An article I recently read by Peter Fleming, Professor of Business and Society at Cass Business School at City University London, examined time-management and productivity stating “much of our day is spent being busy rather than doing things that are socially useful.”

Not wanting to be socially unuseful, I began researching techniques to be more productive. Can I hold myself to account and be more productive in a shorter timeframe?

I realised I didn’t want to spend long researching techniques (that wouldn’t be productive). So, after a moment’s Googling, I picked The ‘Pomodoro’ as it is incredibly simple and had three major selling points which appealed to me:

  • Greater efficiency through prioritisation of tasks in a “To Do Today” list
  • Being accountable for your actions
  • The idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility

Here goes..

I’m writing this article using my new time productivity technique – the pomodoro. In approximately 23 minutes, I will stop typing and take five. I will then pick-up where I left off and continue for another uninterrupted 25 minutes.

At the end of the day, I will judge my performance against the tasks I identified and scheduled into my week plan.

There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:

  • Decide on the tasks I need to do for the week and prioritise them in order, per day
  • Set the pomodoro timer to 25 minutes
  • Work on a task until the timer rings; record with an x
  • Take a short break (2-3 minutes)
  • After four pomodori, take a longer break (5-10 minutes)

(There are some variations on this, but that is the basic idea.)

Can The Pomodoro Technique work for recruitment?

Having worked on a sales-floor for close to a decade, I’ve heard the same conversations take place at the same time, week-in week-out. Morning and afternoon round-ups, updates, competitions, incentives and ‘power hours’. They all have one thing in common; what you are going to do and when.

As the performance of a recruiter is effectively KPI driven; calls, contract length, time to write job ad, CVs sent, interviews, deals, I’m hopeful of being able to add a pomodoro into the mix.

I contacted a friend, who is a recruiter, to ask what their working week was like. The response came back:

“..a lot of people use a structured week-plan (below), but i’m a bit more of a renegade and just do it my way!”

08.00 – 09.30 – Reply to emails and contractors care calls.
09.30 – 12.00 – BD or candidate calls / headhunting
12.00 – 13.00 – Send outs
13.00 – 14.00 – Lunch
14.00 – 17.00 – BD or candidate calls / headhunting
17.00 – 18.00 – Send outs / contractors care calls
18.00 – 20.00 – evening candidate calls (normally one evening a week)”

Now, as this ‘renegade’ is running 48 contractors and billing £700k per year and isn’t following the daily plan, they’ve just thrown a spanner in my ‘regimented task’ works. However, what I had initially overlooked is that they’re clearly doing all the above, and very well, just not in the order the business necessarily wants them to. Therefore, if my friend isn’t following the ‘script’, yet achieving a high-level of ROI in return for their salary, they must be prioritising and scheduling tasks which work for their business and desk.

If so, The Pomodoro Technique can almost certainly be applied to their working week, can’t it? After all it’s about prioritising and making tasks accountable.

So, I replied: “Did you have your own plan with what you were going to do each day?”

This response came back: “I’m not great at sticking to plans, just make sure I get everything done.”

And there goes my theory. The most successful recruiter I know is acting like Reno Raines, making lots of money and ruining my article.

Ok, so if you’re a recruiter or anyone who’s reading who wants to try and be more time productive, read on.

Planning your week using The Pomodoro Technique

Planning your week using The Pomodoro Technique should typically be completed last thing on Friday or over weekend so that you don’t waste valuable time.

Monday: Using a Trello board or whatever works best – calendar, CRM or spreadsheet, map out your week based on tasks, which using the recruitment example are:

  • Email replies
  • BD Calls
  • Candidate Calls
  • Send Outs / Mailouts
  • Contractor care calls
  • Evening candidate calls

Then, assign one pomodoro for each task. If you forecast a task to take longer than one pomodoro, use whatever feels comfortable. At this stage you can colour code your pomodori so that you know that one equals green, two equals red, etc. By creating quotas for tasks, e.g. BD Calls = four pomodoros, you are able to measure their effectiveness over that time period.

Were you more productive? Remember, it’s not about volume of work done, it’s about productivity which is defined as ‘how much each employee makes over a period of time’. In recruitment, ‘makes’ is bill – same for solicitors. It’s all about the end product and being accountable for what you set out to achieve.

I’m aiming for 15 pomodoros a day, which is equivalent to five hours of solid work. Ok, five hours of work perhaps doesn’t sound like a lot, especially in the world of recruitment, but I’m talking about uninterrupted, focused work with no chatting, LinkedIn newsfeed scanning, Googling or making coffee. You save them for your allotted breaks.

Try it and see how you get on. Or be a renegade!


Further reading

To the point: 6 CEO Productivity Tips to Steal for Yourself

One for wasting time: How to Be Efficient: Dan Ariely’s 6 New Secrets to Managing Your Time