Friend and boss: the tomato timer

One of the very hardest things about freelancing is time management. Actually, time management has always been an issue no matter what I was doing.

Thinking back to my days in university and high school – the time when a paper was due or I had to prepare for a test were the times when the laundry got done, or I’d make a phone call home, or rearrange my sock drawer – or any number of activities that, regardless of whether they were productive or not, would keep from the task at hand.

Fast forward to now, when my time is almost entirely my own. And whether I’m writing for a client, preparing invoices, doing laundry, writing some notes or a blogpost, or anything else, it’s a challenge.

If anything, it’s gotten worse since my student days.

In the last ten months or so I’ve been using The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late eighties. I found out about it by tweet from writer Jason Arnopp.

The basic premise is that tasks are broken down into 25 minute increments (called pomodori), and after each pomodoro there’s a short break (five minutes). After three or four pomodori there’s a longer break. That’s it.

It’s straightforward and simple and can be used just as well for housework or meditation or anything. I like it because big tasks can be daunting, but just spending 25 minutes concerted minutes on something can accomplish a lot.

And although part of the technique is breaking tasks into smaller chunks, I find that just writing for 25 minutes (focused on a task or not), can accomplish a lot. Including giving me a sense of accomplishment that inspires me to keep going. Also, knowing that I earn a break is good incentive.

I also choose to believe that by teaching myself to focus in chunks of time makes me better at focusing for chunks of time.

How’s my productivity you wonder? Well, when I’m doing my pomodori it’s pretty good. Hey look: it’s break time!