The Pomodoro Technique


Have you ever considered the difference between Action and Activity?  I was reading a book on personal growth recently and it was outlined.  On a personal level we can spend much of our time being busy, demonstrating plenty of activity but this may not be worthwhile action.  Many of us are more comfortable in activity but this prevents us from getting into worthwhile action. 

As I reflected on it, I realised it is something that is continuously addressed in the corporate training environment.  One of the first corporate training courses I competed was on time management where Covey’s Matrix were utilised.  This is something I’ll address in more detail in a later blog as it is something we use in Numeric.

In summary, Covey talks about Urgent & Important tasks. In a 1954 speech, former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” This “Eisenhower Principle” is said to be how he organized his workload and priorities.  Covey’s matrix helps us to recognise what is important and how to manage urgent and not important aspects in our life.

A couple of years ago, Conor Neill introduced me to the Pomodoro method.  Which my wife Fionnuala adopted quite successfully. I have attached a visual of how this technique works and if you click on Conor’s name it will bring you through to his YouTube post from 2017.

More recently, we told our daughter about it.  She is doing her leaving cert and is finding it very useful. I have used it when I’m doing what I call ‘deep work’ and it is very effective.  More often my time is spent on calls or moving things along, so it is less useful. 

These two techniques help us prioritise and focus Actions, in theory getting us into Action and away from ‘mindless’ Activity.  However, there is much more to it.  Action is not just effective Activity; their natures are diametrically opposite.  Action is when the situation demands it, you act, you respond. Activity, is when the situation doesn’t matter, it is not a response: you are so restless within, that the situation is just an excuse to be active. 

Standing in a queue, you can observe people approaching the use of time differently.  The people scrolling on devices or getting agitated etc. are uncomfortable with the reality of having to use the time to wait.  It comes out in a particularly negative way when we witness road rage.  We’ve all seen the driver in a car on their own shouting and screaming, effectively to themselves. 

My smartphone is my biggest challenge as I try to balance Action & Activity.  Much of my work is through my device(s) but these are all designed to find ways to distract me into Activity.  There is a deeper conversation possible here which isn’t for this forum. 

In business, Activity is the real enemy.  Some examples of  where this turns up in business include the following:

  • ‘We do that because that is the way we have always done it here’
  • Routine meetings with a fixed agenda that we follow without thought for how relevant they are
  • Planning meetings as an event as opposed to part of a process
  • Starting our day with opening our emails and losing hours dealing with what’s there

We all have activity in our life that is pointless, directionless, mindless.  Some of this we welcome and if we were asked to give it up we wouldn’t.  The good book recommends that we become aware of that Activity, that’s all we need to do.  The awareness will produce the necessary outcome in time. Covey and the Pomodoro technique will help deal with some of these.  

In an earlier blog of mine I spoke about Bad Revenue. Bad Revenue is an outcome from Activity as opposed to Action.  At Numeric we are very focused on working with the right type of business and I work hard to plan my day to make sure we are with the right people for us.  Do we get it right all of the time?  Absolutely not, but we continue to try.

Now back to my Tic Tok feed. 

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