This past summer, I used Beeminder to help me stay focused on summer tasks. I use to have the graph on the main page on the left side. However, I’ve replaced it now with a new one, as I’m going to make a similar attempt this semester.
In the summer, I counted tasks, with a goal of completing two tasks a day. It worked, and I managed to stay on track for the entire summer. Although, there were weekends where I needed to work to make sure I didn’t fall off the road. The only thing I struggled with in the summer, was clearly defining what a task should be. Should it be based on importance? Or the amount of time it takes to complete? There’s really not an easy answer. Especially when my day to day tasks range greatly from something that will take 5 minutes to stuff that requires multiple hours to complete.
So this time, I’m going to approach my goal in a different way. I’m going to focus strictly on time taken. And to do that, I’m going to use one of my favorite productivity tools – the pomodoro. A pomodoro is 25 minutes of work (it can be longer or shorter, but 25 is what I find best for me). Each pomodoro is followed by a short break (5 minutes) before you start the next one. Pomodoros can be great, because they can allow you to stay focused on a task that requires more than a few minutes to complete. In fact, often when I get going on a streak, I end up working through the 5 minute break.
For my goal this time, I’m going to aim for six pomdoros a day, Monday through Friday, for a total of 30 a week. If I don’t make that, I’ll be able to use the weekends to “catch up.” Six sounds like a lot, but is only 3 hours of focused work, which should be do-able.
I’ll use the pomodoro app that I normally use, but I’ve added a “special feature.” Now, each time a pomodoro completes, it will send off an email to beeminder updating my graph with a new datapoint. This also means that I don’t have to constantly remember to do so myself. The graph of my progress is shown below. Depending on when you see this, there may be nothing or little on it yet, as I’m starting on today.
The only thing this wont keep track of, that I also spend time on weekly, is meetings. Meetings with my supervisor or research group or visitors. Or attending talks. I can add that data in as well, but I’m going to see how it goes this week and if I feel like I need to.
Last semester I found all my trips and other obligations were making it really difficult to stay focused and get work done. This time, knowing I’m going to have more trips I need to take, I wanted to come up with a solution that doesn’t let me slack off so easily. I’m hoping that between having beeminder reminding me if I’m about to fall off the road and having the graph posted here, I’ll be motivated to stay on top of things. It worked in the summer, I hope it’ll work again now.