Today I’d like to show you how I use the Focus Time app to stop procrastinating and stay focused on the task at hand.
The Focus Time app is based on the Pomodoro technique. Here’s how Wikipedia defines this technique:
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.
The Pomodoro Technique helps three types of people:
- Those who have a hard time making themselves do any type of work: It helps because it’s a lot easier to get ourselves to work if we say, “All I have to do is work for 25 minutes. I can make it that long!”
- Those who have a hard time focusing on one thing – this could be people with ADD, people who have a million things to do, or people who are easily distracted. It helps because we’re learning how to focus on just one thing for 25 minutes.
- Those who struggle with perfectionism and compulsive working: It helps because the timer tells you, “Hello!! It’s time to STOP now–even if it’s NOT PERFECT yet!!!”
Since I struggle with all three of those things, the Pomodoro technique is perfect for me. You don’t need an app to use the technique–a simple kitchen timer will work. Just set it for 25 minutes, work on your task, and take a short break (5 minutes) when the timer goes off.
If you’d like to learn more about the method, click here and scroll down to the bottom for a great explanation by my friend, Melanie Wilson.
In this post I want to share how to use the Focus Time app to come up with a plan for the day and work on the to-dos you’ve listed on the Trello app (from my last post), using the Pomodoro Method. The app is only available for IOS devices but I’m guessing you could find an Android equivalent as there are a lot of Pomodoro apps out there. Here’s how I use it:
How to Use the Focus Timer App to Stop Procrastinating
1. Click here to download the app.
2. Click on settings, then activities, and click “add activity” to add activities you do on a regular basis. Look at the screen shot below to see what some of my activities look like.
Do you see how I listed all my meals plus the end of the day with a bunch of fun little icons? I do that to make it easier to see my plan at a glance. We’ll be rearranging all of these activities later, but for now just make the little cards.
You’ll also notice that I have cards for daily to-do, helpful goals, and urgent goals. Remember our trello app from the last blog post? These correspond to the lists we put on the Trello app. More on that later.
Include cards for anything you do on a regular basis that you want to plan into your day. Here are some examples: writing, housework, email (if you want to answer emails 3 times a day, make 3 cards), time with friends, exercise, quiet time, renewing of the mind time, nap, errands, etc.
3. Once you get your activities together, decide on how long you want each pomodoro session and how long you want your breaks. Go back to settings and click on timing to do this. I use the standard 25 minute work time and 5 minute breaks (both long and short). If I want a longer break I just pause the timer.
Click on settings and then activities and then edit (in the upper right corner). You’ll see all your activities listed and 3 light gray lines over on the right side of each activity (you can see these in my screen shot to the right).
Click on the little lines and hold them down with your finger. Then move them up or down to rearrange the tasks to fit your schedule. The screenshot to the right shows how I set mine up this morning.
Each day I think about what I’m going to do that day and rearrange the little cards to come up with a schedule that will work. I rarely follow the schedule perfectly but I try.
You may wonder what my People/Other category is. Since I’m a people person and a writer, I’ve found it’s really important for me to schedule people into my day so I don’t go crazy.
I have two people categories: people/exercise and people/other. I use people/exercise when I’m going on walks or other exercise outings with friends. That way I can easily tell if I’m also getting my exercise in. This afternoon I’m teaching a speech class, so rather than make a separate card for speech, I’m just using the people/other card since it will be an opportunity to be with people.
5. The next step is to allocate time to each activity. Click on settings and then activities. You’ll see a list of all the activities with a little arrow over on the right of each activity. Click on the arrow and you’ll see a screen like the screenshot on the left.
Click on the daily target and you’ll be able to set the number of pomodoros you want to devote to that activity. You’ll notice I’m devoting 6 pomodoros to my Urgent Goals this morning. Since my pomodoros are 25 minutes each, that’s 2 1/2 hours.
You may remember from yesterday’s post that one of my urgent goals was to work on planning my procrastination class. Writing this blog post is part of planning that class so my little pomodoro timer is going right now as I write this in the “urgent goals” category.
I won’t obsess and spend my whole day working on this blog post because the app will tell me when my time’s up, but I also don’t think I would have even attempted the blog post today if my app hadn’t told me to do it as it seemed too hard to write. Do you see how the app is helping me?
6. The last step is to just start using the app. Do you see how there’s a little blue check after urgent goals on the screenshot to the right? That’s because I’m currently working on my urgent goals – writing this blog post. I’ve already been working on it for 63 minutes (each star represents 25 minutes) and I have 12 minutes left to finish the pomodoro.
Since I’m writing this blog post at the local writer-friendly bakery, I haven’t been taking any breaks. So every time my pomodoro session ends and the break session starts, I just click that little square in the middle of the circle and then start a new pomodoro work session. If I were at home, I’d take a 5 minute break.
Do you see how simple this is to use? I’ve been following it pretty well in the mornings, although I usually fall apart in the afternoons. I’m thinking of waiting to schedule my afternoons after lunch, then renew my mind at that time and see if I can’t follow an afternoon schedule as well.
Well, my app is now saying I have 5 minutes to go, so I think I’ll wrap this up. I still have 3 pomodoro’s to do in my urgent goal category so I’ll probably go home and work on speech or maybe do some more work on this procrastination class.
One of the nice things about the app is how flexible it is. All I need to do now is click that little pause square and then resume my work again when I get home. Since I can see that I still have 2 hours of work left, including emails and breaks, I can easily finish by lunch time since it’s only 9:17 a.m. right now ( I got up at 4:45 this morning.)
Before I forget, I want to also mention that you should always plan some unscheduled time during the day – preferably an hour or two, because things always seem to come up (often it’s procrastination that comes up), and then you won’t feel stressed out by having to get everything done.
Also, if you would like to join the renewing of the mind project class on overcoming procrastination, click here for more information: Overcoming Procrastination Class. The class begins Monday, October 19th and runs for 4 weeks.
Hope this has been helpful. Please ask me in the comments if you have any questions on how to use it!
Note: If you use the FocusTime app throughout the day, you may want to plug your phone into an outlet when possible so it uses up less of your battery.