When we left off, I was just getting ready to tell you about my newly discovered time management system - the Pomodoro Technique (PT). (Don't you like the way I worded that to make it sound like I was blogging just a few hours ago instead of ..... longer? "Am I getting good at excuse-making, or what?"...she asked rhetorically.)
As one of my astute commenters recognized (Hi, Laura!), a pomodoro is actually a type of tomato, which is an unlikely title for a time management system. Janet and Lea also get credit for already knowing about this system - but points will be taken away for not telling me about it. (So, they're actually running in the friend deficit. Although Lea has accumulated bonus friend-points for all those eggnog lattes over the holidays. And gee whiz guys, I'm just kidding! I would NEVER keep score in any of my valued friendships. At least not on paper.)
Did you notice how I went from time management to tomatoes to friendship to lattes? That's the reason I'm drawn to (and without a doubt need) the Pomodoro Technique. Unlike a few (gazillion) other time management approaches I've seen, this approach doesn't spend much time helping the user define his priorities - don't most of us know what we need to get done today?- but rather instructs in how to work in focused, short time sprints. It's made for the organized, yet concentration-challenged.
Francesco Cirillo defined the Pomodoro Technique in 1992 but he came up with the basic idea while he was in college frustrated over his low productivity and unstructured studying. Man, I have some kids who should be able to relate to Francesco's dilemma! His breakthrough came partly thanks to a red kitchen timer shaped like a pomodoro (the Italian word for tomato). He kept his goal realistic and at first attempted to study- really study- for 10 minutes. Time became his friend and his tutor - and the Pomodoro Technique was born, or should that be sprouted?
The book I'm reading, The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated, is written by a guy sharing his experience using the system vs. the guy who came up with the technique. While the author does a great job explaining the theory and brain science behind why this works, most of the book is spent on how to practically implement the technique. Plus, there are pictures. And the book is short (lest we lose focus, right?) You can read a sample chapter here, and see a picture of the author holding a tomato.
I got the book from inter-library loan, but I may buy it (and not just because I've extended my due date twice without finishing it.....and definitely not because it's due today and the library closes in 50 minutes.)
Here's a few lines from the book that explain the simple system, "Decide on a few tasks you will do that day, set a timer for 25 minutes, and then start the first one. Instead of feeling anxiety about deadlines for this hour, this day, this week, or this month, you set the timer for 25 minutes and completely focus on the task at hand. When the timer rings at the end of the 25 minutes and you're still working, it does not mean that you have failed to finish. On the contrary. It is a round of applause for your completed timebox."
I'm digging the idea of the applause. Hooray for me! I finished a pomodoro! But here's my struggle. I have no problem making a decent to-do list. I've even gotten pretty good at remembering to look at it :) But I find I err in one of three ways. (1) I spend too much time on a project, to the neglect of some other stuff (aka children/husband). (2) I underestimate how much time I'll need and get frustrated, or (3) I don't even start an item on my list because I don't think I have the chunk of uninterrupted time I might need.
There is much more to the book than just telling the reader to work for 25 minutes without succumbing to an interruption. The author gives instruction on how to handle the inevitable interruptions (aka children/husband), and actually learn from them for the next time; how to figure out how many pomodoros (25 minute slots) are realistic for your specific lifestyle (he doesn't mention children or homeschooling but it's easily adaptable); and the reasons it is not good to work past the 25 minutes without taking a short break.
Part of the system is gaining an understanding of how many pomodoros (or is it pomodoroes or pomodori?) each activity might take. The premise is that if something on your list takes more than 25 minutes you should break it down into smaller increments in order to complete it effectively and realistically. He had me at 'realistically'.
For example, when I finish this blog post (which has taken a bushel of pomodoro) I am going to plan my co-op lesson for Monday. I have it listed on my To Do Today sheet, but it will most likely take three 25-minute slots. If I follow the PT I will take a 5 minute break after each 25 minute slot. This sounds wimpy to me, but the truth is....if i don't plan those breaks I will most likely lose my focus anyway - and possibly more frequently than every 25 minutes.
As usual, I'm the last one to find out about anything cutting edge (see the post where I "discovered" the Getting Things Done time management plan....on it's 10 year anniversary....), so there are already pomodoro products being produced to go along with the system. You can get an adorable tomato timer here - but the reviews for it are horrible so I guess I'll have to go for a different vegetable/fruit. This lemon one is cute, but made by the same Chinese company that made the rotten tomato one (pun completely intended :) Never, ever knew there were so many timer choices available! Maybe I should buy the Joie Piggy Wiggy version to tell me when to stop eating the Oreos.
I've practiced the PT several times during the last few weeks - and not done particularly well. I'm pretty sure it's because I have an ugly timer. There's a slim chance it's because I lack the self-discipline to stay on task. Which is why I need this book. But I need to take it back now because it's due in 15 minutes.
Fortunately I know enough about the system to keep at it without the book. Next time I blog I hope to report on my overwhelming success - or tell you that my pomodoro is rotten. (I am on a roll today, folks :)
P.S. The Pomodoro Technique forms are online here - along with the original (free) book. I like The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated better than the original book, because obviously there was a need to expound on the first one (and add cute pictures.)
P.S.S. Even though I'm not trying (very hard) to have a popular blog, I'm also not trying (at all) to have an unpopular blog. So here's some token, success-producing pictures from my recent trip to see my amazingly adorable grandchildren.
(Update: Donuts are back; looking no worse for the vacay. And yes, children, I did just type vacay. I told you I was cool!)
But in the meantime, the blog experts say I will never have a successful (by their def.) blog without pictures. But when there are grandchildren, there are pictures :) Top: GrandMama and Sophie at Christmas. Don't you love her 'camera smile'? Bottom: Newest granddaughter, Eleanor (10 days old today :)
Well, let's get right to what you want to hear about, OK? Because there's no use pretending that you're all that interested in the good. You'd rather hear about the bad and the ugly, admit it. Well you're getting 2 for 1 with the following pictures of my latest (perhaps last?) DIY project. They are indeed both BAD and most definitely UGLY. So ugly they are now in the trash. (No green comments, please. You'd have to see them to realize how unrecycleable they are...)
Maybe first you should see my inspiration. I am not super creative, but I am usually a first-class copycat. So I googled 'painted curtains' and found this post. I have the same Target curtains, and the pictures looked exactly like I wanted mine to look - so I had my willing "craft assistants" tape all NINE of my family room curtain panels for me. (Winston on the right, and my visiting son-in-law Nathan on the left.... Nathan loves doing projects for his favorite mother-in-law...especially if it's the night before he leaves...and very late at night!)
I went ahead and splurged on 3 bottles of fabric paint because, after all, I did have 9 panels.
It took every last drop to get ONE SINGLE PANEL painted. It might have been because I used disposable foam brushes, which the never-wrong-internet said would be perfect for the job.
Here are the other 8 panels hanging in my carport, expertly taped and waiting their turn. My plan was just to do one after the other until I hung them up in my family room later that day - my family room which would eventually be as gorgeous as this one. (Note that she sewed her stripes on... Which means she obviously has more discretionary time than me....Or a lot more smarts! Most likely the latter.)
I don't have a picture of Alex, my painting assistant, but he did mention to me that he thought the paint was going to show through the back of the curtains. (Alex is smarter than his mom.) It definitely showed through, but I figured we could line them (next year...or the year after...). Plus they are on the back doors that line our pool deck, so maybe I wouldn't care. And it was dark when we put them up so my biggest concern was just whether the yellow/gold was too much with my green walls (It was...)
Turns out my biggest concern shouldn't have been the color... cuz when daylight came, we noticed a bigger concern. You can see every doggone paint stroke from the blasted, paint-eating foam brushes.
Moral of the story? Next time I get that creative urge (sometimes confused with discontent...) I will just do something cheaper and fail-proof, and more temporary. Like move furniture.
I realize no one will be able to muster even an ounce of sympathy for me when I say that my living room is too big (whine, whine..) but it has been very difficult to figure out how to place my furniture in this room. But I keep trying. Because my husband enjoys the thrill of never knowing where the couch is. (This is especially fun in the middle of the night!)
My pictures are grainy (I need you..and your camera...Lea!) but you can see my idea was to try to create little "areas" within the big room.
It feels good to be blogging again. Even if my impetus was to vent over the stupid striped curtains.
And did you notice I didn't even try to make any excuses for my continued absence? I'm tempted to blame it on a visit from these guys... (but they were only here for four short days, so I guess my multi-month sabbatical is not wholly their fault.)
Then last week was even worse - I was forced to actually start teaching. Everything was going so great until the students showed up :)
Here's a few pictures of my messy schoolroom. I have no excuse - this room is great. It's the reason I wanted this house. A library with orange grass-cloth wallpaper and two walls of glossy black, built-in bookcases. And it's amply big (that farm table in the picture is 9 feet long.) Don't hate me if you're doing school in your dining room. This is my 25th year of homeschooling. I consider this room part of my survival package.
Wouldn't they have a better chance to walk the narrow path if we went to the fun church with the Discipleship program and the T-shirts and the accountability groups and the culturally-aware Pastor who cracks (appropriate) jokes and wears clothes they've seen on commercials? Don't get me wrong, I love my church. Every single solitary sermon speaks of Christ; Who He is, and Who we're not - and occasionally our beloved Pastor (who doesn't read my blog, praise Him!) even hints at application - but many, many Sunday lunches are spent trying to bribe my children into remembering something....anything (!) from the sermon. (We used to offer dessert to those who could tell us what they learned...but we got tired of eating cake alone.)
My friend Christina, from Jonesville (which I believe is the made-up name of a town, sort of like if I said I was from Pittmansburg...), is hosting her 3rd annual Homeschooling Blogging Conference. I "met" Christina through my oldest daughter, Brite, and even though I'm most likely old enough to be the grand matriarch of her pretend blog city, she lets me hang out over there. I'll be guest posting tomorrow - and don't you worry your pretty little heads, I'm more than happy to be your personal secretary, ready to send you right back over there tomorrow so you won't miss anything important.
And go on over there today to 'register' (sort of like your cyber name-tag) and introduce yourself. And read her first post. She's hilarious and witty in a totally effortless sort of way. So even if you don't homeschool, you'll enjoy reading about her life and times.
(This post is linked to Kristin at Works for Me Wednesday but I'm too techno-dumb to figure out how to put her cool logo here, but you can go there and see it. It's a very nice logo.)
Yep, it's me again. Posting, pretty much on the heels of my last post. No biggie. I'm just super consistent like that.
Oh, and a big shout out to my new followers. I'm on my way to getting that blog re-do thanks to you. I am so sick of whatever that green 'border' is by the donuts on my header. And my pictures aren't crisp (which I'm sure has nothing to do with my camera...)
Hundreds Many of you asked me to elaborate on how I've revolutionized my time management skills by refusing to put off doing anything that takes 2 minutes or less. Well, first of all let me just tell you that many tasks take much longer than 2 minutes.....in your head. But actually Doing Them takes much less time.
For example, this week it took me less than 2 minutes to:
~ Go through the home school card pack that came in the mail, keep the one card I might actually use and throw the rest away. I have now thrown even that card away. Mail is a no-brainer. The whole process should never take more than 2 minutes. You either file it (to be paid, to be answered, etc.), can it, or put it on your husband's desk :)
~ Hang up my clothes. This actually takes nano-seconds, not minutes...unless you never do it, and are a 19yo girl living in my home..then it would definitely take 5-6 of your precious minutes.
~ Make my bed. I started doing this years ago, even before Flylady. In fact, I'm pretty sure she got the rule of not even going to the bathroom until your bed is made from me. Makes for some mighty fast bed-making in my small-bladder household; MUCH less than 2 minutes - and that includes a duvet, four pillows, a European sham, and 3 decorator pillows. (YouTube forthcoming?)
~ Empty your amazon cart. This may cost a lot of money, but it's very quick :)
~ Delete some emails. The 2 minute thing really works for me here. I can take out about 5-7 emails in 2 minutes (2 seconds if they are forwards.) The goal is to see each email only once, just as if it was a piece of paper. File it, delete it, print it, or click unsubscribe. Simple Mom, who writes on productivity for home managers, has a good blog post up today bemoaning the size of her inbox and giving some suggestions on how to tame it. For a gal with no vowels in her name she has some great advice :)
~ Comment on someone's blog (sorry...couldn't resist! But it's true...It takes so little time and gives such warm fuzzies to the blogger.)
~ Take my pills. Again if you're 30something, you might be saying, "What pills?" But the older you get the more challenging it becomes to get them all swallowed, rubbed in, or chewed in less than 2 minutes. And then, for the love of all things decent and orderly, Put them Away. No one likes to walk into a bathroom and know your whole rash history.
Speaking of Things that Work for Me - Here's a picture of my sweet boys giving my "new" kitchen chairs a make-over. Winston (who is going to be a super-duper handyman husband...in about 20 years) sanded them and painted them a glossy black. Then Alex cut the black toile fabric using the old covers as a guide. Here's a picture of the two of them stapling and nailing and pleasing their grateful mom.
I think they're wonderful! .....The boys and the chairs :)
Lea, is coming over later today. Lea is creative, and smart, and funny (and she thinks I'm funny...which makes her even more funny) and she has an amazing camera, which she uses brilliantly. She's going to take some pictures of some non-2 minute projects I've been working. Can't wait to show them to you!
I wasn't going to blog today (shocker!), but I knew some of you might be having some serious laundry-post withdrawal so I put my selfish writer's block (aka laziness) aside to come over here and link to this. jewel.
Of course, my motivation was higher since she said such nice things about me. (Please note the title she gives me. And use it when you speak of me in the future, please.)
I love success stories, don't you? And I'm amazed at how seemingly small things (...and I confess, I was worried when she first emailed me pictures of her too-small-for-my-family laundry bins)
can make all the difference in how we view our daily tasks.
Seeing Kristin's success (almost) spurs me on to continue my Making It All Work series. I've implemented about 2% of the system, but it's transformed my calendar and my to-do list.
More later. (Do I say that a lot?)
P.S. Can I get a witness to Kristin's offer to come clean my shower stalls? Do you think she does tubs, too? (Do you think she remembers I have 7 sons?!)
P.S.S. Kristin is a new blogger - but you'd never know it from the way she writes. And wait until you see her amazing revolving slide show of her gorgeous children. No sinful, coveting, blog envy here. Just the facts.
Some Moms Who Should Definitely Know are sharing about laundry systems, and I couldn't help but jump right into this 'agitating' discussion. This is one (and about the only) area of homemaking I have down to a sweet smelling, neatly folded science.
And I'm sure now that I've proudly stated that fact, I'm bound to wake up tomorrow morning to a house full of wet bunkbeds (and it wouldn't be the first time, I can assure you of that.)
Here's the link to my previous post on laundry - complete with cutting-edge pictures of my family's amazing, individually labeled, (white, plastic) laundry bins. After you read that post, be sure not to miss the sequel. Because just like everything else in a large family, we needed more than one (booths in a restaurant, pews in a church, carts in a grocery store, refrigerators in a kitchen. It always takes two.)
I'd write a new laundry post but why should I? Don't need to. My system is still working like a charm. Seriously. The only time it gets slightly out of control is after a Boy Scout campout, when my 5 Scouts come home stinkin' to high heaven. (And if that's what high heaven smells like, I'll be completely happy to stay in the lower part, thank you very much.)
Maybe I should start a new blog called Pioneer Woman Washes
This just in - One of my favorite, and more attentive, blog readers just reminded me of the sequel to the sequel laundry post. In this post I tell about the dot system - and get an award for Bravest Blogger (and most embarrassing mother.) I'm so proud of me!
After you've had your fill of my laundry solutions, be sure you get all the dirt from these gals.
When your child is adopted, notes like this mean more :)
He's smart - doing algebra, dissecting crayfish in his biology class, studying latin and logic and reading through the classics in his homeschool co-op. I wonder what the neurologist, the one who told us Alex would probably never read, would think about that. Someday maybe Alex will drive me down there to ask him :)