For almost any job today, you need to be good at organizing your time. In fact, for any job where you’re in front of a computer or have to complete tasks, Time Management is crucial to doing your job well and effectively.
Like reading and writing, managing time is also a skill. Even though it might seem like it comes naturally to some, it’s a skill that requires a lot of practice. We've found tackling my own time management shortfalls head on has been far more effective than just hoping for the best.
Many in the tech industry use to-do lists to be organized and get tasks done. To-do lists might be efficient for some, but we often hear of cases where it doesn’t work. They encourage the feeling of underachievement, as you never really get to the bottom of the list - you just keep adding and adding.
In fact, if you’re a developer, you’ll know that every day will bring a tide of new tasks. So your list just becomes longer and longer. This is especially true if you work in a team, like a remote team, where you get daily updates about changes and requests to alter the code.
So, if to-do lists are the best way to organize your time, then what else could you do? Keep reading to find out...
Some people respond very well to regularity. They become extremely efficient when there is a set time and place for everything. For example: checking e-mails between 9am and 10am, making alterations to current code between 1pm and 3pm, and having meetings between 4pm and 6pm.
This regularity helps some people to run their day like a ship: they always know what is coming next. In fact, this can also help to mentally prepare you for the next task, as your brain subconsciously gets to work before you even sit down.
Of course, the downside is the lack of room for ad hoc moments and hiccups: if a meeting is scheduled during the time you would normally be working on your code, then this disturbance might throw your entire day.
And for others, this regimental regularity will work counter to their creativity and will probably reduce both their innovativeness and productivity. That’s fine - this isn’t an approach for everyone. However, it might work well for you.
The Pomodoro Technique is based around a basic unit of time - 25 minutes, to be precise. It is said that this is the optimal amount of time for someone to complete a task or carry out work effectively.
You find a task and you do it for 25 minutes without being disturbed: no phones, no e-mails, no Facebook. Just work. Then you give yourself a 5 minute break and then start again. This means in a one hour period, you will have completed 50 minutes of solid work and given yourself a 10 minute break to do whatever you want.
That’s probably more work than what you would normally do in a hour! However, it requires commitment and focus: you can’t let yourself slip by dipping into social media or picking up your phone. But you can give yourself rewards, such as half an hour of doing whatever you want every time you complete three 25 minute pomodoros.
Interestingly, this technique also ties in with research in psychology which shows that in a one hour period the human brain is most focused in the first 25 and the last 25 minutes, with around 10 minutes lost in the middle. This is why when watching a TedTalk you are most likely unable to recall what was said in the middle as opposed to the beginning or the end.
You will never know what works best for you if you only use one approach or system to organize your time. Even if you have been doing the same thing for years, can you confidently say it is the best method for you, given that you’ve never tried anything else?
So if you use to-do lists, stop right now and use another method, even if just for a week. If you’ve been using the Pomodoro Technique for the last few months, give something else a go.
Once you have tried some other methods, you will be able to compare them to each other with your usual approach and decide which was the most productive for you.
And if you know of any other effective approaches, we would love to hear about them! Share them as a comment below or drop us an e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org
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