Managing my time as a student used to be impossible for me. I remember being led down the procrastination hole and ending up rushing my work to get finished in time. The time I spent was only on leisure and none of it was being productive. If I just described how you manage your time, well you’re in luck! I have spend a while researching and testing time management techniques in order to stay focused through out my day.
It feels great to plan your time and stick to it, getting your daily tasks done!
First, you need to have a clear goal on what you want to spend your time on. Be it learning something new or working on something the you are already busy with everyday.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technquie is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo. This technique involves a timer of 25 minutes focused on a single task and a short break of usually 5 minutes, these 25 minute sessions are called pomodoros.
The principle works like this:
- Set a task to be worked on.
- Start timer of 25 minutes.
- Work on task until the timer ends, write down any distractive thoughts, then focus on task.
- Have a short break of 5 minutes, then go back to step 2.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break of 15 minutes.
KanbanFlow is a time management web app that implements the pomodoro technique. It makes use of custom columns and cards for your tasks. Traditionally you would have columns for each day of the week. KanbanFlow also implements colour coding for your tasks. You can set this up in any way you want. You can have colour code groups of tasks, or use it to organize how much time to spend on a task.
I use colour coding for how much time I want to dedicate to a certain task. For instance, yellow equates to 1 pomodoro, green is 2 pomodoros, blue is 3 and pink is greater than 3. By using this mechanism you can visualize how much time to spend on a task and how long your day is going to be. I divide up my time spent on tasks to meet the goal for that day or how much I have to get done.
Below is a screen snippet of my KanbanFlow configuration described above:
Planning your tasks
The morning is the most important and effective time to do very focused, very cognitive intensive work. Imagine you’re in school. Which time of the day is better, Maths as your first subject or Maths as your last subject? Well, if you do Maths in the morning, you’re going to have a better time focusing on your work than in the afternoon. Is this not true? The same applies for this principle. When planning out your tasks, do the more grueling focused thing first in the morning and then ease out with the easier things in the afternoon.
To keep it simple, I break up my day into three parts. Morning is when I work the hardest, midday is when I have a long break and the afternoon is when I do the easier stuff.
Most people share the same average mental focus ability. People can only do 4 hours of focused mental work a day for a continuous period of time. This equates to 10 pomodors a day. If you really want to stretch this time you can, I have done it before. I have gone for a total of 14 pomodors in a day. Doing long strenuous work will cause you to burn. The next day I could barely keep up with 6 pomodors. So keep this in mind.
Switching up your tasks is very important. I have tried to spend at least 8 pomodors on a single task though out the day. It doesn’t work, this will also cause you to burn out very quickly. Focusing on a single task will eventually lead you to boredom and you’ll find yourself quiting very quickly.
The technique I use of switching up my tasks is by going flat out on a task and getting it done with. To which ever colour I assigned to the task, for how long to do it for. Just get it done and then it’s out of your way for the day. Then it’s onto your next task. By doing this it’s easier to stay focused by following a goal of completing the task for the day.
By switching up your tasks you’ll find yourself being able to focus a lot easier.
As much as it’s important to focused on your tasks, it’s also very important to take breaks. Rest breaks give your mind a release and chance to unwind so you can wind it up again. Now I’m not saying you should take 30 minute breaks in between each pomodoro. You’ll get very little done. Take a moderate break of 20 minutes between completing a task. This means by getting something to eat, go outside and enjoy nature or playing video games. Playing video games helps boost your cognitive ability.
You have to retain your consistency of getting your tasks done. So tell yourself how long you want your long breaks to be and stick to it. You can also adjust your long breaks in KanbanFlow.
Develop your own routine
You don’t have to or shouldn’t copy my KanbanFlow technique for your own. I slowly adjust mine to suit my needs. Adjust your colours to your own requirements and choose your own columns that best fit your tasks.
If you like this blog post on productivity be sure to check out my other on How to develop a morning routine