“Investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” —Benjamin Franklin
When it comes to productivity and time-management, the Pomodoro technique has been around for quite a while. Several years ago, it was even named the most popular productive technique by the weblog Lifehacker.
What is the Pomodoro technique, you ask?
Let’s break it down.
In Italian, Pomodoro means tomato. But in reality, this technique has nothing to do with food. In fact, the Pomodoro technique is described as a time-management approach, used to help people focus on a single task, and it promises to increase productivity. Created by Italian developer and entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, this approach came to life because, during his studies, he was having a hard time staying focused on a single task and managing distractions productively. So, he decided to challenge himself and try to focus on tasks for short periods of time, thus avoiding giving into procrastination.
How does it work?
They say the whole is equal to the sum of its parts. But working on tasks individually and incrementally can also help in getting more things done, productively. This time-management system is comprised of 6 steps.
Here is how to make the Pomodoro technique work for you:
1. Choose one task to focus on.
This can be a task that requires your immediate attention and focus or just one that you want to move ahead on to avoid rushing when the deadline is approaching.
2. Set a classic timer to 25 minutes
This is where the tomato comes in. Francesco Cirillo himself used a kitchen tomato timer when he was developing this system. Now, you don’t need a tomato timer for this technique to work (personally, I really love tomatoes so it would just make me hungry 😀 ). The focus should be on the task, not on the ‘equipment’. But it is advised not to use an electronic timer and go ‘old-school’ with a simple classic kitchen timer. For example, if your timer is on your phone, by checking how much time you have left on the timer, you might be tempted to check your messages as they arrive. This is one of the reasons why a simple egg timer or stopwatch will be more efficient.
3. Give in all your attention and concentration until the timer rings
Work on your chosen task uninterruptedly for the next 25 minutes. Studies have shown that 25 minutes is the optimal time period you need to help you get sufficient work done on a task before you get bored or distracted.
4. Take a 5-minute break
Keep score of your work cycles with check marks on a piece of paper next to the task you are working on. And then relax: finally read that text message, walk around and grab a coffee/tea, breathe or just look out the window. This is your time to simply unwind and give your brain a break.
5. Repeat the 25 minutes work cycle and the 5-minute break
A single cycle is called a Pomodoro. The best is to focus on the same task until it is done. This will help you avoid multitasking.
6. After four Pomodoro, take a longer break
Aim to achieve 4 work cycles and then take a 15–30 minutes before starting over your checkmark count and going back to step 1. You can use this time to reflect on what you have achieved. But you can and should mostly use this time to give your brain some well deserved time off. This will improve your memory retention and help you avoid overload.
Here is a video to explain this visually:
Why you should try this methodology?
Whether you are a master procrastinator and you leave things to the last minute or you are working on your time-management skills (which I know a thing or two about), this simple-to-apply technique could help you achieve more professionally and personally.
- It helps you focus and manage distractions better. This is the main benefit of the Pomodoro technique. Once you focus on a single task, you allocate brain space only to that task and over time, this allows you to achieve more because you reach high levels of concentration. Now, when it comes to distractions, it can be a little tricky. Let’s imagine that you are at work, going through a pomodoro, and a colleague comes to talk to you or sends you a Slack message. This can easily break your concentration and you will find it hard to return to your previous level of concentration. Distractions can be anything from receiving a message or an Instagram notification (by the way, follow us on Instagram @juliedesk 😉 ) to getting interrupted by a colleague or even, suddenly remembering that it is your sibling’s birthday. The best way to handle these distractions is to put them off until your pomodoro is over. If it is a message, fight the urge to check it right away or make use of apps such as Freedom or StayFocusd to help you cut off distractions while you work. If a non-task-related thought pops into your head, write it down and continue working. If it is a colleague asking for your help, kindly tell them that you will get back to them once you finish your task. You can also ask them to leave a post-it on your desk to possibly avoid disturbing them once you are free.
- This system is also proven to give you control over your time. This is for those with poor time-management skills. Once you learn how to manage distractions the right way, you realize the value of your own time. Some tasks might take longer than others and most of the time, there is no way of knowing that before you actually start working on them, but practicing the pomodoro technique, over time, will help predict an approximate and close-to-accurate amount of time required by a certain task.
- Another of the popular benefits when it comes to this methodology is that it improves the quality and quantity of your work. They say practice makes perfect, right? Evidently, once you know the time required to complete a task and you apply complete focus to said task, it is inevitable that your work gets done better and, maybe even faster. And, when the quality of your work improves, so does your motivation and the more motivated you are, the more you will achieve. This simple system aims to helps you overcome procrastination.
For more information on the Pomodoro technique and its benefits, you can get the book The Pomodoro Technique by Francisco Cirillo.
What are the limitations?
Although the Pomodoro technique is proven to have a positive impact on the productivity of those who apply it, It also raises a few concerns.
First of all, while most distractions can be managed, some could still be harder to set aside. If we take the aforementioned example on your colleague, you might be able to ask your colleagues to wait until you finish your task before answering their question or tending to their requests but, what do you do in case of an emergency that cannot wait?
Secondly, don’t go into this technique thinking that you will be productive right from the start. Just like anything else and depending on each person’s natural tendencies, this process can be easier for some and more challenging for others. Most people have an idea of when they are most productive during the day and they allocate their most challenging tasks to those times. For this reason, it’s important to be flexible with this method until you find what works best for you. For example, even though the recommended time for a pomodoros is no longer than 25 mins, you can always go for a shorter or longer period of time, depending on what you are aware that you can handle. Going through trial and error is required to reach the most optimal productivity level.
Whether you are trying to find your productivity rhythm or just seeking to improve your time-management skills, this method could teach you a few things. Since Julie will save you up to one hour a day anyway, why don’t you take that time to try out this technique and figure out your productivity style?
Discover this technique in our infographic below:
Any comments? Feel free to let us know if you have tried this technique!