Like many professionals who work from home, I always keep an eye out for ways to track and improve my productivity. As a former office worker, I know that home offices aren’t the only work environments that provide plenty of distractions … but being my own boss can sometimes make it harder to regain my focus and get back to work. So when I heard about Pomodoro Technique, I was eager to give it a try.
Pomodoro Technique has a few basic guidelines:
- Make a list of tasks, and select one task to work on
- Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work constantly until the timer goes off
- When the timer goes off, make a check mark next to the task you worked on
- Take a 5-minute break
- Every two hours, take a longer (30-minute or so) break
There are more details if you want them, but I have found that these basics are the most valuable ones for me. Why?
I can work without getting distracted
No matter what comes up as I work, I always know that I can deal with distractions after the timer goes off. The timer acts as both incentive to keep me on task and permission to ignore distractions — even if those distractions are things I need to deal with. I am allowed to focus on one task at a time.
I can track my hourly rate
As a translator, I don’t bill by the hour. I could easily ignore my hourly rate and go on blissfully charging far too little for my services — or over-booking myself! Pomodoro Technique makes it clear to me how long it takes to finish a task or an entire project. I know what proportion of a project is spent on terminology research, translation, or editing. I can also tell which subject areas or clients result in the highest hourly rates. I can more easily estimate how much time I need to complete a project, which helps me plan my workload and set my rates—and deliver each project on time!
I can plan my day
I can very easily make a list of tasks for the day and stick to it — or switch out tasks as the day goes along. Suddenly, my day is clearly divided into work units rather than a sprawling, amorphous glob of work. And I can work toward clearly defined breaks! It helps me plan sanity-saving walks in the park or lunch with a colleague or friend without feeling guilty.
It helps me stay healthy
Have you heard of the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eye strain? Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. While the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t have perfect timing, it is a much better reminder than anything I have tried before. Translators (and other computer workers!) have to watch out for problems like eye strain. I also use my five-minute breaks to stand up and stretch, get a glass of water, and get in touch with my body and environment rather than my computer.
Would you try out Pomodoro Technique? Or do you have other tips for increasing productivity and/or tracking your time?