006: Discussing The Swiss Cheese and Salami Methods of Productivity

 

I’m not sure why all these methods are named after foods – productivity must make you hungry – but today I’m going to talk about the different time management techniques and the differences between them.

Discussed In This Episode:

  • The Pomodoro Method [03:13]
  • The Salami Method [07:44]
  • The Swiss Cheese Method [11:17]
  • Listener Q + A [16:23]

Mentioned in this episode:

Other Helpful links:

If a to-do list was as simple as picking your tasks, writing them down or putting them in your app, and crossing them off when you complete it, then we would all be productivity rock stars. But it’s not so easy is it? Somehow we manage to still have a long list at the end of the day, or maybe we just put the wrong things on the list which made us feel unproductive (but that’s a whole other tangent). There are a few reasons why this happens:

  • Lack of focus
  • Too many tasks which leads to confusion + not knowing where to begin
  • Tasks that are too broad and we don’t know how to tackles them at all

Really when it all comes down to it, it’s all just the same root problem: excuses and procrastination. If you find you have one of those 3 points more often than not, let’s look at the 3 methods that might help your productivity.

Pomodoro method: This is for you if you tend to lack focus. You’ve got your list laid out, you know exactly what to focus on, but your problem is distractions. Initially introduced by Francesco Cirillo.

The idea is that you remove extra noise and distractions (mute notifications, wear headphones, block your calendar) and set up a timer for 25 minutes to do a particular task then take a 5 minute break. That is one pomodoro session. Typically you would do 4 sessions (equal to 2 hours) then take a longer break, 20-30 minutes – continue until your day or block of work time is done.

Twenty-five minutes is enough to stay focused and productive without burning out. You also don’t need to wait for inspiration – the urge of doing it within the time assigned activates your brain. It basically trains your brain to understand that you will be focused on work for this short period of time, and you have a known break to look forward to.

You have to be really disciplined if you want this to work though. If you get interrupted or distracted, you’ll have to end your current session and start a new pomodoro.  according to one study (I’ll link it in the show notes), it takes around 23 minutes to refocus after an interruption – almost a whole Pomodoro! So if you let a distraction take your focus away from your current task, it is an unproductive session. So try not to break your pomodoros!

Since the method was invented, there have been variations made and you can adjust the work/break sequence to what fits you (like 40/10), but make sure you stick to it and make sure it actually works for you.

The next two methods are very similar.

To overcome the fear of complex tasks, use the salami technique. Imagine a huge salami roll. We wouldn’t normally just bite right into that giant thing, would we? Nope, we first slice it into thin, manageable slices, thus making it easier to handle. So the same goes for a complicated task. Instead of putting your big task on the list, break it down. For example, instead of saying create and schedule social media posts, you might have tasks like this:

  • Pick the focus topic for social this week
  • Curate some images that will work
  • Create the graphics for each social network
  • Create the captions to go along with each post
  • Schedule the graphic with the caption in my social scheduler

At first glance, “schedule social media” might seem too big to tackle, then you put it off … and never do it. But, taking just one of those at a time (in order) makes it seem less daunting. One might take you 5 minutes, the next might take you 20, but after an hour and a half, you’ll be done!

The last method is the Swiss cheese method. Similar to the salami method, you take a huge task and break it down, but the difference is that the smaller tasks don’t have to be done in order. With the social media example, I wouldn’t write the captions before I knew what the image or the subject was going to be. This method is more like Swiss cheese, you pick something, work on it and then pick another.

Let’s say you want to pay your taxes. If you are doing this yourself, it can be overwhelming to sit down and do it all at once. First break down the tasks that you think you need to do:

  • Determine what days you want to work on it
  • Collect all W2s and 1099s
  • Collect all expenses and receipts
  • Sign up for TurboTax
  • Fill out section 1: information about you and your household
  • etc.

These things don’t have to be done in order (although you need to sign up for TurboTax before you add your info), so you can pick small tasks or things that seem manageable at the moment, and knock it off the list. Doing this works because accomplishing short, quick tasks gives you “quick wins” hence giving you a boost of dopamine, which makes you happy and motivates you to do something else.

Lastly, you can combine the salami or the Swiss cheese methods with a pomodoro sprint and really choose a time focus on your list.

You may already be doing these methods, but didn’t realize they had stupid food names. If you have a favorite procrastination tamer, reach out and let me know what it is, I’d love to hear more.

Listener Q + A – Have a question you’d like me to answer on a future episode? Send me a message!

Q+A time! If you have a question about productivity, workflows or just want a recommendation, click the button below to leave a voice recorded message for me. You don’t have to download anything or put in any info, just hit record and send. I’ll answer your question in an upcoming episode!

 

Prefer reading? Download the Transcript

(be aware, these are automated, and not perfect)

005. Pomodoro_Salami_SwissCheese
Welcome to coffee powered systems, equipping women with actionable steps to overcome overwhelm and streamline business and life. So grab your favorite drink and come hang out with me. I'm your host Miranda Merten.

[00:00:16] Welcome to episode five of coffee powered systems. I hope you are having a wonderful day today. I just finished drinking a mom's iced coffee and it's called a mom's iced coffee because it actually didn't start out iced. It got cold because. I made the coffee and forgot that I made it and went and did a bunch of other stuff, and by the time I got back to it, it was cold.

[00:00:40] So hashtag mom life today I'm discussing the Swiss cheese salami and Pomodoro methods of productivity. I'm not sure why all of these methods are named after foods. Maybe productivity makes you hungry and whoever keeps coming up with these things are in the middle of lunchtime as they're doing it. But today I'm going to talk about these different time management techniques and all of the differences between them.

[00:01:07] This is actually a very fitting episode for me because I've been. Putting this off. I was supposed to record this earlier this week along with all of my other episodes, and this was the last one in the batch, and I was just like, Oh, I'll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow turned into the next day and the next day, because it seems like it's going to be a whole big production.

[00:01:28] And then once you get into it, you realize. It's really not. All I had to do was open up garage band and press record. And so now I'm here and this is actually perfect timing because I'm going to talk about productivity methods to keep you moving. I want you to think about what kind of methods you use for.

[00:01:47] Your efficiency and your productivity to keep you going? Are you using to do less? Are you doing some other method? If a to do list was so simple as just writing everything down and crossing them off the list, we would all be productivity rockstars, but for some reason. It's not that easy. Somehow we managed to still have this long list by the end of the day, or maybe we just put the wrong things on the list and it makes us feel unproductive at the end of the day.

[00:02:18] Or maybe you are one of those people that ends up doing a whole bunch of other things that aren't even on your list, and then you go back and write them on the list so you can cross them off so you feel productive. That doesn't really help either, does it? So there are a few reasons why this happens.

[00:02:34] One, lack of focus. Too. We have too many tasks, which leads to confusion and not knowing where to begin, or three tasks that are too broad and we don't know how to tackle them at all. So when you come across your list of items that you have to do, I want you to think if it falls into one of these categories or if your productivity style.

[00:03:01] Falls into one of these categories. Let's look at some of the methods that might help your productivity. If these three things do tend to come up more often than not. So the first one is pretty popular, and you probably have already heard of it. It's called the Pomodoro method, and this is for you. If you tend to lack focus, you fall into the first category.

[00:03:26] Whenever you sit down at your desk or wherever you're doing your work, you lack focus, uh, which means you know exactly what you need to do. But. Maybe you want to check your text messages. Maybe now you're hungry and you want a snack or something to drink, or your kids come in and they throw you off completely into doing something else.

[00:03:48] You know exactly what you want to focus on, but your problem is distractions. This method was initially introduced by Francesco Cirrillo. The idea is that you remove. Extra noise and distractions, like muting your notifications, wearing headphones, blocking your calendar, and making sure you use that calendar time specifically for what you've designated at four.

[00:04:13] And then you set up a timer for 25 minutes to do a particular task and take a five minute break. This. Together the 25 minutes plus the five minute break is called one Pomodoro session. Typically, you would do four sessions, 30 minutes, 30 minutes, 30 minutes, 30 minutes, which equals to two hours, and then you would take a longer break, usually a 20 to 30 minute break, and then continue until your day or your block of time is done.

[00:04:42] So if you have. On Tuesdays or your production days, you would do four Pomodoros in a row until you have finished your production. If your work is not done after those four Pomodoros, you would take a long break and then. Start again and get back into those Pomodoros. The theory is that 25 minutes is long enough to stay focused and productive without burning out.

[00:05:07] You don't need to wait for inspiration because you know exactly when you're going to do your Pomodoro. It basically trains your brain to understand that you'll be focused on your work for this short period of time, and you. No, that there's a break coming up, so you have something to look forward to. If you're going to use the Pomodoro method, you have to be really disciplined in order for this to work.

[00:05:28] If you get interrupted or distracted, you have to end your current session and start a new Pomodoro. You can't, you know, start a Pomodoro, get interrupted on minute seven and then go do whatever. Your interruption was come back on minute 17 and then decide you're going to try to finish out the Pomodoro.

[00:05:47] That's not how it works. You've already broken your concentration and according to one study that I'll link to in the show notes, it takes around 23 minutes to refocus after an interruption. That's almost an entire Pomodoro. If you let a distraction take your focus away from your current task, it's an unproductive session.

[00:06:05] The point here is to not break your Pomodoros at all. Once you have made the decision to start your 25 minute Pomodoro, put a note on your door, do whatever you have to do and get focused. Until the buzzer goes off. Some people like to use physical buzzers. There are, you know, you can set a timer on your computer.

[00:06:26] You can buy an actual Pomodoro tomato clock and set the timer for 25 minutes. Now, there are a ton of different apps in the app store that are specialized for Pomodoros right. So you can purchase the one that kind of fits your style or your work method. And ever since the Pomodoro method was invented, there have been some changes and some shifts.

[00:06:46] So you can stick to the traditional 25 five Pomodoro. Or if you find that your type of work doesn't lead well to the 25 five time, you can adjust that work break sequence. So if you think 40 minutes in a 10 minute break. Would be a better, uh, situation for you. Then switch it up. If you're an author and you know that you, once you get in that zone and you need to focus, and usually you're good for 60 minutes of writing and then you can take a break.

[00:07:19] Go ahead and adjust it, but make sure it's something that works for you and make sure it's something that you can sustain. If you're going to work for 60 minutes and then take a 10 minute break, make sure that if you do decide to do a Pomodoro session right after that, again, that another 60 minutes makes sense for you.

[00:07:34] Otherwise, just keep it to the shorter work sessions and the shorter breaks. That way you can stay more laser focused in what you are doing. The next two methods are very similar to overcome the fear of complex tasks, you would use the salami technique. So imagine you have a huge salami role. You wouldn't normally just pick up the role and bite right into that gigantic thing.

[00:07:58] Would you. No. So first you would slice it then into manageable slices, and that would make it easier to handle and easier to eat. So that's where the thought process comes for this method. The same goes for one of your complicated tasks. Instead of putting your big task on the list, you would break it down.

[00:08:19] For example, instead of saying you want to create and schedule your social media posts, which when you think about that, it just sounds. So gigantic. Where do I start? Especially if you don't do it all the time, or it's like, you know, once a month you sit down to do this task and you know that creating your graphics, curating the pictures, figuring out what you're going to say, all of that just in your head sounds like such a big deal.

[00:08:46] That's why we ended up putting these things off. So instead of saying, schedule and create my social media posts for the week or the month, you would break that down into easier tasks that you could maybe split up throughout the day or throughout the week, depending on your timeline for what you want, when you want it to get done.

[00:09:04] You might say. Number one, pick the focus topic for social media this week. Number two, curate some images that will work, whether that is going through your stock images file or going through your photography that you have taken or your photographer has taken a view. Number three, you could create the graphics for each social network.

[00:09:25] So once you've got all your photos taken from that session, now you can create the graphics and hopefully you have templates for all of your social media posts. So you can just drop the graphics in there and change the titles and the headings. Number four, then you could create the captions to go along with each post.

[00:09:43] So now that you have all these images, you can go through and. Drop them in. Maybe you're using a scheduler like Planoly or buffer or something like that. You can upload your images and then drop your captions in based on what the image. Is for that day. And the last one you could say, schedule the graphic with the caption in my scheduler.

[00:10:08] So once you've got all your graphics and captions put together, now you can go through and figure out what days and times you're going to put those in. Breaking it up into five smaller tasks. Number one, it makes it a little bit more manageable. If I want to say, what do I want to do. For this session of work.

[00:10:29] I've got 25 minutes. What am I going to do if I looked at the original task and said, Oh, create and schedule social media posts. I can't do that in 25 minutes. So guess what? That one gets pushed to the end of the list and then I go looking for something else to do. If you sat down and you saw, Hmm, pick the focus topic for social media this week.

[00:10:52] That one's easy. I can do that in 25 minutes or less, and maybe if I have time leftover, I can do the next one. So taking just one of those at a time in the correct order makes it seem less daunting. And. One might take you five minutes, the next might take you 20 but after an hour and a half, then you'll be done.

[00:11:11] Or over the course of a couple of days, depending on how big your task was, you'll be done. The last method I want to talk about is called the Swiss cheese method. So it's similar to the salami method. In this case, you would take a huge task and break it down, but the difference is that the smaller tasks don't necessarily have to be done in order.

[00:11:30] So with the social media example, I wouldn't write captions. Before I knew what the image or the topic for my week was going to be. That wouldn't make sense with this Swiss cheese method for the Swiss cheese method, you would pick something, work on it, and then pick something else, and they don't necessarily have to be in the correct order.

[00:11:48] So let's say you want to pay your taxes on your list, you have. Pay taxes. Again, that's another one that I would sit down and go, well, dang, I know I can't do this in 25 minutes. That's getting pushed till tomorrow, or maybe the weekend when I know I have a couple hours to sit down and make sure I can go through all of that and said, what you want to do is break it down.

[00:12:13] Again, you can write down everything that you would need to do to pay your taxes, but in this case, you probably don't have to do them all in the same order. You could. Number one, determine what days you want to work on it. That could be your first step. When do I need to pay my taxes by and when should I have everything done by?

[00:12:31] Number two, you could collect all your W2's and 10 90 nines if you've already gotten some in the mail. Perfect. Go find them. If you have some in your email or save to your drive, you can go ahead and pull up those folders, or this would be a great time to notice if you're missing any, you can reach out to someone and say, Hey, I don't have my 10 99 or W2.

[00:12:54] Would you mind forwarding that over to me? Number three, you could collect all your expenses and your receipts. That is a. Big task in itself, especially if you haven't been keeping track of it throughout the year. A tip for you is to keep track of it throughout the year. If you frequently get emailed your receipts for purchases, you should already have a folder in Gmail or your email provider.

[00:13:19] That says maybe business expenses or just a taxes folder so you know where to find all of those. Also, you can use a program like QuickBooks so that every time you have an expense, it's already tracked in there. If you have something like that already set up, this step of your taxes would be a lot easier and you can just go into QuickBooks and say, Oh, my expenses were $600 this year, whatever number three.

[00:13:46] If you don't already have a CPA or a tax program, you could say, I want to sign up for turbo tax. That's going to take you five minutes. You can easily go ahead and sign up, fill out your personal information, and that's one of your steps. You can also estimate. How long these things are going to take you.

[00:14:07] That way. If you have a 25 minute Pomodoro, you need something else. Uh, cause you finish something in 20 minutes, you're looking for a quick task that you can do in five minutes. Go to your list and see what your time estimates. Say pluck a five minute task out of there. In this case, sign up for TurboTax.

[00:14:24] I can do that in a few minutes. So you would pull that off your list and cross it off. So these things don't have to be done in order, except you would obviously have to have your. TurboTax system before you can go inputting the rest of your stuff into your tax forms. But some of these, you don't need to do an order.

[00:14:42] You can do them out of order. And that's where the differences between the Swiss cheese versus salami methods comes into play. Doing it this way works because accomplishing the short quick tasks gives you quick wins and that gives you a boost of dopamine, which makes you happy and motivates you to do something
else.

[00:15:01] So if you're. In a zone or you're on a roll, pick a couple of short, quick tasks and you're like, yes, I just crossed that off my list. Two more things off the list and that makes you happy and it gives you motivation to keep going. If you have this giant thing that you are tackling and you've been working on it for 45 minutes, you feel like you've gotten nowhere and you've still got seven things on your list that just brings you down and it just de-motivates you.

[00:15:27] That's when you start getting distracted and stepping away from your desks and your. Things that you wanted to do. Lastly, you can combine any of those methods, the salami or Swiss cheese methods with the Pomodoro sprints, and then really focus your time in, and that's it. That's the summary for three of the popular productivity methods, and you might have already been doing.

[00:15:50] These methods or some form of them, you just didn't realize they had stupid names attached to them. I would love to hear if you have a favorite productivity method or procrastination, Tamer, reach out and let me know what it is. Maybe I could feature it on an upcoming episode. All right. It's Q and a time.

[00:16:07] If you have a question about systems workflows or you just want a recommendation, visit the link in the show notes. To leave a voice recorded message for me. There's nothing to download and your name is optional. Just hit recording sent. Then listen for your question in an upcoming episode. This week's listener Q and a segment is a question that I receive a lot.

[00:16:28] The question is, I'm struggling with understanding how to connect my free offer to my email list so that people can get it. The tech of it all can be confusing and I just don't want to deal with it. I hear this so many times, not even just the freebie to the email list. Just with tech things in general, people think that it's more difficult than it actually is and when they find out that it's not that difficult, it's like, Oh, I put off so much time trying to do that, and it wasn't even that hard.

[00:17:03] As for this question goes, you would need a blog post. Or a page. If you already have a website on that page, you need a form that they can fill out in order to have that form that they can fill out. You would need the email marketing system that's going to be either something like active campaign, MailChimp, convert kit, infusion soft, Ontraport, et cetera.

[00:17:28] And you would have to research those to see which ones are right for your business. They range in price and features, so that's going to depend on which one you use. Your email provider will give you an option to create forms and then you would get the code for that form so you can put it onto your webpage.

[00:17:48] Once they fill out that form. That form is going to be tied to a list that you have created inside of your email marketing system. So most people, you know, your basic list might just be called newsletter, or if you had a freebie optin, it would be called, you know, whatever the name of your optin is. Once they fill out the form, the newsletter opt-in will trigger them to be dropped onto that list.

[00:18:13] And then you have to create an email sequence, like a welcome email and maybe follow it up with a couple more emails. That's the basic operation of how that would work. And of course, if you're selling it, your lead page or your webpage would lead to a shopping cart and the shopping cart would be connected to your email platform.

[00:18:33] So it gets a little bit more intricate. And of course, once you have decided what you're going to use for each of those steps, then you'll have to configure how they work together and how they're integrated. And that would depend on which systems you use. That's it for this week, and I want you to go pick the one thing on your list to work on and I'll see you next Tuesday.

[00:18:56] Thanks for listening to coffee powered systems. You can find links to everything mentioned in the episode down in the show notes or on the website at mirandamerten.com if you enjoyed this episode and would love to continue mastering your workflows and processes, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and join me here next time.

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