The guide is a six step process for improving your productivity through implementing the Pomodoro Technique.
Productivity, efficiency, effectiveness – they’re all things that I have personally wanted to (and still want to) get better at. I’ve found a number of routines, habits and techniques that have helped me improve and the Pomodoro Technique probably tops the list.
The technique is super simple and costs nothing at all to implement.
So let’s get into it!
- Improve your focus
- Get better at avoiding distractions
- Get better at avoiding procrastination
- A timer (for now you can just type ‘timer’ into Google)
- A single sheet of paper
The first step is really, really simple. Just pick a task that you want to complete.
The technique is meant to increase your ability to focus on one task for extended periods so make it a task that’s likely to take a while – over an hour.
Write the task down on your piece of paper.
Now a little explanation on how the technique is going to work.
A Pomodoro (in the context of this technique) is the interval of time that you will work between breaks.
My initial instinct when picking the length of my Pomodoros was to make them long – at least an hour. I figured that I was most productive when I got my head down and worked for as long as possible between breaks. That seemed efficient.
Then I read more about the technique and discovered that the recommended Pomodoro length was just 25 minutes. I thought that this seemed crazy short but then I read a little more and realised why it makes sense.
During each Pomodoro you are working solely on that one task. A Pomodoro is indivisible – you work flat out for that length of time and can’t be distracted by anything else. Getting a phone call? Ask them to call you back if it’s not urgent. Email? Not checking it. Facebook? No chance!
Any distraction – whether it be external or an idea or thought that pops into your head – is externalised by writing it down on your piece of paper. There will always be some distractions that can’t be put off. Some calls are genuinely urgent. If that happens, no problem! You can just start a new Pomodoro. The aim is just to keep those interruptions to an absolute minimum.
So your ideal Pomodoro length is one that’s long enough that you can get significant work done (I was surprised how much I could get done in 25 minutes when I focused solely on one task) and not be so long that you feel anxious about ignoring everything else that’s going on.
25 minutes works well from me and I’d recommend it as a good start point. If it seems too short or too long, tweak it!
After each Pomodoro, you get a short break.
Anywhere from 3-5 minutes works for me. I like to get up, stretch my legs and take my eyes away from the computer screen.
These breaks are intended to provide some respite and keep your mind relaxed. You work intensively during the Pomodoro and then come up for air.
Here’s the biggest tip I can give based on my experience:
TAKE THOSE BREAKS!
If you’re anything like me, you’ll think that you can totally just power through and get things done more quickly. Give that a try and see how your brain feels. Even if you get a lot done, you’ll probably feel mega drained.
The Pomodoros are pretty intense if you’re doing them right. Take the breaks! You’ll deserve them.
In addition to the shorter breaks, you’re going to want some longer breaks to fully recharge.
Firstly, you need to decide how many Pomodoros you complete for each longer break. A standard number (that’s recommended widely and works for me) is 4 Pomodoros.
This means that you’re working around 2 hours between each longer break:
- 4 Pomodoros = 4 x 25 minutes = 100 minutes
- 3 shorter breaks = 3 x 5 minutes = 15 minutes
- Total = 115 minutes
In order to keep track of your Pomodoros, put a tick on your piece of paper at the start of each shorter break. Once you’ve got 4 ticks, it’s time for a longer break!
The final decision to make is the length of your longer break. Again there’s a recommendation – 20-30 minutes.
I find that the length of my breaks varies a decent amount depending on how difficult my work has been and how I’m generally feeling that day.
Sometimes I’ll need the full 30 minutes (and sometimes even longer) to get my head straight again. Often I’ll need 20 minutes or less.
If you’re prone to procrastination, it could be best to allocate yourself a fixed length of time. It’s pretty easy to convince yourself that you just need 15 minutes longer and then you’ll feel perfect. Then another hour passes before you remember that you’re never going to feel perfect and you’ve just been putting off getting back to work!
I started at 30 minutes and that worked well for me. Give it a go – just be prepared to tweak it.
That’s it! Here’s a quick overview with everything you need to do:
- Pick a task
- Pick a Pomodoro length (25 minutes works well)
- Set your timer and get to work. Anything that isn’t related to the task that draws your attention is noted down on a piece of paper
- At the end of the Pomodoro, take a short break (3-5 minutes)
- Repeat steps 1-4 for the desired number of Pomodoros (4 Pomodoros works well)
- Take a longer break (20-30 minutes)
The Pomodoro Technique is a great place to start on improving your productivity but it did take me some time to get used to.
As with anything, stick with it for a while to give it a chance and be prepared to tweak it. If you figure out a tweak that works well for you, please share it in the comments!
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More on the technique:
Pomodoro is actually the Italian word for tomato and Wikipedia tells me that the technique was named after a tomato-shaped timer that the creator Francesco Cirillo (@cirillof) used when he first came up with the idea.
More on time management:
Now that you’ve got yourself a method for completing tasks, how about a method for keeping track of all of your tasks? Check out our Time Management Quick Start Guide.
Unsure whether you’re picking the right tasks to complete? I’ve recently been thinking about the difference between efficiency and effectiveness and have implemented one question that’s saved me a lot of time. Check out that post to find out more.