Time Blocking and the Pomodoro Technique Revisited

As a creative artist who works on his own time, I have found that it is very important to manage my time well. Otherwise, I’ll try to do too many projects as the spirit wills and never get anything done. Any given time, I am working on upwards to 10 writing projects. How do I do it all? I schedule out my time with immediate goals, mid-range goals, and long-range goals. After that, I hone the day-to-day tasks with structured scheduling. I do this by picking a project to work on for a given day. From there, I allocate time to work on only that project.

Today, I am going to examine my daily and weekly methods for allocating time to work on my projects. For a weekly plan, I compose what I need to do on each day. For a daily plan, I allocate time slots. It is here that I don’t focus entirely on completing a set amount of work, but rather a set amount of time. The minimum time I allocate for a project is usually one hour. Most of the time, I spend several hours on it.

Time Blocking

After I get my goals set for either the next month, six months, or year, I turn my attention to what I need to get done on a weekly basis. I host two weekly blogs, both of which have about 2 posts/week. In addition, I research and write for my fiction novels and my non-fiction books. I maintain the blog websites. I organize and structure inner workings of my church. And I produce written and spoken material for my church. I have a lot going on. It could be busier, but being tri-vocational, I keep my hands full. In this section I will explain how I time block. I program all the following into my online calendar and stick to it like I would were I to punch a clock for my work.

Set a Daily Rotation for Projects

After determining what I need to get done in a mid-range goal (say 6 months), I break it down to a weekly goal. In the current season, I have the following weekly goals with the breakdowns of each project per day:

Monday: Work on Church Website Blog and Build Church Structuring

Tuesday: Work on Non-Fiction Book

Wednesday: Work on Author Website/Blog and Research for Projects

Thursday: Work on Fiction Novel

Friday: Day off or Catch-up on lapsed projects (sometimes life give us interruptions)

Saturday: Work on last minute stuff (if needed)

Sunday: Work at Church

My third vocation is working at my local library, so many of these projects happen when I am off the clock with the library. Once I have determined what projects I will be working on each day, I have to focus on working on those projects.

Stick to Only the Allocated Project for the Day

Once my projects are scheduled, I have to discipline myself to focus on the allocated project. If I want to work on my fiction book on Tuesday, too bad. I’ve allocated that time for my non-fiction work. I have to wait until Thursday to work on the fiction. I may be able to come back and visit the fiction work on Friday or Saturday, but not Tuesday.

Now that I have allocated the projects for each day, I block off at least an hour in the day to focus exclusively on that project. One may ask, “What if I am caught up on that task for the day and have extra time?” To that I say, stay on the allocated project and start to work ahead a bit. The more you work ahead, the more you can relax later on. I try to use my time-blocking to work 3-4 weeks ahead, then automate the postings, so that way I have 3-4 weeks worth of material done. This is creates a margin of error in case something happens in those weeks where I am prevented from doing my work.

Using the Pomodoro Technique

Now that I have a defined project scheduled to work on each day, when I sit down to work, I follow the Pomodoro Technique. This is setting a timer to time my work. Without a self-imposed deadline, many of us (myself included) will doddle away our time with distractions like Facebook, music videos, email, etc. So setting a timer creates an artificial deadline in my mind to get as much done as I can. The rule is, once the timer starts, you only work on your allocated project. If you have a thought unrelated to the project, just jot a reminder down and get back to work. The recommended method is to set the timer for about 25 minutes. Spend that time hyper-focused on your project. Get into the writing zone. Type your blogs. Outline your chapters. Whatever task you have assigned for that time-period, work on it without stopping before the timer goes off.

Once the timer goes off, take about a 10-15 minute break. Get some fresh air. Use the bathroom. Have a snack/meal. Then set the timer again and get back to work. If you allocate 2 hours for a project on a given day, set the timer for 25 mins. Take a 5 minute break. Reset timer for 25 minutes. “Rinse, Lather, and repeat” until your 2 hours is up. In the end you will have time blocked and pomodoro’ed 100 minutes of super-focused work on your project.

The amazing thing about all of this is that if you work at this consistently, over time, your work will begin to accumulate. Then you will have a base for all your future projects, plus the practice and discipline to get it done in a timely manner.

Did you find this article helpful? Let me know in the comments. Here at the tmwilliams author page, it is my goal to expand your mind through the power of words.