The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is nothing new, and surprisingly simple. But how many of us have heard of it before? It’s all about productivity and how to stay focused whether that be at work or for personal life when concentration is needed.

Ever been so overwhelmed that you made yourself physically ill just thinking about it? A lot of workers talk about the Sunday Sick feeling when they have to contemplate exactly what is on their plate for the coming week. 

That’s not a weekend enjoyed. That is a weekend living in fear of time ticking down before going back to work and, in many cases, feeling like you’re either too far behind or dreading getting everything you need to get done for deadlines.

Productivity comes with focus and that can be hard to come by when distracted by stress, procrastination, or 

Enter the Pomodoro technique.

What is the Pomodoro technique? 

It sounds intriguingly Italian. Because yes, Pomodoro is an Italian word and it means ‘tomato’.

Why the hell should a tomato have anything to do with productivity?

Well, it was invented by an Italian.

Francesco Cirillo discovered that “You could learn to improve your effectiveness and be  better able to estimate how long a task would take to complete by recording how you utilise your time.”

When he first figured out his process, it invoked a timer and he happened to use one from his kitchen shaped like a tomato. And the ‘Pomodoro’ as a work unit was born, but more on that next.

So, how does it actually work?

It’s not rocket science. And although there are apps for the Pomodoro method, technically all you need is a watch or a timer and a notebook to record. But in today’s age, the apps are much sexier.

It’s easy to learn too. Here’s how you do it:

  • Choose a task/project you need to focus on
  • Set a timer for 25-30 minutes, this becomes known as a ‘Pomodoro’ of active work time
  • When the timer goes off take a 5-minute break
  • Repeat for three more sessions for a total of four
  • Take a longer break such as 15 or 30 minutes after four sessions
  • Record your sessions in a notebook for posterity, it helps you see patterns in your habits

Oh, and once your 25-minute session starts, there is no stopping to check emails, go make a coffee, text message, etc. You’ve committed to the session and need to be productive.

If you really can’t avoid a disruption, start your break timer and restart your 25-minute session once that’s up.

Part of the process is recording your sessions so you can see how long it took you to achieve a final result for your project or task. And it’s important not to dismiss this step in the process. If you find yourself making excuses to break your 25-minute session on a regular basis you can shorten them, but it’s important to observe patterns. 

As mentioned, apps can do the recording for you so choose from the myriad available on App Stores to make life easy.

Is it really that simple? That’s all folks. The key is giving yourself permission to take baby steps to get started without feeling like you have to get the whole job done in one go. Little by little as they say…one ‘Pomodoro’ at a time.

Who is the Pomodoro method beneficial for?

It’s beneficial for everyone. 

But, it can be life-changing for individuals who:

  • Get distracted easily
  • Procrastinate and find it overwhelming to look at the big picture
  • Work past the point of being productive and lose work quality and attention to detail
  • Have open-ended work that could take up a lot of time that isn’t focussed

And exactly WHY does this method work?

It encourages, nay, forces you to alternate sustained focused work with short mental breaks which staves off fatigue.

It sounds silly that a five-minute break after short bursts of mental drive works, but it does. Plain and simple.

The process actively encourages disallowing interruptions to your session. So putting your devices on Do Not Disturb, perhaps keeping your cat out of your at-home office, or using headphones with ambient music to mute the outside world distractions are good ideas to help you get the job done.

The process works because we actively avoid situations that make us feel negative, especially if we are uncertain about how to complete them or are intimidated by the size or complexity of a task we know we can do.

That is exactly what procrastination is folks. (Put off today what you can do tomorrow, except with an even higher stress load.)

By breaking down big scary projects into smaller bursts of focus, it suddenly doesn’t become so scary.

Don’t sit at your desk saying you have to write a novel. Try starting your outline. Aim for a single paragraph you’re happy with. Break your ‘Pomodoros’ down into little tasks that seem less daunting.

The tracking of your Pomodoro sessions will also help you plan accurately how long it might take you to perform a similar task in the future. 

It helps avoid that time perception we all get when doing tasks that may be essential but are less tangible. Like researching online for a blog. Once you go down the rabbit-hole two hours may have passed when you thought it had only been an hour. 

Pomodoros become work units of measure that help encapsulate your time spent doing anything from tangible to less tangible processes and better estimate the time you will need to spend in the future.

To-may-to, to-mah-to

It’s worth trying for anyone interested in boosting their focus and productivity, whether that be at work or for personal projects.

Try to incorporate it by planning your day with just 15 minutes in the morning and assessing what you want to achieve. Break it down into pomodoros, and don’t go over your workday hours. (That means nothing over 16 Pomodoros a day to you Overachievers out there.)

Remember that you can experiment with the length of your Pomodoros and break time. Try to do an activity that is opposite to what your task is. If you’re at your laptop, avoid spending your break staring at another screen. Exercise is an easy way to incorporate that works wonders for us all.

Give the Pomodoro a go and see how productive and focused you can be. 

You might never procrastinate again.