Pomodoro TechniqueInvented in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro technique is still very popular. The technique got such a strange name because it used the Pomodoro timer created by Cirillo for setting time constraints. The Pomodoro technique consists of 4 “pomodoros” – 25-minute intervals. After one “Pomodoro” ends (aka after every 25 minutes), you take a 5-minute break when you can have a short walk or grab a cup of coffee… Whatever to switch the focus. Afterward, you work for another 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break. After completing the whole 4-pomodoro cycle, you take a longer break. Advantages: fixed work time; better time estimates; regular breaks reduced chances of burnout; improved performance. Disadvantages: a need to stop learning once every 25 minutes run out (sometimes it’s not very convenient when you’re very immersed in the process). Best for: creative thinkers; those who feel burnt out from learning.
Eisenhower MatrixAs the name suggests, this technique was created by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the US. The technique aims to help you prioritize tasks by importance while sorting out less urgent tasks. You need to create four separate quadrants, sorted by such parameters as “important vs. unimportant” and urgent vs. not urgent”. Advantages: a straightforward way to prioritize tasks; delegating or eliminating some tasks at all. Disadvantages: for some people, it may be difficult to determine the importance/urgency levels of tasks. Best for: critical thinkers
GTD (Getting Things Done)Getting Things Done method is currently one of the most successful and widely-used techniques worldwide. The key here is to clear your mind and then record important tasks on paper, breaking them down into actionable items. At the first step, you write everything worth your attention and decide what to do with it (“do”, “don’t do”, or “delegate”). Then you make a to-do list where you reflect regular updates on your progress to ensure you’re on track. And finally, you take actionable steps or tasks you can complete right now to be accountable for your time. Advantages: you keep all your tasks and projects in perspective; you clear your head once you lay out everything thoroughly in front of you; the GTD technique is good for boosting both personal and professional productivity. Disadvantages: GTD doesn't provide a strict timeframe or guidelines for dealing with distractions; too many tasks on the list can make the technique ineffective. Best for: learners who struggle to focus on one thing at a time; people who often feel overwhelmed.
ABCDEInvented by Alan Lakein, the ABCDE method is also intended to help you prioritize tasks and optimize the time necessary to complete them. A here stands for “most important”, B – for “important”, C – “nice to do”, D – “delegate”, and E – “eliminate whenever possible”. And as a new task emerges, you add it to your ABCDE list in the “proper” column. Advantages: prioritizing tasks will be easier. Disadvantages: lack of categorizing tasks by urgency; sometimes, it may be difficult to figure out the importance of each task. Best for: multitasking people; learners who have a “main” career with its specific tasks right now.
Time BlockingIt’s another technique that may be useful for career switchers. It can help you become aware of how to distribute your time wisely. According to the time-blocking method, you should divide your day into chunks of time (i.e. time blocks). During these chunks of time, you focus only on one specific task and do it with an imposed time limit. This method was introduced by Elon Musk who has already proved himself very productive. According to this method, he even managed to devote time for himself and his hobbies, whilst working over 120 hours a week. Advantages: better control of your workload; a good way of keeping track of your work day. Disadvantages: you may underestimate chunks of time needed for each task; unexpected interruptions ruining your schedule. Best for: career switchers or busy parents; analytical thinkers.
Time BoxingQuite similar to time blocking, time boxing calls you to put a specific time limit on each activity (e.g., “I’ll finish writing the code by 10 am today”). And once the set time runs out, you stop working. As you can guess, it looks like a more strict version of time blocking. Advantages: more effective planning; eliminating distractions; single-tasking; setting the right priorities; avoiding missed deadlines. Disadvantages: a need to stop working on a task once the time for it expires; staying determined by timeboxes may be tricky if you’re interrupted by phone calls or other factors. Best for: learners that have the ability to wisely estimate the time needed for completing their tasks.
Rapid Planning Method (RPM)According to Tony Robbins, the creator of this method, “RPM” stands for “rapid planning method” or “Results-oriented/Purpose-driven/Massive Action Plan.” In reality, it’s more like a system of thinking rather than a way to manage time. This system can help you train your brain to focus on the most important tasks you need to do, and then determine the best ways to complete them. How does it work? At first, you capture (write down all the tasks you need to accomplish), then chunk (subdivide your tasks for personal, Java-related, career-focused, etc), create your own RPM blocks (the task, the result, and the purpose along with the actions you can take), and, finally, think about the things that will drive you to complete your goals. Advantages: creating long-term goals and aligning them with short-term targets. Disadvantages: it’s quite time-consuming to plan all your weekly activities and then create blocks for each of them; no way of dividing tasks into important and less important ones. Best for: people who have long-term goals.
Eat The Frog TechniqueIt’s one more technique based on the principles of prioritizing. This method refers to the Mark Twain’s quote: “Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Do the most important and, probably, the most difficult tasks first, thus, getting them out of the way. And only then switch to more pleasant ones. It may help you better organize the workflow and, eventually, become more efficient. Advantages: most of your daily tasks will be much more pleasant and bearable to accomplish after doing the most important or worst ones; prioritizing tasks will be easier. Disadvantages: may be a difficult and demoralizing morning; impractical if your task’s priority may change throughout the day. Best for: people with long-term goals.
80/20 Rule (also called Pareto Analysis)Pareto Analysis, also known as the 80/20 rule assumes that 20% of your work input is responsible for 80% of results. The goal of Pareto analysis is to help you focus on the most important tasks and work on them till the end. Here, eating the frog also will be helpful. That is how it works:
- List problems you are facing.
- Identify the root of each problem.
- Assign a score to each issue (the higher numbers to more challenging problems).
- Subdivide problems by cause.
- Add up the score of each group – the one with the highest score will be the issue you should work on first.
- Take action.
The Pickle Jar TheoryIt’s quite an interesting technique for those who like to visualize. The main principle here is to imagine a pickle jar (your time) that you fill with sand (distractions), pebbles (urgent tasks), and rocks (big, important tasks). The aim of this method is to plan your day in such a way that the glass jar is filled with tasks according to the level of urgency. Try to decide how your tasks for the day would fit into the abovementioned categories. Ideally, the sand should be at the bottom and the rocks – at the top. Advantages: this theory may help you take control of your time and organize your day wisely; may reduce distractions since it encourages you to plan only the most important tasks. Disadvantages: difficult to subdivide tasks according to urgency levels; if you focus too much on the most important tasks, it’s easy to miss your essential tasks. Best for: visual people and concrete thinkers.
Seinfeld StrategyLast but not least, the Seinfeld Strategy borrowed from the famous sitcom Seinfeld! According to this strategy, you hang a big wall calendar and use a red marker – you try to stick to a habit daily by putting a big red X over the days when you code (even for a short time period). The days marked with red X-es continue to grow as you continue coding, and they eventually form a chain. In case you miss a day of coding, you naturally don't mark that day and, thus, "break the chain". The aim here is to grow a chain and “the longer, the better”. You’ve got the idea! Advantages: as you watch your chain grows, you'll feel more motivated; you code and progress every day without thinking about breaks, which may stretch for too long as practice shows. Disadvantages: some days, it may be hard for you to find even 20 minutes for coding due to other priorities. Best for: learners who have serious problems with self-organization.
What’s Else?Well, what else can you help to stay on the road? The key rules of success are as follows:
Try to plan your day in advance. You may use fancy calendars and personal organizers, CodeGym Kickmanager or other time management apps, to-do lists, notepads, schedule templates, and other “extra” helpers to improve your habits.
Limit e-mail intake. As studies show, “the average worker spends around 30 hours a week checking email.” And this valuable time could be otherwise spent on more useful tasks. If that sounds like you, you may be interested in the “Inbox Zero” technique.
Detect your productivity zone. You know yourself more than anyone in the world. So, adapt to your habits and find “the best time for learning”. For example, if you’re an early bird, the ideal time may be early morning. Night owl? There is nothing wrong with working in the darkness too. Find your most productive time and stick to it.
Take reasonable breaks. Don’t overwhelm yourself and take some breaks to refresh your brain. Go for a walk, drink a cup of coffee, read a book, watch your favorite TV series…. whatever you find relaxing. Such breaks will really give you a significant productivity boost.
Limit distractions. Reduce all those notifications and pop-up messages constantly pulling your attention away from learning. The proven way is to close all your chats, block distracting websites, and put your phone away.
Allocate your time. When you know how much of your time you allocate to coding and other activities, you can better organize your workday. The simplest way to track your time is to use special time-tracking software like Hubstaff or similar apps.