The Pompodoro Technique
As a freelancer one of the most important things you need to learn fast is how to manage and track your time. This can become very challenging if managing a few different projects. In my quest for the perfect time management app I must have downloaded them all! Through trial and error I found a system that works for me personally – the one and only pomodoro technique.
Read on whilst I give you a quick overview of this simple, low tech system and why it has worked so well for me when balancing various projects.
The pomodoro technique is refreshingly simple. All you need is a timer (the tomato shaped ones for hardcore disciples!) a paper and a pen.
You break down a task into 25 minute ‘chunks’ – set the timer for 25 minutes, and focus on nothing else but the job. Nothing. Only urgent emails are allowed, and you log them in as ‘interruptions’. Four consecutive 25 minute sessions, each with a two minute break at the end, are followed by a longer break of 15-20 minutes.
Intense focus and regular breaks
I like to work intensely and very focused for short bursts and then take small breaks to get up and move my legs. Working in digital means endless hours sat at your desk, which can be terrible for posture and back pain. Pomodoro reminds me to take these short breaks at the end of each session. The ticking of the timer is also very encouraging – I have it on at very low volume as I like to hear it ticking away and it makes me more conscious of the passing of time.
Pomodoro in practice
I’ll get into the nitty-gritty. Say you have a few jobs in: a web banner, a print ad for a mag and an email template – all for different clients and all with a deadline for the end of the day.
I start by estimating each job in 25 minute chunks- this is easy to do if you are already used to estimating by hour.
- Email template: 3 pomodoros
- Web banner: 2 pomodoros
- Print ad: 6 pomodoros
Counting your pompodoros
If you add the pomodoros there are nine- this is roughly four and a half hours. If you only work an eight hour day (unknown in freelancing of course!) you can start to see that you have two and a half hours left for emails, phone calls, admin, breaks and any other new work coming in. It really helps plan the day ahead.
You set the timer and start working on the most urgent job – the email template. After 25 minutes the timer goes and you are reminded to take a two minute break. After two and a half ‘pomodoros’ the job is finished; you have time spare. What do you do?
What to do with the leftovers?
Well according to the founders of this technique any spare time left should be devoted to Overlearning:
I use up this time to read Design Blogs, practice some sketching, take photos, draw some hand lettering, watch some Ted Talks or anything else design related.
When you have done four consecutive pomodoros, you need a wee release from all that intense focus. Time to get a cuppa, do some social media promotion,walk the dog… but only for 20 minutes before you start it all over again!
Find our more about the pomodoro technique from the Cirillo Company.