Ok, you know I just put that 1980’s dance mix in your head, disco ball and all.
I’m posting late today because I got sucked into the well of social media and general timewasting. I don’t want any of you to get the idea I’m somehow perfect at time management. In the midst of my timewasting, I came across an important need in my community so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. My plans for the next week, or more, have changed a bit. Nonetheless, today’s post will fit right in so I’m going to continue the series. But First, a PSA.
Public Service Announcement (PSA)
Please indulge me for a moment. While I have been working on my projects and goals, a new need has come forth and I am placing my personal plans on hold to help my community. Our area hospitals need PPE equipment and have asked for help from our sewing community to create masks for their staff and workers. Of course, I will help.
Greater St. Louis One Million Mask Drive is coordinating efforts to organize volunteers and get much needed masks to locations in our community. If you can help, please “Like” their site on Facebook or check out their website and volunteer. You don’t have to know how to sew. They need people to drive pick-ups and drop-offs, people to cut and package kits, and more. Visit the site and see where you can help. It is much appreciated.
If you do sew, they have a preferred pattern, the Aries mask, but will take masks made from other patterns as well. Again, you can download the pattern, volunteer, and get more information at the Facebook page. Thank you and now back to our regularly schedule programing (If you’re as old as me, you’ll remember that phrase).
It is fitting that I planned to write about a concept called Power Blocks today. It is easy to get overwhelmed. You may be volunteering, working on a goal, working your job, working from home, caring for family, all of these and more. Getting separation from work and home life is new to many of us. It’s stressful and you need to remember to take care of yourself, too. Remember, there is a reason they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first!
Power blocks are a strategy to break your day into blocks of concentrated work time with important BREAKS in between. There are multiple ways to apply the strategy but I’m only going to talk about two of them here. Both have worked for me.
The Time Block method
In the Time Block method, you block your day by 90 minute work blocks separated by half hour breaks. The idea is for you to concentrate on your work for 90 minutes and then take a break.
Shut out all distractions including turning off all notifications on your phone and computer, closing tabs for social media in your browser, and basically blocking any other distractions you may have. Get your household on board too. Do whatever you need to, to be able to work for the 90 minutes. Do it. You’re not striving for perfection here, just a block of time to concentrate on your work. Then, take the break.
The breaks are just as important as the concentrated effort. You need to clear your mind, relax a bit and get ready for your next session. Give yourself permission to check social media or walk the dog or do whatever you set aside so you could work for 90 minutes. Knowing that you have time set aside to do all those other things clears the deck for working the important 90 minute task.
I have found that I can get three to four power blocks in before my day collapses into my usual unscheduled mess. That might only be 4.5 to 6 hours of work, however, I get a lot of work done because I’m not distracted by everything else in my life during those time blocks. And, I have planned breaks to address everything else.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a time-management strategy that uses shorter bursts of effort separated by shorter breaks. After three to four cycles, you take a longer break. If you can’t block a full 90 minutes, this method might work well for you. You can find a lot of information about this technique on the internet, just search Pomodoro technique. I’ll give you the nickel tour here.
In the Pomodoro technique, you use a simple kitchen timer or similar timing device. Set it for 25 minutes and then proceed to concentrate on your task. At the bell, rest for 5 minutes (check email, social media, etc.) When the 5 minutes are up, start another 25 minute session. After three to four cycles, take a 15 minute break.
There are apps available for this technique too. I found a good one at Focus To-Do, but there are many others available. What I like about this one is that it is more than a timer. You can create projects and separate task lists for each project. Then you can add the number of “pomodoro” timers you need for completing each task. It can sync across all your devices so whether you are on a mobile phone, a computer or a tablet, you can record tasks or start a Pomodoro at any time or anywhere. (I get nothing for promoting this app, I just REALLY like it).
Give it a Try
The only way to know if either of these techniques can help you is to give them a try. I was skeptical when I first learned about them however, they have made a difference for me. I use both methods outlined here. Some days I can’t block 90 minutes, but I can get a few pomodoro sessions scheduled.
So give them a try and let me know how it goes!
Oh, by the way, pomodoro means tomato in Italian. The technique is named after the tomato timer used by Francesco Cirillo, who invented the technique.
Until next time,