I recently blogged about getting rid of your todo list. Before you do anything, do that. Especially if you dread confronting your todo list everyday – it’s more of a hindrance than you imagine.
Done that? Great, now it’s time to focus on motivation. Here’s what I recommend and the free tools I use to achieve it.
If you’re not already doing the Pomodoro technique, then I would strongly recommend giving it a try. Here’s a graph (more about that later) showing how it’s boosted my productivity just after the dip on the Wednesday, and it did this from the moment I started using it.
The Pomodoro technique is a strategy that helps to improve productivity. It does this by using time as a valuable ally in accomplishing what we want to do, in the way it should be done. If you’ve ever thought about the work you need to do and felt anxiety about it, or felt the sweat of a looming deadline, then this technique is for you. It’s this anxiety of the ticking clock that leads to inefficient work habits, which then ultimately lead to procrastination.
Here’s how it works;
- Every day write a completely fresh list of tasks that you want to accomplish (Although this sounds like I’m contradicting my previous post, this is not a persistent to-do list! This is just a list of items that you want to focus on for today. After today is done, scrap the list)
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Work on the first task on the list until the timer rings
- Take a short break of 5 minutes
- Repeat until you have completed the task. If you finish the task half way through a Pomodoro session, refine it and go over your work until the timer rings
- Start the next task
- Every 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break of up to 30 minutes.
This technique pushes the tasks aside and lets you focus on completing pomodoros. This allows you to feel a greater sense of achievement (as you complete each pomodoro session), without the anxiety of all the tasks you need to complete. Just focus on each pomodoro and repeat until done.
You can download a great cheat sheet for this method here.
Ok, so you might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned any tools yet, the reason is because I use these tools as part of the Pomodoro technique to boost my productivity and motivation. So without further ado, here they are;
Put simply, this is an online timer. It’s free and best of all it has a ready made Pomodoro session. It rings to let you know your time is up and automatically starts a 5 minute break. Every 4 sessions, just get it to kick off a 30 minute timer for your longer break and repeat.
Did you know that silence in the workspace actually reduces creativity (this report says so if you don’t believe me). I didn’t until recently, but I suspected it. If you’ve ever noticed more ideas flowing when you’re in a busy office environment or in a coffee shop, this may be the reason why. Coffitivity recreates the hussle and bussle of a coffee shop in your home. I use it and quite frankly it’s great.
I mentioned earlier that I’d talk about my productivity graph, and this is where it came from. Rescuetime is a great service that sits in the background whilst you work and logs how productive you’re being. Measuring your productivity is pretty key to improving it and this little beauty will help you do that without the hassle of logging it yourself. It’s always nice to sit back at the end of the day and see that you’ve been 90% productive today…. just make sure you don’t slack off!
If you haven’t heard of Spotify, then I have no idea where you’ve been. I’m sure you have, but for those who haven’t, it’s a free service that allows you to stream pretty much any music to your computer. You can even play this music over Coffitivity and enjoy the hussle of a coffee shop, combined with some upbeat music. A winning combination to keep you motivated.
Getting out of the house, meeting people in your field (or just a friend) and bouncing some ideas around can really help you get out of a rut, however if you can’t spare some time to get out of the house, then fire up Skype and get a video chat going. Brew up a coffee, put Coffitivty on, and you’ll soon be gaining a fresh perspective on how to move things forward.
The best thing here is that all these tools are free and combined with the Pomodoro technique, they help me no end. I have to thank James Daugherty for highlighting Coffitivity to me in his fantastic post also on the subject of staying motivated.
If you’ve got any better suggestions, then please let me know in the comments! Bye for now!