Return of the Pomodoro

I’m not exactly sure what happened, but somewhere along the line I fell off the Pomodoro cart. Today, it was back onto it, and my intentionality and productivity showed noticeable improvement. Here’s what I learned through my Pomodoro hiatus.

First, I tried to do the Pomodoro technique without actually doing it. And it didn’t work. For example, I would work in Pomodoros (25-minute periods without interruption), but I would not work in purposeful Pomodoros that had been carefully and thoughtfully planned at the beginning of the day. This allowed for too much randomness in my day, as well as not considering how much time each task would take. Yes, it gave me uninterrupted periods of time to work, study, and write, but it also was not directed like it should be.

Many times I just skipped the Pomodoro altogether, and worked without thinking through segments. This allowed for too many interruptions. I began to notice, especially over the past two weeks, that it didn’t take a whole lot to get me completely off task. The other tasks were not necessarily unimportant or unnecessary, but interruptions reduce efficiency if not handled properly.

Sometimes these two issues compounded into what I like to call the “I’ll get to it later” syndrome. The only problem is that “later” never comes until it is crunch time, and then it’s full-blown, mind-numbing, blood-pressure-raising stress mode to finish. I try to avoid these results of procrastination at all costs, but when the “I’ll get to it later” syndrome infects the day, it’s almost unavoidable.

As a last thought, I don’t want it to sound like I am completely unable to be productive without a timer and daily plan. I still got things done, and, I think, produced quality work in reasonable time frames. That being said, tasks that screamed at me got my attention, and other tasks more easily fell to the wayside or were neglected. Without the Pomodoro mechanism, I find it easier to fall victim to the tyranny of the urgent rather than to plan ahead and be pro-active so that the number of things that are urgent are minimized to only those things which truly are urgent. Life happens, especially in pastoral ministry, and the daily plan sometimes goes out the window when an emergency hospital visit has to be made or a hurting member of the congregation comes in for some prayer and encouragement. These truly urgent things do require immediate attention, and they deserve to have a pastor who is able to focus without distraction on the immediate need, knowing that his other tasks are written down and won’t be forgotten or neglected when he returns to them.

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