A million years ago, give or take an epoch, before I'd ever heard of Agile development I used to sprint.
Well that's what I'd call my short, sharp, focused bursts of energy to get dreary work done.
It started when my children were little. I'd get them into bed at night and every fibre of my being would want to sit on the couch and watch television, but there was always so much more still do to: dirty dishes from dinner, folding from the day's laundry, picking up toys and books - all that endless, thankless work.
So I started tackling these chores while the adverts played during the tv show I was watching. Each advert break is approximately five minutes long and I'd go as fast as I could concentrating on one task until I heard the programme resume and I'd stop and go back to watch my show. It's amazing how painless washing and drying dishes, and tidying up is if you know you only have to do it for five minutes and you get the next part of a tv show as a reward.
This works at work too - except without the television.
I'm a clock watcher. I don't mean I watch it all the time, but I'm forever measuring how long things take - how long to process one CMS application; how much time to be spent composing an email or compiling a report; how many seconds to publish a webpage (is that slow? is the software performance poor?)
So when I look at the clock and it's 2:53pm and I want a cup of tea, I'll make myself 'sprint' to 3pm with seven minutes of focus on a task. Or 12 minutes. Or 25 minutes. This works really well for me particularly if I find that I've fallen (or falling) into procrastination - which is usually triggered by something I either don't want to do, or a process where I'm unsure of the next step.
These sprints get me over the hump of whatever's in my way.
I was reminded a couple of weeks ago of the Pomodoro Technique. Fox first told me about this and it was so delightful but I've never actually employed it until recently - probably because now there's an app and I don't actually have to have a tick-tick-ticking pomodoro timer on my desk.
The pomodoro timer is a tomato- or pepper-shaped plastic timer most often found in a kitchen. It's bright red cherry shape looks pretty much at home on any modern desk these days though your work mates might not enjoy the loud ticking as much as it spurs you on. So the app works quietly and suits an open office a little better.
The pomodoro is set to 25 minutes** and you work until it buzzes to signal time is up.
Then you can reward yourself with a stretch; or a walk to the water cooler; or a cup of tea; or whatever works for you.
Do you have any tricks or hints to get you over procrastination bumps or through tedious tasks?
- Pomodoro technique (Wikipedia)
- Agile development sprint (techTarget)
- Kick Procrastination's Ass (Merlin Mann)
- Kitchen timers (Google Images)
**or any number of minutes that suits you; just all the cool kids set for 25.