By Jo Britton
Why tomatoes can help you get more stuff done.
The 4Ps to help you be more productive and get stuff done without the stress and overwhelm
Ever felt that you’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it? Perhaps you long for more hours in the day? Or that you were just better at managing your time? If this sounds familiar, join the club. The thing is this. We all have the same number of seconds in a day – 86,400 – to be precise. So, we can’t manage time, but we can manage what we do with it. Many us confuse busyness with productivity and effectiveness. And this can cause overwhelm, frustration and stress. Aside from some simple housekeeping tips such as clearing the clutter from your work space, scheduling time in your diary, turning off distractions (such as emails, your phone etc) and keeping yourself organised, here are a more few tips to help you get stuff done with less overwhelm and stress.
- Parkinson’s law – use it to your advantage
There’s a law called Parkinson’s Law. It says work expands to fill the time you have. For example, if you have a task which should realistically take 25 minutes to do, but you have an a hour available in your schedule, you’re likely to take an hour to complete it. Thus you fill the time you have available to do it. So here’s the tip. Use Parkinson’s law to your advantage to boost your motivation and productivity. How? Set yourself a chunk of time and a deadline within which to complete the task, however small that task is. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll be able to achieve.
2 Pareto Principle – the 80/20 rule
You know the 80/20 rule don’t you? Originally, the Pareto Principle referred to the observation that 80% of Italy’s wealth belonged to only 20% of the population. Nowadays the principle tends to be applied more generally to suggest that things in life are not evenly distributed. For instance 80% of your business income may come from 20% of your customers or 80% of your output comes from 20% of the effort.
The point is this, the 80/20 rule enables you to maximise your efforts so that you can let go of the tasks that are time and energy sapping and that don’t yield results. When you spend so much time working on tasks that don’t produce significant results, over time you’ll feel stressed or overwhelmed.
So focus your time and energy on tasks that generate a bigger result. Do fewer of them and do them better and to completion without over promising and overcommitting yourself. How? Identify the few critical tasks that give you the biggest impact rather than spending time on all the trivial many. Then focus on the urgent first followed by the ones that yield the biggest results.
3. Pomodoro Technique – why tomatoes are your best friend
Originated by Francesco Cirillo in the1980s, the pomodoro technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, usually of 25 minutes in length, with short breaks in between. Each interval is known as a pomodoro (the Italian word for tomato and named after the tomato-shaped kitchen time).
How you do it? Decide on what task you are going to do. Set your timer for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, mark a cross on a piece of paper to denote the first 25 minute interval. Then start the timer again. If you complete the task with less than four pomodoro intervals take a short 2-3 minute break.
Four pomodoro intervals make a set. Then take a slightly longer break of 15-30 minutes. The idea is to be able focus with concentration and without distraction. There are few different variations of this technique in terms of the number of minutes in an interval. For instance some people feel they can work a little longer between intervals before taking a break.
I’ve found this method to be super helpful when I’ve got a long list of stuff to do and I really just want to get it done! I’ve actually been using this technique to write this piece and have got it done in super quick time. It’s interesting how much can be done and that the short breaks help me feel much more productive for the next task.
4. Procrastination – the enemy of progress
One of the big reasons we don’t get stuff done is because we procrastinate. We put things off and often this can become an habitual pattern. The word procrastination comes from the Latin verb procrastinare – to put off until tomorrow. It’s also derived from the ancient Greek word akrasia – doing something against our better judgement.
So contrary to what many think, the tendency to procrastinate isn’t because we’re lazy or that we’re bad at managing our time. According to numerous psychologists, there are two reasons we tend to procrastinate. The first is that some people are thrill seekers. They put things off right until the last minute because they get that ‘thrill’ of working under pressure when a deadline is looming.
However, this isn’t the case for most people. The biggest reason most people tend to procrastinate is because it is a way of coping with unpleasant or challenging emotions or negative moods brought about by certain tasks – things like self-doubt, frustration or fear. Sometimes the unpleasant emotion may be induced by the task itself such as cleaning a dirty toilet! But often procrastination is an effect of low self-esteem, self-doubt or because of something we fear.
For example, I may procrastinate all day, every day about picking up the phone to make sales calls – I’d even find a reason to clean that dirty toilet! Why am I procrastinating? If I’m honest, it’s because I have a fear of rejection. ‘What if I make this sales call and they say no and I feel rejected?’ That doesn’t feel good so I avoid the task. Whilst I feel immediate relief in that moment, the more I avoid the task, the stronger the cycle of procrastination becomes and so for me I may start to feel guilty and stressed over time.
The procrastination cycle over this task becomes harder to break and I feel worse and worse about doing it. It goes something like: I know I should do the task, it feels unpleasant, I avoid it, I get a short term reward of feeling better in that moment I don’t do it, then I feel bad and stressed and the cycle starts again.
So what can you do to win the game of procrastination? First become aware of the cause of your procrastination in the first place and then work on that. So if it’s a fear of being judged or rejected or a fear of failing, that’s the thing to work on first. In short, procrastination is a freeze behaviour and the stress response kicks in. So if you focus on the cause of your procrastination then you’ll remove your tendency to procrastinate. I cover more of these techniques in my Find your Mojo coaching programme.
Second, envisage the benefit and reward of doing the task and all the pleasant emotions and feelings that come along with that benefit and keep focused on that. Third take your first action step towards achieving the task. Say to yourself, ‘I know you don’t feel like it, so just do a little bit.’
By doing a little bit, you’ll get a little shot of dopamine – the feel good, reward hormone. Then just do a little bit more and a little bit more. Before you know it, you’ve made great progress and you’ll find you’ve started to build your confidence in getting that particular task done, so it will get a little bit easier next time around.
Ready to take things to the next level and achieve the results you deserve to achieve without the overwhelm and self-doubt?