I recently had a few of my favourite ladies round to dinner and talk turned, as it does, to work. We have all worked together at some point over the last few years and so we have an appreciation for the rather looooong to-do lists that can overwhelm your week when juggling research, teaching, students, admin and whatever else you have going on in your life.
How, for the love of God HOW to get it all done???
Well despite my long to-do lists, I usually spend a few minutes each morning drinking a cup of tea and reading this fantastic lady's latest offering and you know, I'm glad I do. Often her posts have nothing to do with work (they just make me happy which makes me better at my job) but sometimes she has great posts on productivity. When I shared something I had recently read on her blog with my friends at dinner, they immediately suggested that I blog about it too. The article she wrote was based on Brian Tracy's book 'Eat That Frog', and this was my favourite piece of advice:
The Productivity Alphabet (aka the ABC method)
This is a really simple system for organising your to-do list to make sure that what needs to get done, gets done!
Once you have added everything to your list, you need to assign each item a letter.
A - things that ABSOLUTELY must get done and that only you can do
B - things you BETTER get done soon
C - things that CAN wait
D - things you need to DELEGATE
E - things you need to ELIMINATE
The temptation is always to get the easy small tasks off the list first, but really, if we want to get the important things done, then we must acknowledge their importance and attend to them first, so start with your A's and reevaluate your ranking of tasks as often as need be.
So....now that we know what we have to do, we just need to focus, right? Oh, but my email just pinged and my phone is ringing and I need another cup of tea....all the time-sucking distractions! So in this one-time-only, two-for-the-price-of-one post I will now share my other favourite productivity tool :)
The Pomodoro Technique
My husband told me about this technique a few years ago and it has been so helpful, particularly with big writing projects (theses, papers etc. etc...). Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. And, as I understand it, the guy who developed this system had a kitchen timer that looked like a tomato. Translate it into Italian and hey-presto! Catchy name! So really you can use any kind of timer you like (mine looks like a chicken - The Pollo Technique), but a timer you must have.
|The Ciao Kitty Technique|
The basic approach is that each unit of focused activity time is called a Pomodoro and each Pomodoro lasts 25 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break. After you have completed four or six Pomodoros you take a longer break, say 30 minutes. Then you start the cycle again.
There is obviously a lot more to the system and you should wander over to the website if you are interested in finding out more. But the essential message is that once you set the time you should view that time as protected and be focussed, it's only for 25 minutes after all!
Save quickly grabbing a cup of tea for your five minute break - it will taste better because you did!