How to Manage Time Effectively and Stay Focused

by Emily Bishop

A foolproof time management system that works for anyone!

Do you have difficulty staying focused? Does your task list seem to always be full? Read on to find out how we manage our focus and work time at Jane's Agenda®.

Why do we struggle so much to stay focused?

You're working on a project, or a task, and then suddenly you get a notification on your phone, or remember an email that you need to write, or realize you are out of milk, or... It's so easy to get distracted in this disgustingly overstimulated world. It's exhausting.

We know you don't like to talk about it, but we've all been there, and sometimes we have to point out the elephant in the room in order to deal with it: PROCRASTINATION.

Have you ever hurried through the last day, hour, or minute of a project deadline because you had trouble staying focused? Oftentimes, we like to brush the less important tasks under the rug, while we scramble to half-finish a big project or task, because "done is better than perfect". You find yourself saying "I'll cross that bridge when I get to it", in order to feel better about leaving it for later when in reality, attacking the project from start to finish would have yielded a better result.

Six ring and ringbound planners by Jane's Agenda for the time management blog.

It's 2022 and we are trying to live our best lives, but we get lost in all the work of what it takes to make dreams come true. So what if there was a system that was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy that could work for literally ANYONE and would help you stay focused and cross the stuff off your list?!

I'm talking to the busy moms, the overworked, the procrastinators, the scatterbrained, those with ADD or ADHD, the time-blockers, the perfectionists, the ones who live for organization or can't remember where they left their keys... Everyone. It really doesn't matter what you have going on, because YES, this method will work for you! We've tested it ourselves in the Jane's Agenda® workshop and we swear by it.

So what IS this amazing thing that will help you do *ALL THE THINGS*?

It's called the 'Pomodoro Technique' and it is a pretty bangin' system for effectively managing your time working on complex tasks, specific projects, or goal crushing in general. Whatever your style is, the Pomodoro Technique might be the ticket to get you there quickly.


Back in the 1980's, an Italian University student named Francesco Cirillo came up with the 'Pomodoro Technique'. He realized that he could improve how effective he was simply by recording how he utilized his time. He was then able to better estimate how long a task would take to complete.

He would go on to use a tomato timer (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato!) to measure his study time in 25 minute sessions in order to manage his productivity. Genius!
This method of intervals became known as 'Pomodoros', and is how this technique got it's namesake.

What is the Pomodoro Technique, and how to use it effectively:

The Pomodoro Technique in a nutshell:
  • Four 25 minute sessions for 'focus work'
  • 5 minute small breaks in-between each session
  • Record each session, and after four sessions, take a long break for lunch or rest.
The method is pretty straight forward. Decide a project or task you want to work on, then set times for the 'Focused Work' you wish to get through. Set your timer and get busy. Record your 25 minute sessions and in between each session take a five minute break to rest.
The small breaks in between will help with morale, which we find leads to actually *wanting* to get back to your focus work.
After you have had four sessions of focus work, it is important to take a long break. Studies have shown that taking a proper break can give you a greater sense of satisfaction with the work you've completed, as well as helping with balancing your emotional health, and giving you a stronger desire to go above and beyond with whatever you are working on.

Questions about the Pomodoro Technique:

Why are the intervals 25 minutes?
  • It has been found that 25 minutes is the perfect length of time to stay focused, without easily being distracted.
  • 25 minutes is an attainable amount of time to feel productive, create urgency for the task or project, while staying focused.
  • It's also the perfect amount of time to keep you from wanting to procrastinate further.
  • 25 minutes makes your task seem easier to handle, especially when you don't even know where to begin.

Can you switch up your times and intervals, in order to accommodate different types of schedules?


You can change your session times any way you need to. 20, 25, 30, 45 minutes. You could even set a session for an hour (if you are really feeling motivated), as long as you adjust your break times to match your focus session times. i.e. take a longer break if you had a longer focus session. 
 
Our personal tip: if you work with bright lights or work on computers and screens, it is important to implement a break for your eyes. Extending the sessions might do more harm than good. Your eyes are not meant to focus on something for long periods of time. If eye strain is a concern, we recommend doing only 20 minute sessions and using those 5 minute small breaks in between to practice the 20-20-20 rule.

The 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, you should take a break to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Jane's Agenda Planner Blog

 Who will benefit from the Pomodoro Technique?


The Pomodoro method is honestly the easiest, and most effective work task management technique out there.  People have been using this technique for over 30 years. Seriously, it works! If you need to focus and get things done or if you just have trouble focusing and staying on task, then try it for yourself. You will understand why we use this method over and over again. You never know, you might just love it and who doesn't want another tool in their toolbox when it comes to getting stuff done!?

Sounds great, but how do I stay focused?
  1. Turn off your notifications
  2. Use "do not disturb" mode
  3. Put your phone in another room or in a drawer
  4. Don't watch tv while you work
  5. Most important: use a timer.

We have sticky notes just for tracking sessions available in our shop. Find them here.

Need extra motivation? Timer apps to help you accomplish more focus work.

 

  • Pomodor
  • Marinara Timer
  • Focus
  • Be Focused
  • Focus Keeper
  • Toggl
  • Jane's personal favorite: Focus To-Do
Five minute break ideas:

 

  • Drink a beverage, like water, tea, or coffee
  • Do a breathing exercise or meditate
  • Look out of a window
  • Read a page from a book, or a blog post. A good substitute for checking social media
  • Tidy up a part of your room or home
  • Sit with your eyes closed and just listen
  • Stand up and stretch
  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule
Now that we've totally let you in on our best productivity secret, we hope that you will be motivated to start checking off that 'someday, somehow' list you've been putting off. You've got this. Now get out there and crush it!!!


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