Paperful #2: Pomodoro Technique

In the next article in the series on going paperful, I am going to share a technique that will make you 150% more efficient than you were before. It has for me. Warning: The following isn’t so much an official guide as it is my adaptation to/combination of a few different techniques. This is not a tutorial. This is an introduction into a way of working efficiently. That said, I give you the primary inspiration for this article: The Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique is rather simple, but has many underlying benefits. I’m only going to overview how it works and what is needed.

So then, what is needed? One piece of standard lined note paper folded in half and a pencil. No clunky notepads or intangible software. Rather, something easy to carry and use. Low cost, low tech, high effect.

Start with your piece of notebook paper and fold it in half  fold it horizontally(aka “hamburger style”). On the front, write “Todo” just like in Figure 1.

Empty Todo

Figure 1, empty todo list

Now flip the paper to the back side. On this side, write “Inventory” just like Figure 2.

Activity Inventory

Figure 2, activity inventory

I’ve already filled in some activities that I need to get done. Next to each one I simply draw an empty check box. When the task is done, I’ll check it off and cross out the title.

This list doesn’t have to be in any specific order. The idea is to get everything out of your head and onto some other more stable medium. Take a moment to free your mind of this thought chatter; get your commitments and goals down in the activity inventory.

Using a single sheet of folded paper narrows your focus to just a few items. Take advantage of that. Don’t put down every trivial or minor thing. Just put one task per line. You may find yourself adding more to the inventory as time goes on, but I suggest using a fresh sheet and possibly combining similar tasks into more general ones. Just keep it simple.

The next step in the Pomodoro Techique is to estimate the amount of time needed per task.

Find out how much free time you have to sit down to do these activities. If you have four hours, then you have eight pomodori. In the Pomodoro Technique, one pomodoro is  twenty five minutes worth of “todo” time and five minutes to absorb what you just did and relax. Because this is not a detailed tutorial, check out this free, illustrated ebook that explains the many scientific benefits: The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated. I am constantly rewarded every twenty five minutes with a break and thus I am more willing/motivated to continue. It’s like a game with the goal to reach the end of each pomodoro. Take my word, this rhythmic pace of working will improve your flow immensely.

One at a time, take an item from your inventory and add it to your “todo” list. Estimate how many pomodori the task will take to complete and put a check box next to it for each pomodoro. See Figure 3.

Selected Todo

Figure 3, selected todo items

You’ll notice I’ve already added my inventory items in for today’s “todo” list.

Moving forward, we begin our actual work.

When I begin a pomodoro, I put a dot in its check box. Then, I set my timer to 25 minutes and begin working. I personally do this to help me focus on what I am currently doing. That way I’m not so easily distracted with the other awaiting items. If you know me, you know my mind wanders voraciously.

When the timer is up a pomodoro is complete. I mark an “X” in it’s check box and, as a reward, I take “five”.

Repeat this process until the “todo” list is empty. If you have more time and you finished all your planned “todo” items, reward yourself and go take a walk outside. The “inventory” list will always be full of items. Enjoy your free time!

There is still more benefits to reap from the  Pomodoro Technique, but they will not be discussed here. I have only reviewed the core concepts of the technique. This should serve as adequate fuel to learn more about how it can help you work more efficiently.

Who knew going paperful could be so useful? Have you found this paperful solution useful? Let me know! Comment below, you sexy devil, you.

I think i’ve seen this somewhere before…but it’s not bad at all

“Rather, something easy to … use.”
Rather, something easy to lose!
Still, I like the whole one side inventory/one side To-do list.

When I use this method I keep it in my wallet or somewhere else safe. I currently use a small pocket-sized notepad that I take everywhere with me. It does wonders at removing distracting thoughts from my head. :)

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