As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the concepts of work-life balance and time management recently.
During my research, I came across many different productivity ‘hacks’ – some really effective ones, and some absolute rubbish.
One of these ‘hacks’ that recently jumped out at me was something called “The Pomodoro Technique”. This technique, weirdly meaning ‘Tomato” in Italian, was developed by a guy called Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s.
Now, if you know me, you’ll know I love trying new productivity and scheduling choices. Not only do I get a kick out of the idea of planning, but I’ll try anything that helps promote balance and stability in my life.
I’ve read a lot of ranting and raving online about how it has helped people greatly improve their focus and increase their productivity. So naturally, I had to give this one a try.
And that’s exactly what I did, consistently, for an entire week, so I could share my findings with you.
So, after nervously scrapping my tried & tested daily planning tools, I plunged it. And I must admit I was quite surprised by the results.
But first, let me break down what this technique is, and how it works.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system. It helps people to work with the time they have—rather than against it. With this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by 5-minute breaks. These intervals are referred to as pomodoros. After about four such intervals, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes.
Here are the steps, in sequence:
Step 1- Set out to do tasks and set the timers to 25 minutes (or 1 Pomodoro).
Step 2- Work for 25 minutes (or 1 pomodoro) or until you hear the alarm.
Step 3- Record your work progress saving the Pomodoro.
Step 4- Take a short 5 minutes break.
Step 5- Go back to work.
Step 6- Take a long break after four Pomodoros.
Step 7- Repeat the steps from step 1.
The idea behind the technique is that the timer instils a sense of urgency, and helps prevent distractions. You know you only have 25 minutes to make as much progress on a task as possible. It keeps you from feeling like you have endless time in the workday to get things done.
Also, it forces you to evaluate the amount of progress you’ve made during the pomodoro. Thereby allowing you to better estimate the time needed to complete specific activities.
Lastly, the forced breaks are supposed to help to cure that frazzled, burnt-out feeling most of us experience toward the end of the day. It’s impossible to lose track of time as that ticking timer reminds you to get up and take a breather.
The Goal – As stated by Francesco Cirillo
The aim of the Pomodoro Technique is to provide a simple tool for improving productivity.
It is also reported to achieve the following:
- Boost motivation and keep it constant
- Enhance focus and concentration by cutting down on interruptions
- Refine the estimation process in both qualitative and quantitative terms
- Increase awareness of one’s decisions
How I approached it.
Even though I’m a planner by nature, the idea of keeping such a detailed breakdown of my workday seemed a little cumbersome; even for me. Also, the idea of having to check my progress every 25-minutes seemed like overkill.
Still, I started by downloading a Pomodoro app onto my phone. It made things a lot easier to keep track of time. If you’re planning on trying this yourself, then I highly recommend it. I tried both the Pomodoro Timer Lite and Focus-to-do: Pomodoro Timer; and they did the trick equally well.
In all honesty, I expected to really dislike the entire process.
I spend hours at a time in front of my computer and I generally find it hard even to stick to my 1-hour time slots that I allocate work according to. The idea of taking a break so regularly was also foreign to me.
How could working is such short bursts, with such frequent interruptions, be more productive than managing longer chunks of time? How could working less actually help me do more?
At first, I struggled with actually stopping what I was doing so frequently. The first day was tough. There were quite a few times when I was tempted to ignore the timer and continue working. But, I forced myself to stick to the format.
But after that, I got into the swing of it and actually ended up enjoying it.
It definitely focused my attention and made me insanely productive during my work time. It really played to my competitive nature as I was eager to get as much completed during that 25-minute interval as I could.
I didn’t check social media, emails, or allow myself to get distracted by anything that wasn’t absolutely critical. It actually got me to evaluate every distraction as it arose, and I found myself gladly pushing it aside for later. As somebody who notoriously gets distracted very easily, I was amazed at how easily I was able to fully concentrate on the task at hand.
The forced 5-minute breaks were great. Giving my mind a short pause made my focus even sharper during the sessions. Go figure—actually standing up a couple of times throughout the day really does help. I still noticed my energy and concentration fading during the afternoon and evening, but not as dramatically as before.
In a nutshell, I really liked the Pomodoro Technique, and it certainly lived up to its promises of making me more focused and productive. It does take a bit of pre-planning to consistently work. As I’ve always maintained, you should spend 10 minutes the evening before so that you can identify, prioritise and sequence your next day’s tasks.
Due to its rigid nature, I can’t see myself using it all day, every day. It doesn’t work well when your diary has, for example, meetings, conferences, training sessions, phone calls, etc.
👍Will use when:
- I have a large to-do list and few appointments.
- I want to kick my productivity up a notch.
👎Won’t use when:
- I am busy with research or strategy.
- I have meetings, conferences, or training engagements
I hope my investigation helped give you an insight into this pretty popular and effective tool.
Until next week, have fun out there.
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