I am currently in a phased return to work after an extended absence of two months due to mental health issues – see posts in October 2015 onwards. Having time away from work has meant that reflection has taken place about why I got to be in such a place in the first case. Time is always the resource that we crave more of, but usually this is expressed in terms of completing work tasks or alternatively to have time with family/ friends. I know that I work too many hours each week for school. I fail on the work life balance and it bites from time to time because it triggers other issues as mentioned above.
So I have been reflecting – the issue of the moment: work – life balance, I need one, as do many of us. However, how can I achieve it? So I turned to an Internet search on time management strategies. I came across the Pomodoro technique or Tomato technique!?! Wary at first as it presents as someone’s vehicle to profit, but as always there are ways to use the idea without buying branded accessories (www.pomodorotechnique.com).
Essentially the method breaks work tasks (importantly not leisure time – this is a work efficiency tool) into 25 minute slots. Each slot involves focus on ONE* task (more than one small task may be combined to fill one pomodoro). It is about not multi-tasking. I recommend reading this for yourself from the official website.
During a 25 minute slot – a pomodoro – you work on your task. If there are any distracting thoughts / interruptions, record what they were for allocation later, but do not respond. If you have to respond then that pomodoro is incomplete. After the allocated time – signalled using a timer of some sort (my interpretation – I use a clock or timer – there are apps available).
At the end of the pomodoro I am keeping a record of tasks achieved and am using this with my son and his college tasks (since 01 January as an experiment) so that we can both use our time more efficiently. Then your reward is a 5 minute break away from the work – have a drink, use the loo, stand and have a stretch.
You repeat the cycle. A task may take more than one pomodoro, in fact you can learn how long certain repetitive tasks can be completed in when focused. I will be using this myself for tasks including lesson planning, marking a set of books, restricting time spent on answering emails each day. This will be part of my reviewing my work efficiency as I have set a 50 hour weekly work limit. I will not always complete tasks and will have to plan well so that I meet school and exam board deadlines. After 4 pomodoros you are recommended to take a 30 minute break. For my son I am using this after 3 pomodoros to start with.
I will review this through the blog and would like to share ideas with others using it. Already some colleagues online are investigating the technique. The pomodoro website also links it to concentration spans for ADD sufferers, which is where I hope it will help my son.
This is one of my strategies for work-life balance, let’s see how 2016 goes.
P.S. If leaving 17 year old instructions while out, remember that 25 minute work slots can be timed. Games playing online has no such restrictions!! A less than impressed Dad.