It's the start of the work year (January doesn't really count) and you promised yourself that you'd be more productive. But you quickly find yourself getting distracted by Facebook and cat videos on YouTube.
It's okay, we've all fallen into this trap. But it IS possible to change the way you tackle work, and it takes less than 30 minutes. It's time to introduce your brain to the Pomodoro Technique.
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What is the Pomodoro Technique?
Created by developer and author, Francesco Cirillo, he named it after the tomato timer he used during university to track his work. Cirillo took this technique and turned it into a full blown methodology for productivity.
Pomodoro utilises time boxing through physical timers and breaks. It encourages your brain to focus on working in short bursts to promote more effective concentration and output.
It's also super quick and simple to learn. You can do it right now.
- Choose a task you want to get done. Write it down.
- Set the your Pomodoro/timer to 25 minutes.
- Work on the task until the timer goes off. Tick the task off.
- Take a 5 minute break.
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break between 15 and 30 minutes.
We suggest using your short breaks to stretch and grab some water or caffeine of choice. For your longer breaks, maybe go for a short walk or get some fresh air. It's important to recharge so you don't burn out and are ready to tackle the rest of your tasks.
If you're working on a larger project, try cutting it into more manageable pieces that can fit into Pomodoro sessions.
Don't get caught up in what kind of timer to use. That's just another means of procrastination. Cirillo recommends a physical timer (such as an egg timer), because winding is a physical confirmation of your commitment. If you don't have one handy, you can easily use the timer built into your phone.
There are also plenty of apps you could use. Here are just a few.
- Marinara Timer (Browser Based): Tomato jokes! This web based offers the traditional Pomodoro timing technique as well as custom times.
- Pomodoro Online (YouTube): One of a few really great YouTube aids out there. This one has 4 x 25 minutes cycles that are accompanied by binaural beats, which are are believed to stimulate and enhance brain function.
- Focus Keeper (iOS): A customisable timer and productivity app. It also lets you set daily goals and tracks your progress over fortnightly and monthly periods.
- Pomodroido (Android):: This clean cut, simplistic Pomodoro app allows customisable time boxing so you can focus on the task at hand. If you want to pay for the pro version you get some added extras such as tasker integration.
What If You Get Interrupted?
You can't be in control of everything. Even if you're determined to stick to your 25 minute slots, someone or something may demand your immediate attention. What do you do then?
Pomodoros are indivisible. If you're distracted (even with good reason) you need to end it there and start again later. It's a brutal, but effective strategy that discourages excuses and 25 minutes suddenly turning into an hour.
The good news is that Cirillo also developed a strategy for dealing with people-shaped distractions in a way that is respectful of both them and your time.
- Inform the person that you're working on something right now.
- Negotiate a time when you can get back to them.
- Schedule that follow-up right away.
- Call back the person when the pomodoro is complete.
It's important to remember that the Pomodoro technique may be rigid, but it isn't definitive. If you're in the zone when the timer goes off, finish the task. The point of this technique is to super charge the way you work so you can get into a productive flow state.
Just make sure that you do take breaks. Working endlessly can be counter productive and lead to long periods of distraction. It's far better to train yourself to be more effective in shorter bursts of power work.
For more on Pomodoro and productivity: