Planning and Productivity

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Reprinted with gracious permission by the author from her blog “Translation Tidbits”

Productivity means time, money, doing more with fewer resources and in less time, performance, efficiency, etc. The list is long.

For those who work in a home office, productivity can be a challenge, as the dishes in the kitchen, the laundry, and other chores scream your name through the house, calling you to do things other than your work (in the professional sense of things).

Taking care of the house is and takes work, but I’m talking about paid work. That kind without which you wouldn’t even have a house. Home office loneliness can also interfere with productivity. You may end up diving into social networks, creating work delays. Each person has different productivity challenges and ways to overcome them. There is no single recipe for dealing with this.

For me, two methods have proven effective. I use them together, and they have helped me plan better and produce more. Notice I said plan and produce, for one depends on the other.

Planning is important to identify the tasks to be done, set priorities and allocate sufficient time for each of them to be executed. One of the things I noticed when looking back and seeing how long I was taking to do each of my tasks was I that I was allocating too much time for each of them. I researched what could help me with that and found out about Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law taught me how to plan my day

Published by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in an article in The Economist, in 1955, and based on his extensive experience in the British civil service, Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. That means that if I allocate 60 minutes for lunch, I will use all this time for lunch. However, if I allocate 30 minutes for lunch, it will not only be possible to eat in 30 minutes, but I will have another 30 minutes to perform another task on my to-do list.

Cyril Parkinson suggests identifying all the tasks to be performed in your work day, set priorities, plan the day backward, allocating the necessary time to each of them and then get to work. This has helped me a lot because I start planning my day based on the time that I must be done with it, so nothing is left behind and everything is done in order of priority. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that this plan has a specific order to be followed: first, do what you have to do and then, do what you want to do. Once I had solved my planning issues, it was time to see how I could improve my productivity, that is, how much work I could get done per hour.

The Pomodoro Technique taught me to do more in less time

I didn’t have to analyze things extensively to identify the problem. I was getting distracted and losing focus far too easily. Be it because of things around the house or because of things on the internet. To help me focus on work without forgetting to rest the mind, I chose the Pomodoro Technique, and it has been amazing.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 80s. The technique consists of using a timer to divide work into periods of 25 minutes, separated by brief intervals of five minutes. The name comes from the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), as a reference to the popular kitchen timer in the form of a tomato. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can increase mental awareness.

My husband is a Chef, so it goes without saying that I do not lack kitchen timers at my house, but you can use the phone’s stopwatch or those used in sports. I prefer the kitchen timer because I’m afraid of using the phone and end up getting distracted by all those app notifications that appear on the screen.

The technique, as already explained, works very simply. You program the timer for 25 minutes and focus on work. During those 25 minutes, work is the boss. When the 25 minutes are up, you program the timer for five minutes. These five minutes can be used to go to the bathroom, drink some water or have a cup of coffee, listen to music, stretch, meditate, etc. I suggest avoiding checking out the internet or taking a peek at what’s going on TV because I’m afraid of ignoring the timer when the five minutes are up. The important thing is to use this break to rest your mind, hydrate or just relax a little bit.

Break is over? Reprogram the timer for another 25 minutes. And keep on going from there: 25 – 5 – 25 – 5 – 25 – 5, until you get to the end of your work day. With this method, I could not just focus on what was really needed but could also identify my real hourly productivity potential. Which means that I started having enough time to include more things into my day and not leave anything for tomorrow.

Written by Melissa Harkin, English to BR Portuguese, BR Portuguese to English and Spanish into English and Portuguese technical translator, 15+ years of experience, member of the American Translators Association (ATA) and the Brazilian Translators Association (Abrates), specializing in legal and environmental content. Bachelor of Laws, MBA in Strategic Management, Certificate in Translation and Subtitling, Certificate in Sustainability, and several years of experience in other markets (Oil & Gas, Aviation, Pharmaceutical, HR, Construction, Energy, and Environmental), before working full-time in translation.

More of Melissa’s posts can be seen at: ( Melissa often posts in both Portuguese and English.

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