Working for myself, with no boss to brute me around, I have an interest in efficiency literature. Anything to keep me at the keyboard and away from the Xbox. As demonstrated by the success of Lifehacker.com, many people are the same, not all of them self-employed.
The Pomodoro Technique was probably the most effective time management tool I picked up trawling that site. I'm still using it years later. And on those days when I don't it? My productivity falls off a cliff.
Found me another one, recently that I thought I'd share. The Eisenhower Grid. You got to have a good, Robert Ludlummy novel name for your time management technique if I'm gonna pay attention.
The grid, above, was developed out of a piece of advice by President Dwight Eisenhower. "What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important."
It's easy to mistake urgency for significance, but they're not the same thing. Urgency is subjective. To people of a certain age, a phone ringing evokes a sense of urgency. I'd better get that. Even though these days it's as likely to be a cold caller, charity mugger or phone scammer as friend or family.
Email feels urgent. Or maybe compelling is a better word. Checking your twitter feed. Facebook. The Burger (at least for me). They can feel as though they come freighted with a real sense of needing to be done.
But no. They don't. Not immediately. (Not at all, most days).
Eisenhower's grid is an attempt to sort your daily disruptions, interruptions, commitments and so on into a reasonable work flow.
If something is both urgent and important, like the deadline I had this morning, I do it NOW.
If it's neither, I piss it off.
If it's important but not urgent (the piece about men's health I've promised to write for Michelle Bridges website), it gets scheduled for later.
And, according to the grid, if it's unimportant, but compelling, or urgent, it should be delegated. Of course, I don't have anyone to delegate to. So I just tend to push those distracting items (email, social media, etc) off to downtime. I've written this blog entry, for instance, during pomodoro breaks over a couple of days.
The grid's not a perfect fit for my work day. But a slimmed down version of it is.
These days, while I'm plotting out the day, I ask myself wether the commitment I have planned (to a blog entry, a column, a chapter edit, some new writing) is urgent or important.
If both, it gets assigned pomodori time immediately. If neither, it just doesn't get done. Not during work hours anyway.