Google Productivity Pad: Boundaries, the Pomodoro Technique, and Productivity

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Boundaries, the Pomodoro Technique, and Productivity

Warning: I am writing about a topic that I have yet to master, as such these are musings, not dogma.

Some people are more productive than others. I think we can take that as fact.

Sometimes each of us is more productive than other times. I think we can take that as fact too.

Taking these two facts together I think they beg the question: Why?

Why is that one guy a straight A student, on the basketball team, runs his own business after school, and volunteers at the hospital? And all I can manage is to be a B-average student, period?

Why was I am able to do so much last month when I had three projects due, my sister was getting married, and I was helping organize the 5k? And this month I can barely stay on top of my reading homework?

I don't know that everybody faces these questions, but I know I do. I don't really have the answers yet, but I am forming some ideas. These ideas center around the idea of boundaries. Boundaries are those pesky things that have troubled mankind since the beginning. The interplay between structure and freedom has been the quest of philosophers for millennia, and is at the very heart of the American Paradox, of which I have written elsewhere.

But today I don't want to attempt to deal with the large questions, I would rather just think about it on a practical level.

Parkinson's Law:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Cyril Parkinson

I'm sure most of you are already familiar with this idea. Why will work do this? I actually have no idea, but it must have something to do with us as humans, since work has no volition in and of itself. I might better read, "humans will take as much time to do work as is available for its completion."

What we find then is that really effective people are often good at setting deadlines for themselves, arbitrary of the deadlines that are actually in place regarding the task. Super effective people seem to take it one step further and have the ability to set micro-deadlines and make themselves believe them.

One such system of setting micro deadlines is the Pomodoro technique, which I reviewed a watch app for here recently. The system of 25 minutes on task, 5 minutes on break, creates micro-deadlines by which you know you will stop working on the project. It seems to work even better if you alternate tasks every 30 minutes, so you know you will not be getting back to that project for a while.

I find that when I can get myself to apply Pomodoro I feel more productive. Now I am not 100% sure how to measure that empirically, but feeling that way is at least half the battle. It is sometimes just difficult to get myself to actually do the Pomodoro, because my lazy self knows it will have to work once I do.

So here is my challenge to you, go try the Pomodoro technique to set yourself some micro-deadlines, then come back here and report to me how productive you feel. I think it will help you live better.

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