’t sleep because I keep running through my head everything I have to do the next day. So, so, so, so many balls in the air. So many moving pieces. I have an excel spreadsheet of everything that needs to be done and for everything that I cross off the list, 3 more things are added.

Some days I feel tired of being at work, and just plain tired, and I want a different job. Some days I feel really excited and proud of what I’m doing.

Here are a few random photos from the few random hours I have been home:

1) Finnegan lying in the sun where he likes to lie.

2) I made this lemon buttermilk bundt cake from shutterbean.com. I don’t have a bundt pan, but I do have a rose cake pan. Delish! This was gone in 24 hours. My family of 4 did not share it with anyone. It was dessert, breakfast, snack and gone.

3) Can you see the spider on the edge of the glass? He was in our dining room. We don’t like to kill spiders in our house. It could have something, or everything, to do with E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web”.

4) A long overdue thank you note to my friend Cathy for the Catherineholm fondu pot and vintage red purse she sent me for my birthday.

My daughter and I may go “up north” this weekend to my husband’s family’s cottage. Sandy beaches, no internet, blue water for as far as you can see, woods…I am both looking forward to it, and also feeling a stomach-churning anxiety about not being here to get more work done. I am trying to ignore my anxiety because my daughter really wants to go. She may not have another opportunity to go for awhile as her summer job starts a week from this Friday and she is taking a stats class. My son’s final exams are next week, so he and my husband are staying home. They will have more opportunities to go up north after this weekend.

I hope that if you also are experiencing stress in your life, that you are able to set aside some time for yourself and your family and that you are also feeling proud of the good work you are doing.