Among the many productivity hacks out there, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the simplest and most effective.
It’s a great time management tool for increased focus and productivity. It’s a simple method that involves working for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break to relax or do something else. The idea is that it will force you to stay focused on what you’re doing without getting distracted by other things around you.
It helps with productivity because when you’ve been focusing on one task for an extended period of time, you tend to get into a flow state where you lose track of time and forget about everything else in life. And breaking complex tasks down and taking breaks reduces mental fatigue.
The Pomodoro technique is one of the simplest and most effective productivity hacks. All you need is a timer.
Where it Started
The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo who used it as part of his job at IBM. He noticed he would often find himself thinking about unrelated tasks while trying to complete a project. To combat distractions, he decided to use a timer that would count down from 25 minutes until zero. When the timer reached 0, he could take a break-but only if he had completed all the assigned tasks within those 25 minutes.
Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to count down his sessions.
The Pomodoro technique has since become popular among many people including software developers, writers, artists, musicians, designers, etc.
I used the Pomodoro technique while writing this blog post. With so many distractions around the house on a weekend, I needed to force some focus. And I find that regularly using time blocks has helped me get more done.
How to apply the Pomodoro Technique
One reason Pomodoro methods are so popular and easy to use is that it’s simple to start doing it right away. Follow these steps to use the Pomodoro technique:
- Get a timer to time your intervals. You can use any simple timer, such as a kitchen timer. There are also timer apps. Even the timer on your mobile phone can work well.
- Determine what you’ll focus on for the next 25 minutes.
- Minimize distractions by turning off phone alerts and work in a location with minimal distractions.
- Set your timer and get to work.
- When your timer goes off, set your timer for 5 minutes and take a 5-minute break
- At the end of your five-minute break, set your timer for 25 minutes and begin work again.
Other Guidelines for Best Results
The main idea for the Pomodoro technique is to use 25-minute work sprints. However, there are other guidelines to get the most of out your work intervals.
- Don’t multitask during your Pomodoro session. Don’t allow distractions or stop to do other things during your session. Checking email, reading texts, or doing other activities will decrease the effectiveness of your session. If you have an idea or think of something you need to tend to afterward, quickly write it down and resume focus on your Pomodoro topic.
- Break big projects down in to smaller ones. You may have activities that are complex and require multiple Pomodoros. If so, break these out into logical, smaller groupings you can tackle in a few Pomodoro sessions. Decide which of these you’ll work on during your current working session.
- Group small tasks. The tasks that will take less than a Pomodoro should be combined with other simpler tasks. For example, updating a meeting invitation can be grouped with sending a link to the meeting pre-reads and other less complex activities.
Other Pomodoro Methods
The original technique uses 25-minute intervals. There are several variations of the original Pomodoro technique:
- One variation uses 20-minute intervals instead of 25-minutes ones.
- “Focused Work Time” is a variation in which you set aside specific times during the day to work uninterrupted. FWT works best if you know exactly when you need to be most effective. For example, I might decide to spend my morning writing technical documents or working on harder problem when my mind is clearest.
These variations all basically involve setting time blocks for focused work.
Benefits of the Pomodoro Technique
Here are some of the main reasons to use Pomodoro methods:
1) Focus – By forcing yourself to concentrate on one thing for a short amount of time, you learn to ignore distractions and focus on whatever task you are currently working on.
2) Productivity – Getting focused allows you to achieve high levels of concentration, and you’ll increase your levels of productivity throughout the day.
3) Self-Control – The Pomodoro technique teaches you how to resist constant temptations by giving small rewards every time you complete an activity without getting distracted.
4) Discipline – The Pomodoro technique encourages discipline by rewarding us for sticking to our goals. It also reduces procrastination. Procrastination leads to stress and anxiety which ultimately causes poor performance at work.
5) Motivation – Setting timeboxed goals gives you something to work toward. And the Pomodoro technique provides immediate feedback about whether or not we completed our tasks successfully. It keeps us motivated to keep moving towards our goals.
6) Creativity – Sometimes we get stuck inside our own heads too long and fail to see new ideas coming through. The Pomodoro technique forces us out of that mindset and helps us stay alert and aware of what’s going around us. We can come up with fresh solutions to problems or completely new ideas.
7) Stress Relief – Whether you’re dealing with deadlines, overwhelming to-do lists, or other stressors, the Pomodoro method allows you to take frequent breaks when needed while still accomplishing daily activities.
8) Time Management – Do you find yourself trying to do everything at once or not being intentional in how you use your time? Using a time management method forces you to decide what you’ll work on, and put everything else aside. You’ll better manage one of your biggest assets – your time.
Why the Pomodoro Technique works so well
There are several theories as to why the Pomodoro technique works so well. Here are two of them:
1) You have limited willpower. When you first start using the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll likely find yourself wanting to break off into other activities after completing each session. This is normal since you haven’t used the Pomodoro Technique before. Once you become accustomed to it, however, you won’t need to force yourself to continue focusing on your tasks. Instead, you’ll just naturally feel motivated to keep working until you reach your goal.
2) Your brain needs a break. Our brains aren’t designed to function continuously. They require breaks to recharge themselves. By forcing yourself to take short regular breaks during your sessions, you give your brain some needed downtime. After taking a few moments to relax, you’ll return to your original state of mind ready to tackle another project.
The Pomodoro technique increases productivity and creativity while improving overall health. Though there are variations of Pomodoro methods, they all share similar principles of time boxing and intentional focus. The Pomodoro Technique is a simple and easy-to-use productivity tool that really works.