Author: Anna Audare
Editor: Gabrielė Malūkaitė, Mariia Lysikova
Photographer: Anastasia Kuten
Communications professor Andrew Jones has been interested in different time management techniques since coming to LCC International University.
He has noticed that many students struggle with it. In a recent event organized as a part of Student Success Week, he shared different productivity tools and techniques, from Pomodoro till Bullet journaling, which have tremendously increased his productivity.
• How did you find out about the Pomodoro technique in the first place? What got you interested in exploring it more and eventually talking about it at the event?
It started when I was writing my dissertation. I found that working on writing, which is purely intellectual, was more exhausting for me than working out in the gym. The Pomodoro technique allowed me to be productive at work and feel accomplished.
It's the basic idea of time boxing. Timeboxing means that you set aside a certain time to work on one task only. It helps better estimate how long it will take to do the task.
Pomodoro Technique was first invented by an Italian Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. He was a student who tried to find a way to study better.
One day, he took his mother's egg timer, which was shaped like a tomato, and set it for 5 minutes. After that, he took a 5-minute break. He experimented with longer study periods until finally, he discovered that 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest were the sweet spot.
Why the name Pomodoro/tomato? Because the timer was shaped like a tomato, that's it! At that time, it was a really popular style. Even now you can buy his book, which comes with a little tomato timer, or if you don't like it, you can use the app on your phone.
• Which time management method is your favorite?
My favorite is a combination of getting things done technique, bullet journaling, and the Pomodoro. I take little pieces from each as the timer of the Pomodoro technique and fountain pens and stationery from bullet journaling.
Besides, two ideas were really influential for me. The first is that if there's a task that you can do in less than 2 minutes, just do it. It keeps minor tasks from crowding out my schedule. Another one is that our brains aren't great at remembering things, but we treat them like they are.
When you write down a list of things that you intend to do, you can forget about them. Use your brainpower to make connections between things rather than just remembering them.
I usually set three big goals for myself and I put them into a little planner that I have on my desk. At the end of the day, when I cross off that a line, I get a sense of accomplishment.
• Why do people procrastinate, especially students?
Working with senior students I have noticed that they procrastinate because they are worried about what they will do after writing a thesis and graduating.
Thesis writing is pretty easy, finding a job is difficult. It's not that it's hard necessarily, but it's complex. There is a lot of different advice on what you should do and how you should do it. There's not someone you can talk to who can tell you exactly what to do.
Particularly with the quarter system. I think procrastination is just poor planning and not knowing how urgent the task is.
Being a student is both an identity, a job, and a hobby. It expands to fill all available time. Sometimes, it's the identity of being a student, and so you play video games instead of writing your paper because students play video games, and other times it's because you're awake at two o'clock in the morning. Why not plan to do your work at two o'clock in the morning?
That's all connected. It can be summed up in a nice saying - failing to plan is planning to fail.
• What helps you when you feel unmotivated and lazy?
First, I think about why I am feeling like that. Sometimes I feel that way because I need to take time off. It's not about forcing myself to do another thing. It's more about recognizing when to take a break.
There is a theory that burnout could be an appropriate response to an overwhelming environment.
The first thing I would say if you're feeling lazy and unmotivated is to talk to Hailey Altena (Student Success Center Coordinator) or student counselor.
I also went to a counselor at my Ph.D. institution to talk about how to deal with graduating, finding a job, and what happens after I finish my dissertation.
For me, it’s helpful to make a list and have the satisfaction of checking small things off that will give enough motivation to get started again. But sometimes it's about taking a cup of tea, sitting down in my comfy chair, not doing anything for a while.
• Do you use to be late or you have always been the person who is on time?
I was late to my class this morning, so I can't say I have been punctual all the time. I often find that I am either way too early, right on time, or way too late.
Time is a very variable construct. If I asked you how long a day is, probably you would tell that it's 24 hours. That's not including both day and night. Then if you say, well, the day is 12 hours long. In reality, the time fluctuates.
I was listening to a mathematician the other day from the podcast, The Joy of X. He learned differential calculus fairly late in life. He was trained as a linguist first and then moved to mathematics, which is kind of an interesting trajectory.
When he was looking at differentiation, he noticed when things are pretty static, we don't notice a change so much.
For example, when we think about time standing still, we think about long summer days. What you're talking about is time in various places or seasons when variability is very noticeable. He says it's likely that the feelings of anxiety that people have in spring and autumn are connected to their active perception that the time is changing.
In the summer, people slow down because they can see the time is consistent. The same thing in the winter, we hibernate because we can perceive that time is sort of longer.
All of that connects back to punctuality that it is a function of clocks which are a human invention. Punctuality is a construct that's imposed upon people and individuals. Cultures that are closer to the equator have a more relaxed approach to punctuality and time than those who come from cultures that are further away from the equator, where the variability of time creates anxiety being punctual.
• How do you keep the work-life balance?
There's an author I hate, but he wrote a book called “The Four-Hour Workweek.”
One of the things that he does say in his book is how urgent problems cease to become urgent if you don't respond to them right away.
It’s helpful for me to limit the time when I respond to messages to keep my work-life balance in check.