For a small business owner, it can often feel as though there’s just not enough time in the day to wear the many hats you have to wear. Juggling responsibilities can take its toll on your mental focus and energy, and it’s never a good idea to put yourself in a stress-influenced position when it comes time to make an important judgement call. In light of this, small business owners are often at the forefront of time management innovation and experimentation.
One of the most popular time management methods for personal projects is the Pomodoro method, invented in the 1980s by Francisco Cirillo and named for the tomato-shaped timer he used to set work intervals. This method, popular with students, involves breaking up your time into 25-minute chunks with breaks interspersed between them. It’s a great way for individuals to manage their time better without having to learn a complex scheduling system, and its applications in the small business world are starting to bear fruit.
Here are the basics:
- Each “pomodoro” is an interval of work. It’s broken down into two segments: 25-minutes of pure work, followed by a five-minute break.
- After setting a timer for 25 minutes, dedicate yourself to intense, distraction-free work. This means no checking your phone, answering email, or opening a new tab in your web browser. Avoid anything that would interrupt the task at hand.
- Once the 25 minutes is up, stop working immediately and take a three- to five-minute break to disconnect from your work. Cirillo recommends stretching, getting a drink of water, doing a brief organizational chore, or anything else that does not require much mental effort.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer 15- to 30-minute break.
In essence, this is a miniaturized version of the sprint-revise-sprint method used in Agile project management processes. It benefits small businesses in that it encourages you to keep track of how your time is used, make notes on what worked and what didn’t, what distracted you and what you were able to accomplish, and improve your use of time in the long run.
Introducing shorter, more frequent breaks in the workday may benefit your employees as well. For the average employee, the idea of a break, be it to grab a bite of food, a smoke, or just a breath of fresh air, lingers during the workday like a far-off oasis. The Pomodoro method brings smaller, though no less significant, moments of repose and reflection realistically close and makes the intervening time seem to drag less than it otherwise might. And studies have shown that taking these smaller breaks actually improves performance on tasks throughout the day.
Is it time for your business to start breaking down its time, tomato-style? It’s a low-cost, low-overhead way to experiment with time optimization. Why not give it a shot?