My dog-friendly office recently allowed me to add a “part time junior-project manager” to our staff: she is a 3 month old lab/boxer mix, who is a real selfless team player in that she hasn’t quite learned her own name yet. While she brings a lot of energy to her projects, she unfortunately keeps falling asleep on the office couch.
Needless to say, her time management skills could use improvement.
Luckily, I recently started reading in more depth on the Pomodoro Technique of time management. This particular approach seems like it could help, for both puppies and the fatigued puppy owners.
The Pomodoro Technique* (for those of us who forgot what it was immediately after the PMP exam) is a method of breaking work into micro-sprints. It involves clocking your work in 25 minute periods with an egg timer, then taking a 5 minute break. Then repeat, and repeat, and repeat.
This technique has several advantages. First, it encourages finite bursts of what Cal Newport calls “Deep Work”, so you theoretically can accomplish more in less time. The focus comes from eliminating multi-tasking during the 25 minute period; you only work on one task. For example, right now I’ve given myself a limited time to work on this piece… while the Junior Project Manager thoroughly shreds some documents for me (that hopefully should take her about 25 minutes). After which, we’ll go for a walk.
If done methodically, you should be able to get about eight to ten major things done each work day (based on the idea that five hours of productivity is optimal). That is actually way more than some people currently do.
The Pomodoro technique also draws attention to how much time you spend checking email, changing gears, or pausing what you are doing to answer a Slack message. Or, in the case of my Junior PM, chewing on the plants, chasing a loose Expo marker, and repeatedly checking on who is in the kitchen. These always seem like quick tasks, but they can add up to huge time drains.
Another advantage of the Pomodoro method that particularly suits my Junior PM’s schedule is its modularity. We can plan out ten tasks for the day, and if my Junior PM decides that the day starts at 4:45 AM, well, it’s as good a time as any to begin. Conversely, if the Junior PM decides to drop to sleep across the keyboard mid-morning, I can delay that 25 minute sprint until later. The Pomodoro technique doesn’t assign specific hours; it allows flexibility to build your day with plenty of breaks.
Overall, the Pomodoro technique seems to add focus and structure to a sometimes unpredictable day. This is good for workers with a lot of distractions. Plus, my Junior PM really likes the egg timer.
*If you’re wondering about the culinary origin of the name, Pomodoro is the Italian word for… well, not egg timer… actually, it means tomato. The inventor of this method was using an egg timer shaped like a tomato.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.