As business owners, we have the luxury and the burden of being our own bosses. The regular constraints of a work-week don’t apply to us, but the risks of not getting things done are far higher than for someone who isn't their own income machine. So, what to do if you can't bring yourself to buckle down and get started?
My favourite is the “Pomodoro Technique". Created by Francesco Cirillo, the technique helps to organize your work into cycles. It's simple to follow, can be used for free (we love free), and helps you to have the kind of laser focus that is needed to reach super-human levels of productivity.
Here's how the Pomodoro Technique works:
All you need to get started is a timer. You can use your phone for this or even this handy dandy Pomodoro Timer that lives online. Set your timer for 25 minutes and focus on one task until the timer goes off. Once time is up, take a short 5 minute break and then repeat the 25 minute work cycle again. After four Pomodoros (A total of 100 minutes of working time and 15 minutes of break time), take a longer 15-20 minute break. Sounds pretty straightforward, but does it work?
Here are some of the reasons why this deceptively simple technique will work for you:
1. Time becomes your friend, not your enemy
Have you ever noticed that sometimes, a pretty simple project that should only take a few hours or a few days, somehow expands to take up a whole week? Well, you're not alone and there is actually a name for this phenomenon, it's called Parkinson’s law. This law dictates that a task will expand to fill the time available, which is definitely not a good thing if you are the one setting the timelines!
But with the Pomodoro technique, you now have a tool for herding those pesky tasks, and now time is your ally. Do this by estimating the number of Pomodoro cycles a task might take you. A small task might take one Pomodoro cycle, for example. This shifts the focus from “How long should this task take me?” to “How far can I get in 25 minutes?” If your task takes longer than a few Pomodoros that's fine (and to be expected for big projects), but at least now you can chip away at it 25 minutes at a time.
3. It helps you get over the procrastination you've been battling
It can be incredibly daunting to sit down and tackle a project that you have been putting off. Maybe you're procrastinating because you're unsure of how to get started, maybe the task requires you to use skills that don't come easily to you, or maybe you are anticipating a long learning curve ahead. Using the Pomodoro technique can help to take some of that mental burden off of your shoulders because all you have to do is sit down and focus for 25 minutes. The power of taking this first step will help build momentum and the cycles will help to create a level of certainty around how you will get the task done (one Pomodoro at a time).
4. It helps you build confidence that even when the going gets tough, you have a system for getting started and figuring it out.
Once you get started on this system, you'll begin to trust that no matter the task, you have some way of tackling it. That assurance alone can be a huge psychological relief and the successes you pick up on the way will compound your trust in the system, giving you even more confidence that you will be able to chip away at monster tasks in the future.
Life gets a whole lot simpler if you just focus on the next 25 minutes in front of you.