Taking back control of your time – 10 minutes at a time.

My timer is set for 10 minutes and I am now sitting comfortably ready to write this update on experiences of using the ‘Pomodoro Technique’.

It’s not surprising that colleagues tell me that needing to find more time is a key challenge and I hear this quite regularly in my travels as Head of Service Excellence – and what that often means is finding more time for value adding activity.  So any hints and tips on this topic are always welcome, hence my interest in the Pomodoro Technique (Cirillocompany.de,2017).

My first blog on this topic included offering a Pomodoro (tomato shaped timers – very retro) to colleagues, who would in turn feedback their experiences of using their Pomodoro. First, a recap.

Our busy lives often mean we are doing many things at once,  multi-tasking. In many cases this is unavoidable we need to stop what we are doing to support a student at our door, respond to something urgent for a colleague, plus family and other commitments can rock up any time. There are times however, where we just allow distractions to happen, in the middle of writing an article or blog you take a peep at emails, get caught up in something else then go back to the first task and the moment has gone, all those great thoughts lost – so off you go to get on with another pressing task.  You get through another day with many half – finished tasks. If this sounds familiar try out the Pomodoro technique. The tomato shaped timers are available for just a few pounds from Amazon (and other kitchen gadget retailers). Then decide on the task you want to get on with, find a quiet space and set the timer for 5, 10 or 20 minutes and head down get on with task until the alarm rings.  And do feedback your experiences.

We have received examples of using the technique in writing retreats, learning and teaching, seminar groups and Dr Lois Farquharson has uploaded a VLOG to her twitter account @LoisFarquharson – to give an update of her experience.  The results so far have proved very positive.

Meanwhile, I have been taking the Pomodoro on a tour. Last Friday I enjoyed an amazing time at Edinburgh Napier University, having been invited to speak at their BIG event hosted by Steve Yorkstone, Chair of Lean HE. The theme of the BIG event was – ‘Say it, Share it and Do it’ – a great project to empower staff to take forward improvement ideas.

We used a whole team of Pomodoro; they were the centre of attention and did a great job in keeping the agenda on track whilst delegates focused on the activities. One idea I will be keeping an eye on focuses on time management during meetings, using … you guessed it the Pomodoro.

I was also honoured to be given an unexpected role in the day – with so many ideas being generated by the teams at Napier, I was given a whole ten pounds by Dr Gerry Webber, University Secretary and invited to take my place as the “Dragon in the Den”.  I quickly got into the role, with a ready scowl and keenness to find a problem to fit every solution, as the teams pitched their improvement idea to me. It was then left for me to decide where to invest Gerry’s ten pounds – a great responsibility and I hope it is spent wisely.

Just in case you are wondering, the service excellence finger puppets helped to introduce the importance of happiness and fun at work, using insights from Marcus Buckingham and his #Love+Work road show as well as Cialdini’s theory of influence and reciprocity.

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3 Responses to “Taking back control of your time – 10 minutes at a time.”

  1. Charlotte Martin's avatar Charlotte Martin

    I have a digital tomato timer and I love it! It is falling apart though now as it is so old and well travelled. Looks like Francesco Cirillo and I have some things in common! I would love to get one the same but cannot find one anywhere! How about some Service Excellence ones or CEL branded ones – how fabulous would that be!

  2. Wendy's avatar Wendy

    I was one of Susanne’s initial volunteers as I needed to be even more efficient at managing my time. This technique has worked really well, to the point now that if I haven’t set the timer, I feel a little cheated without the brief break afterwards. I have my tomato timer on my desk and a roving Focus Keeper app on my mobile – great stuff.


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