Feeling Dominated by Your To-Do List? Try this.

I just spent the last 20 minutes STARING at my to-do list. Ever do that?  Like, maybe if I stare long enough, it will just magically get done!  (seriously, if anyone knows how to do that, TELL ME!)

Unfortunately, to-do lists don’t just magically DO themselves, although mine tend to have a habit of growing exponentially all on their own.

If you’re feeling dominated by your To-Do list right now, try this super simple interval time management trick:

  1. Identify a single task or group of related tasks. 
  2. Set a timer (should be visible at all times) for 25 minutes and work on the identified task(s) until the time is up. 
  3. When the timer goes off, STOP.  No matter where you are at in the process, stop immediately at 25 minutes and take a 3-5 minute break doing something else completely.
  4. After completing 4 intervals (2 hours), take a longer break of 15-20 minutes. 
  5. Use as many intervals as necessary to complete the task at hand.  When you’re done, move on to the next task.

Here are some quick tips to master this trick:

  • Try not to get distracted.  If you suddenly remember items that need to be completed, add them to your to-do list, and continue on with the pomodoro. 
  • If an item ABSOLUTELY must be completed immediately, scrap your current interval and complete the necessary item.  Start over again with a full interval. 
  • The 25-minute interval is not divisible, meaning you can’t have a half or a quarter; when you use an interval you use the whole thing – no partials allowed.
  • If you finish an activity before the timer is up, use your extra time to review your work and your efficiency.

Whenever I’m feeling “whelmed”, I whip out my timer, set it for 25 minutes and GET SHIT DONE.  It’s just so darn easy and effective, and it can be applied to pretty much any task, no matter how big or small. 

The 25-minute interval with 3-5 minute breaks has proven to be a really effective time interval for me – its enough time to make solid progress on an activity, but the break time allows for handling distractions and re-grouping, as needed.

In the comments, share your interval time management success!