I think I’ve found the ultimate productivity tool: LEGOs. Don’t leave! Let me explain.
At the beginning of the day, it’s easy to look at your to-do list and feel overwhelmed. Every item on that list represents something you need to do, and you’re not sure you can get through it all.
But you have a resource for dealing with your tasks: time. And a to-do list does a really crappy job of representing that. Sure, you have a clock. And a calendar. But neither of those give you a tangible sense of how much time you’ve got for accomplishing things – how much time you have left today.
You know what does? LEGOs.
The Pomolego Technique
For a few months, I’ve felt like LEGOs are essential to doing my job. I might be insane – my roommate certainly thought so. But it works for me.
Why LEGOs? Because I have a box of them. Because they’re perfect for the absent-minded fidgeting I do while writing.
And because they stack.
But which timer you use doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you work for uninterrupted 25-minute time periods, followed by five minute breaks. After four such sessions, you can take a longer break – typically, 15 minutes. The idea is to keep you distractions isolated to the breaks, and to focus only on particular tasks during your work sessions.
What’s this have to do with LEGO? Everything. I have, on my desk, five stacks of four standard bricks. I also have a little car.
Every stack of four represents two hours – every individual brick represents 25 minutes of uninterrupted work. At the beginning of each day, I look at my calendar and work out how many uninterrupted sessions I have time for. Based on this, I set an appropriate number of bricks aside – then work out how many of my tasks I can accomplish using them.
With that done I get to work, 25 minutes at a time. When I complete a session, I add one of my bricks to the car – in whatever shape I feel like.
That’s the system. What does this do for me?
- Acts as a counterpoint to my to-do list. Sure, I have a lot I need to get done, but the bricks are a tangible reminder that I have time – a fact I find easy to forget.
- Makes my time tangible. There’s something about looking at, picking up, and interacting with bricks that can make something abstract – time – feel concrete. My chimp brain thinks “eight hours” means I can fool around for the next three, then work for five. The bricks make time seem more like a commodity I need to ration appropriately.
- Puts my time spent into context. It’s easy, when not every task is accomplished, to feel like you’ve wasted a day. Seeing a car full of bricks reminds me of the effort I spent – the time I was completely focused. If all that wasn’t enough, maybe I’m trying to do too much – and need to re-think my planning.
- Gives me something to fidget with. It’s more important than you might think, at least for me.
There are variations of the above system you could create, of course.
Use Your Time Wisely
I’m not saying everyone should immediately go out and buy LEGOs if they want to be productive. I’m only saying this is the system that’s ultimately helped me get more out of the time I have.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by what you need to get done, remember: you have time. A good chunk of the web is designed to take as much of that time away from you as possible, which is why it might be helpful to block time wasting websites. More than that, though, you need to decide that you want to use your time to accomplish things – then work out a system for doing that. You’ll enjoy your down time more if you do.
What unlikely tools do you use to keep focused? Let me know in the comments below.