Sometimes when I have a lot to do, like many people, I get overwhelmed. I have a few coping mechanisms to avoid becoming an ostrich in the sand. First and foremost, I love to make lists! Yes, I know it's the neon sign above my head blinking "virgo-virgo-virgo", but it's true, and they help! Even non-virgos can benefit from a good list when the overwhelm starts to creep in. But many people stop there. They let the list sit and maybe get lost among other things in their bag or countertop, or maybe they let the list overwhelm even more because the list is so long. This is where my next tactic comes in. I pick one thing. Anything off the list that I have the tools to begin right away, and then (this is the sort of weird, but vital part), I set a timer for 10-33 minutes. (Yes, I know "normal" people would do 10-30 but I have quirks/superstitions/tradition to use 32 or 33 instead because they're meaningful numbers in my life.)
Ok, back to the point here. I set the timer for a small chunk of time and then start working on my task. And nothing else. I don't check email, I don't check Facebook, nothing. I do only that task until the timer goes off. And if, by that time, I'm fully engaged, got my groove on, and don't want to stop, I just shut off the timer and keep going. Or, if I am ready to stop or I'm getting that "let me just check Instagram real quick" urge, I turn off my timer and do something else for about 5 minutes. I get water or stretch or play with my dog, Roxy, for a bit. Something unrelated to the task I just worked on. And then I reset the timer and dig back into that same list item, or I pick a new one.
It works especially well with things like dishes. When I look at the sink, and think "seriously. that's going to take forever. look at the size of those stacks?!" I set the timer for 20 minutes and get at it. Very often, by the time the alarm goes off, I'm pretty much done with the amount of dishes that will fit on our drying rack/towels. And I feel accomplished and the next round isn't so daunting. It works similarly with emails I'm procrastinating writing or schoolwork or a recipe I need to type up. It helps to just commit to a short blip of time instead of promising myself I'll do the entire thing.
So, I've been doing this for many years. But recently, I've heard other bloggers/podcasters mention it, and turns out it actually has a name! The Pomodoro Technique! They're a bit more methodical/strict about the length of time to work (25 minutes), and they also suggest taking a longer break after you complete four "Pomodoros"... which I realized I probably do without thinking about it. Pretty neat.
Have you ever tried this way of managing your time/tasks? If not, think about giving it a try next time you have a long list or even one project you're overwhelmed to start. Tell me about your experience in the comments - I'd love to hear what you think!