Time Management Part Two

Time to explore the second half of the time management techniques reviewed at the workshop conducted by Emily Wilska. This go-round, we have the Action Method, the Pomodoro Technique, and Do It Tomorrow.

The Action Method already has a post dedicated to it. The originator presented a workshop on it the day before I attended Emily’s. As I alluded to in that post, it was not what I was expecting based on the blurb, but was delighted by what I learned. In short, talk without action is empty, and ultimately useless. You need to have concrete actions to act upon to move any abstract idea forward, but whatever system you use needs to be flexible enough to fit with how you think and work, and pleasant enough to use that you don’t throw up your hands and walk away. The Action Method breaks projects down into 3 parts: action steps (a thing that you do), reference items (a thing that helps), and backburner items (a thing that you can do or that helps, but for now must wait). There are tools you can use with this method, but your success doesn’t hinge on having those particular things.

As stated in the other post, this is geared more for moving a group along as opposed to an individual. But even with that in mind, I can’t shake the impression that it is a kinder, gentler, less rigorous version of GTD because of it having 3 steps vs. 5, because it makes the review weekly instead of daily, because it doesn’t demand the granular detailing of tasks. Confession time: I placed an order with Levenger to get some of the Action Method tools, and plan to test drive them, so at some point in the future, there will likely be a report back on how it worked out for me. In the meantime, you can learn more over at The Action Method.

Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break tasks down into small chunks of time. This helps you get around any aversion you have to getting started on things. It also has you recording what you do in those smaller chunks of time in order to get a clearer idea of how long tasks actually take. Those small chunks of time in Pomodoro Technique, however, are 25 minute stretches, and they are not divisible at all. So if you finish one task before your “Pomodoro” (25 minutes) is up, you need to find something else to work on for the remainder of the time. Also, if you stop working before your Pomodoro is up, it’s voided, and you have to start over.

While I do use a timer for time management, it’s not used as rigidly as in this method. I want to try the technique at least for a day to get a feel for how it works, but am afraid I may not have the attention span to follow the rules properly. If this sort of structure is something you’ve been crying out for, get a timer and head on over to The Pomodoro Technique.

Do It Tomorrow is the odd duck in this batch of methods in that it doesn’t focus on what you need to do in a day; it focuses on what you won’t do. Every day, you have a list of tasks that need to get done. Anything that comes up outside the realm of those tasks gets put on a new list for “tomorrow.” The part of me that remembers working in an office bounces with glee at the thought of taking some task or request that pops up from someone else and putting it on a list for tomorrow. “Sorry, I already have a full list for today!” If a task from today’s list doesn’t get completed, it gets rolled over to the list for tomorrow. One of the major aims of this system is to reduce random interruptions and interjections to your workflow. It also helps keep you focused on one set of tasks, following them through to completion, before skipping on to the next set. It does allow for actual emergencies to break into your day, but they have to be true emergencies or things that Really Do Need Attention That Very Moment.

I do roll over items from my to do list from day to day. If it doesn’t get done, writing it again (and again) on the list for the next day starts to become the nagging voice, saying “come on, girl.” It also allows me to see how many times I’m rolling a particular task over (i.e. how much i’m dreading doing it, and how long it takes to overcome the inertia of dread). I haven’t really used this method in its entirety, but should probably experiment with it as well. Want to learn more? Mark Forrester’s website has more information for you.