Hold That Thought Until I Go On Break

This week I am working on my first ever Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) plan for my post-graduate certificate program. I’m equal parts excited and terrified. This one assignment contributes up to 20% of my grade in six of the seven courses I’m taking this semester!

More importantly, it’s forcing me to apply theoretical knowledge to a real world situation using methods that were wholly unfamiliar to me a mere two months ago. It’s not just the prospect of dissatisfying marks that gives me anxiety – it’s also the fear that I’m not cut out for this field. Self-doubt is the worst.

But you’re not here to read a blog post about my stress. Instead, what I’m going to focus on is time management. How am I going to get through this week? By adhering to the Pomodoro Technique:

  • I make a list of what I need to accomplish.
  • The associated tasks get prioritized.
  • I estimate how many multiples of 25-minute increments of time each task will take me to complete.
  • The tasks go into an ordered list.
  • I set my timer to 25 minutes, begin to work on my first task, and focus.
  • I take 5 minutes off when the timer rings. What do I do with this time? I gaze out the window to rest my eyes. I do some jumping jacks and sun salutations. I steep some tea or brew some coffee.
  • After break time is up, I get back to work for another 25 minutes.
  • This ritual is repeated until I’ve completed four sets of 25 minutes. Then I get to rest for up to 20 minutes.
  • Time to start over.

What I like most about the Pomodoro Technique is that the 25-minute increments of time cut me off before I begin to lose my focus. Generally, I don’t have to drag myself back to work after each break – they’re so short that I can jump back in wherever I left off.

What I like least about the Pomodoro Technique is that it clashes with one of my other favourite productivity tools: working in parallel with others in a café. I thrive in environments where there is background noise to block out and trusted colleagues to bounce ideas off of. In the world of marketing communications, choosing strategies and tactics in a vacuum leads to trouble. So, given the choice between the Pomodoro Technique and the café method, I choose a hybrid: set the timer to 25 minutes, stop to throw some ideas around, then tack on an additional 5 minutes for each interruption. Repeat.

Do any of you use the Pomodoro Technique? Do you use other methods? Are you like me in that you also like paper and pencil productivity tools? Please share your tips in the comments below.


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