“Maximising time is a constant struggle.” - Every business owner ever.
You probably don’t know what the Pomodoro technique is yet. But let me tell you, counting your pomodoros is a powerful way to boost your focus and increase your drive.
Speaker and entrepreneur Chris Winfield struggled for years to make proper use of his time. After extensive research, trial and error, failing over and over again at time management, and a little bit of frustration, Chris had discovered that the key to him living his most productive life was at 25 minute intervals.
Improving his productivity became an obsession, he was desperate to get rid of distractions and free up more time in his day. Chris finally discovered and settled on the Pomodoro technique because all he needed was a timer. First invented in the 1980s by Frances Cirillo, the Pomodoro technique maximizes time and efficiency by blocking out a 25 minute interval to free yourself from interruption.
Because of this time management technique, Chris was able to chop his work week in half, transform his career and image, and live a balanced home life as well.
If you want to know how to integrate techniques like this into your life read our last post How Productivity Experiments Could Help You Reach Your Business Goals.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro technique is a fun ‘game’ you play with yourself. It allows you to get in the zone, do your work, then take a break once you’ve finished. You can watch this short video below to get a better understanding.
Now let's get into Chris’ story of major productivity transformation.
Overcoming the hardship of time
Chris admits to being a complete workaholic in his past, sometimes working as much as 60 to 80 hours per week. Despite putting in excessive hours co-founding one of his companies, things just didn’t go to plan. Many of Chris’ fears as an entrepreneur came true, in his own words “the company completely imploded”.
The story doesn’t end there, as Chris explained, “Failing at something led me to look at it as an ultimate blessing because I realized I was completely miserable and inefficient”. This was the beginning of what would be a revelation for him and us.
Chris now uses this failure as motivation to push him to become better, he says it was the best thing that had ever happened to him, because from this he was able to structure his life around working smarter, not longer. As an entrepreneur this experience possibly led to his greatest achievements.
Looking back Chris confesses “I was so inefficient, I was spending 80 hours on something but not getting anything done, because I didn’t really understand how to work”.
The pomodoro pact to productivity
Chris spent weeks and months researching all about the different ways to work productively before finally stumbling upon the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique is the practice of choosing one task and making small commitments to completing it using a timer, spending 25 minutes completely focused on that task and nothing else followed by short breaks.
Here is how this technique was forged by Francesco Cirillo:
- Choose a task you want to complete
- Set the kitchen timer for 25 minutes (we just use our computers)
- Work on the task until the 25 minutes is up
- Take a short 5 minute break, which marks the completion of one Pomodoro
- Repeat steps 1 to 4 until the task is complete
A little side note, in our office at Biz Minded after every 4 Pomodoros you can take a longer break such as 20-30 minutes.
Chris started small by committing to accomplish one Pomodoro technique session per day. But after quickly finding that adding a timed structure around his process forced him to focus in a way he wasn’t previously doing, he was excited to continue to integrate the technique throughout his week.
He began gradually increasing his Pomodoro technique sessions each day, looking to optimise his productivity and therefore give him more time to live balanced at work and at home. As you will find on his website he has now committed to completing 40 Pomodoros per week, which is equal to 17 hours. He told us that he gets more done now with his 17 hour week than he ever did working around the clock for 80 hours.
“When your energy is focused on just one thing, then you become more powerful”
Chris uses Trello to break down his bigger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks that he can develop step by step guides to complete. Each task is assigned its own file and has a deadline attached. Then when he is ready to begin his work, it's Pomodoro time! He moves a task file over to “in progress”, starts his timer, and away he goes down into focus mode.
The software Trello gives Chris a visual view of how many Pomodoros he has completed and how many are to go before he can take a well earned break and clear his mind. While he uses another Pomodoro app for a timer, he has stated he would be lost without his Trello Board.
What is Trello?
Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process.
Imagine a white board, filled with lists of sticky notes, with each note as a task for you and your team. Now imagine that each of those sticky notes has photos, attachments from other data sources like BitBucket or Salesforce, documents, and a place to comment and collaborate with your teammates. Now imagine that you can take that whiteboard anywhere you go on your smartphone, and can access it from any computer through the web. That's Trello!
Battle with your resistance
The Pomodoro method doesn’t take much time, but it also doesn’t come stress free. Taking away distractions and focusing on one thing for an extended period of time is difficult if you aren’t used to it, and it takes practice. People spend an enormous amount of time focused on why they don’t want to do something, or worrying that they don’t have enough time to complete the job at hand.
Chris realizes that the only way to get past your minds blockade, is to give up on finesse, and structure, set a timer and start working.
“Give up perfectionism. Just do it anyway. Once you get started actually doing something, you will wind up finishing it. And you’ll typically do a good job. Sometimes the hard part is just getting going, but he stresses that simply getting something down, anything, even if it’s just gibberish, is crucial for your momentum. That's his technique."
One of the books Chris cites as influential to his philosophy is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. The book discusses the idea that we tend to talk ourselves out of doing something, however we have the power to fight this resistance and rise above the worry and doubt to produce quality work.
For Chris, and a lot of people I’ve met, he battles his own resistance by staying disciplined with his daily tasks and sticking to a time managed structure to get them all done.
The decision to become disciplined
One of the biggest questions that comes out of adhering to a highly specified process is… Does the Pomodoro technique actually work? The question should be, does it work for you?
You need to stay disciplined enough to focus throughout the beginning of the technique. I bet you didn’t like brushing your teeth as a kid, but because you were disciplined enough to keep it up, now you have some bright pearly whites.
Seriously, Chris will be the first to tell you that he didn’t come out guns blazing, taking on 40 Pomodoros per week. In the beginning of his journey, he kept it simple and built his tolerance up over time. Then, as time went on, his focus began to become stricter and he was able to mentally prepare to take on more tasks, he grew his Pomodoros.
This model is all about flexing your habit muscles, and building upon it. Once you’re in the habit of doing 1 Pomodoro per day, up to 2, then 3, then 4 and keep going.
What is Productive and why should every business use it?
Chris used Trello when his company was small, and he still does for his day to day task. But Productive is how he controls the projects and tasks now that he has multiple businesses, multiple different teams that look up to him, and the employees that go with those teams.
Productive is a tailor built tool for agency business. If you are have an online presence or serve a client base that is of a technology related industry you will find the most value in this all encompassing tool.
Productive is the only tool you need to run a profitable agency. Tailor built for professional services, it's a perfect fit for software development shops, marketing agencies, design studios and consultancies. With a strong focus on profitability, Productive also includes employee cost rates and company overhead costs into your profitability reports. As a cherry on the cake, we can also predict your future revenue with our resource planning and progress reports.
Enough about my opinion, here is a video outlining who Productive are and what they can do to help you:
Productive pricing starts at $12.00 per month, per user. There is not currently a free version of Productive. However they do offer a free trial. If you want to check Productive out further, you can go HERE! Or if you want to start you free trial go HERE!
Some of the other tools we recommend that will increase your businesses productivity are in our last post 5 Tools That Will Make Your Business More Efficient!
Finally, I would just like to give a big thanks to Chris Winfield for sharing his experience and advice regarding his journey to being more productive.