As I have been making the slow transition between Active School Teacher to Active House kitty this summer, time management has become a really important factor in my daily routine. As I am sure is the case with many subs who spend a good deal of time at home, the pressure to make myself feel like I am contributing as much to the household as my working Dom can be a strong motivator to keep myself as busy as I might be if I were working (this is especially the case while I am staying with my parents as my visa is sorted out). The downside to having such compelling reasons for keeping myself busy, I’ve found, is that I never quite feel like I’m doing enough around the house, and yet I never seem to get to the part of the day where I get to do the more relaxing, enjoyable things that could usually be considered perks of being a stay at home partner.
When you’re left to your own devices, and left to manage your own time, it is more than easy to fall into a state of mind where you either feel as though you are accomplishing very little, or feel that you have spent most of your day doing the exact opposite of what you’d set out to do when the day began—especially if you are in charge of tasks that you consider undesirable, or unstimulating. If you’re like me, the idea of letting your Dom down, or not being as useful as you feel you should be, can be a source of a lot of anxiety, but it might not actually be so much to dissuade you from putting off more unpleasant tasks, or from losing track of time when doing something enjoyable.
I’m exceptionally lucky to have a friend who is particularly good at managing her own time, who has recently introduced me to the Pomodoro technique. This form of time management has, so far, successfully combated most of the challenges of being a stay-at-home partner, and has a couple of different, bonus benefits that I could potentially see working for various personality types.
So what is the Pomodoro Technique?
Developed in the 1980s, the Pomodoro approach to your To-Do list is pretty simple: once you’ve decided on your lists of tasks to be done, set a timer for 25 minutes and use that block of time to cycle through your To-Do list. Give yourself about a five-minute break between tasks, and, if it suits your fancy, make a few notes about what you did in each block of time. The benefit to this approach is that you are dividing your time evenly between certain tasks. This means that people who have a shorter attention span (like me) have feasible goals with a designated end-time. It also means that people who have longer attention spans, or who are easily able to get into the flow of a task while time melts around them, have a way to pull themselves out of a longer task to move onto other, more readily accomplished tasks throughout the day. Likewise, it’s a wonderful way to incorporate breaks into your day. Scheduling a block or two of leisure time throughout the day is a refreshing alternative to keeping your fun activities to the “end of the day” without having to worry about getting too involved in a task or feeling guilty for not doing “more important” household chores. In addition, if you’re required to perform tedious tasks without a designated end or stopping point (i.e. job hunting), the Pomodoro technique allows you switch from the unpleasant activity to another activity before you get burnt out by the task.
The best way to integrate the technique
The best way is, ultimately, up to you and your Dom, and depends primarily on the types of chores you fill your day with. I have as many mental responsibilities throughout the day as I do physical responsibilities, and because I am a very high-energy individual, I have a hard time doing large chunks of things that require sitting still (and then I run into the antithesis of that when I try to do too many physical things, and I tire myself out). So my schedule generally alternates between mental and physical tasks like so:
- Block 1: Tidy up kitchen from the night before
- Block 2: Answer e-mails from schools
- Block 3: Yoga
- Block 4: Write and/or edit
My list of To-Do will usually vary from day-to-day, but setting it up so that my mental and physical activities are staggered gives my brain and body the 25 minutes of rest that they might need for the next task. You’ll also notice that in the first hour and forty minutes of my day, I’ve already knocked four important things (including a full body work out, because yoga is a really efficient way to exercise, if you’re doing the right type!).
Granted, there are certain tasks that the Pomodoro technique will be ill-equipped for. If you’re doing a deep cleaning of a single room, chances are it’s best to make that your only task for the day, and to finish the room—especially if it’s a room used by the household a lot. Usually, though, it’s perfectly acceptable to break a larger task into two or three small increments, that way you can guarantee that you remain fresh and focused from the beginning of the task to the end, rather than getting half way through a task and rushing through the final half because you’re desperate to get to the next thing on your To Do list.
The Pomodoro Technique is just one of many that you can use to break up your day and to help you feel as efficient as possible. Its application can be as simple as setting a kitchen timer, or as intricate as downloading tomato.es on Chrome and using the timer on your web browser to help you keep notes and to track your progress in tasks throughout the day. It’s a really useful way to accomplish many little tasks, or to break down a few larger tasks throughout you day, as well as to incorporate your own favourite pastimes into your daily routine in a guilt-free way.
So what do you think? Have you used this technique before? Will you be trying it out? Do you have something that you already use for time management in place? Comment below and let us know!