Well over a year ago now, I was reading one of those “how to be a better blogger” articles discussing time management and it mentioned something called the Pomodoro Technique. I was curious, so I tried it out and while I found that the Pomodoro Technique wasn’t realistic for a mom with young kids in the house, I eventually was able to hack it into a mom-friendly version that I’ve dubbed the Momodoro Technique.
The gist behind the Pomodoro Technique is that you work for a set time period (25 minutes) and then take a short break (5 minutes). After four work sessions, you take a longer (20-30 minute) break. Rinse and repeat. Working in short sprints combined with taking regular breaks is supposed to increase your focus and your productivity.
Pomodoro is Italian for “tomato”. In this case, it’s a reference to those cute tomato shaped kitchen timers. And that’s all you need to give it a try, a timer of any shape or type.
I was intrigued with the Pomodoro Technique so I gave it a shot, but I quickly discovered it didn’t work when you added kids into the mix. 25 uninterrupted, distraction free, minutes? With a three year old in the house? Yeah, right. Not happening.
But the concept of working to a timer kept kicking around in my head, and eventually, I came up with a version which worked with my kids. A Mom hack to the Pomodoro technique, if you will, which around my house is simply called “Timer Days”.
You don’t need to buy a timer. You don’t need to buy anything.
At first, I tried an actual physical kitchen timer. The ticking sound drove me mad, but the kids liked hearing it tick. They liked watching it move. They also liked to take it with them into whatever room they were playing in. And they couldn’t keep their hands off of it. It was irresistible. They would inevitably fiddle with it, thus messing up our time blocks.
So I now find I prefer a digital timer. There are many timer apps out there. There are also many websites that can track timer blocks for you. However, I like to keep it simple and most importantly free. If you have a computer (and if you’re reading this I’m guessing you do), you already have a timer. Head to Google.com and in the search bar type, “timer 30 minutes” and up will pop a countdown style timer. I just leave that running in the background and it beeps when the time is up.
One for you, one for me.
Mommy works for one Timer, and then Mommy plays for one Timer. I set the timer for 30 minutes and I sit down on the computer and work. Ideally, the kids won’t interrupt, The reality is I still need to keep an ear out and break-up the occasional fight or mortally dumb idea.
It took a while to train them to the concept. I started with a shorter interval of 15 minutes, quickly moved on to 20 minutes, and eventually stretched it out to where we are now — 30 minute blocks. When they forget and interrupt me I remind them that mommy is on a work timer. If the interruptions get silly or frequent I threaten to reset my timer and start over from the beginning. Like most kids, what my children want most is my undivided attention. Knowing they will get it in half an hour, provided they can leave me alone to work, is a great incentive to leaving me be.
Work first then Play.
We always start off with a work timer, then either a clean timer or a play timer. Everything is in blocks of “work”, “play” clean”. And when Mommy is working the kids are free to have “quiet play” (ie colouring, looking at books, playing Lego, playing games on the tablet). Quiet play lets me work. Rambunctious play, really active imaginative run jump type play, means I need to pay more attention to what they are doing so as to make sure they aren’t in danger of killing each other, so I try and encourage quiet activities. To be honest, this doesn’t always work, and I don’t really push to enforce it.
Cleaning is Fun, compared to Work.
I am the one who sets the Timer, and I cheat.
My kids don’t pay a lot of attention to the number of minutes on the clock, just that it’s ticking down. Depending on what I know I need to get done on any given day, and how far along I am on a task, sometimes the work intervals are a little longer and the play intervals are a little shorter. Lately, we’ve been averaging around 35 minutes work to 20 minutes play.
Timer Days help us get more done.
|And if you’re looking for other neat Mom productivity hacks, check this out: I figured out a way to chart when your brain is at it’s best by playing your favourite cell phone game.|