Today I want to talk about two life-changing tools that I’ve been using for the past 6-8 weeks:
I came across Strides, which is strongly recommended by Forbes etc by chance, following a personal recommendation I’d received to use Pomodoro (Italian for tomato) to improve my time management and workload which – at the time – was so voluminous that I felt overwhelmed by everything that was going on in my life – research for a Uni assignment, writing various articles, exam revision, a PR Marketing Course with Faye Smith of Keep Your Fork Fame, long outstanding coursework for my NLP Master Practitioner with John Cassidy-Rice of Training Excellence as well as work on major structural changes to Action for Involvement to develop a more viable structural framework.
Over the past 6-8 weeks I’ve been learning how to use Flat Tomato Pomodoro which has been a real lifesaver particularly with tasks I’ve avoided such as the accounts or, at a personal level, adjusting voile curtains for my massive bay windows. Since I’ve been using the Pomodoro tool, I’ve seen a major increase in productivity, productivity and making far better use of my time.
The basic principle is to set a timer for 25 minutes to work on a task, followed by a 5 minute break with any other activity, ideally something that’s pleasurable and enjoyable, e.g., reading, chatting with friend or whatever. The aim is to focus solely on the task and in order to do so the Pomodoro also includes a function to record distractions such as social media, taking calls, making a drink and doing anything but the specific task.
As a result of all this, I’ve learned how to make a more realistic estimate of the time specific tasks take to complete, usually in good time as I bring focussed attention to the work in hand, therefore saving and freeing up my time for other things.
I’d definitely recommend the £1.49 it costs for the calendar extension to connect with your phone’s calendar and To Do List which will list the work you’ve scheduled for the day. Otherwise you have to enter each day’s activities manually.
The penny finally dropped after I’d listed everything I had to to do regardless of timescale or deadlines and there was so much stuff that it went from A-Z! At that stage I saw this little message on my screen: “If you’ve reached this point, you’re trying to do to many things!” I then realised that I needed to be far more realistic about what I could hope to achieve in any given 24 hour slot including time to sleep, prepare and eat meals, my health & fitness and leisure activities.
In a nutshell, Pomodoro is a powerful tool to help with introducing, creating and maintaining a well balanced lifestyle.
Now on to Strides – that is the most awesome tool ever! It’s helped me set goals or targets and measure how I stack up against those objectives in order to increase my effort, outcomes and productivity.
Available either for the iPhone/iPad or on the web for the rest of the world, the Strides app is a goals, targets and habits tracker tool which works really well alongside the Pomodoro, most notably for those tasks and activities which could benefit from time management, eg
- project management,
- developing or monitoring a habit such as going to bed by 10pm or getting 7 hours sleep a night.
- tracking a goal, for example, money management, health and fitness targets and so on.
As well as monitoring actions taken towards achieving the goal, Strides can also track the frequency of a bad habit; there’s no limit to the number or type of habits or goals that can be tracked with Strides. It includes charts, graphs and recognises succcess with stars so I’m using those stars to give myself meaningful “real-time rewards” such as time off, going to bed at 7.30pm to watch a film or reading a book.
Although it is possible to use Strides to monitor progress on bad habits, my general view is that it’s better to identify the positive behaviour and track my success in Strides to create positive reinforcement.