The Pomodoro technique really works
The Pomodoro technique (which is Italian for tomato) is a popular method of time management and maintaining attention and focus, invented by Italian Francesco Cirillo. After some time of research, he came to an important realization, which he wrote about - I have found that you can learn how to improve your efficiency and better estimate how long it will take to complete a task by keeping a record of how you use your time.
And so He divided the time into short periods when we are to work and breaks when we are to rest mentally and physically. Devilishly simple, but surprisingly effective. You just have to force yourself for a while to get used to a slightly different style of work.
This technique is popular, perhaps because it’s easily transferable to different activities, very easy to learn, and training habits is not as difficult and uninteresting (even boring and annoying) as other Get Things Done (GTD) techniques.
In fact, in general, Get Things Done is a great idea that usually has a very tricky execution. If one doesn’t fully comply, one is suddenly faced with the realization that the whole thing just doesn’t work. And if, on the other hand, he does follow everything to the letter, then he spends most of the day in horrible task categorization. In the evening he will be tired as hell, but nothing will be accomplished. That’s not an option with Pomodoro’s approach.
It doesn’t demand as much as other techniques where one ends up being a slave to categorizing tasks into different categories. And one can comfortably spend several hours a day thinking about which basket the task belongs in. And do nothing at all in the end, but everything is nicely aligned. Pomodoro gives full rein in this, asking only to stay focused for the full 25 minutes.
How to master Pomodoro and start focusing on your tasks and goals again?
You just have to start. Take a moment to bite the bullet and try to do things differently than usual. It’s simple:
- Pick one project or task you want to focus on.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and get to work.
- When the buzzer sounds, take a 5-minute break. Get up and stretch.
- Repeat the whole thing free to four times, even if you feel you can go on.
- After four sessions, take a longer break, preferably 15-25 minutes. Get up from the computer.
At first, working in such small increments feels unnatural. Several times - especially in the beginning - we were tempted to ignore the timer and keep working. But in the end, you’ll find that it usually pays to follow the Pomodoro format.
The Pomodoro technique is useful if you get distracted while working on a project or want to understand how long a task is taking you. Netflix and Pomodoro just don’t go together. All that matters is a strong will and sticking with the work. Believe me, it will take some work in the beginning, but the idea of not completing one cycle usually keeps a person on track.
It’s ideal for many types of work including writing, coding, design and studying. The technique also comes in handy if you have a lot of repetitive work ahead of you, such as when you’re sorting through a cluttered inbox.
A twenty-five minute Pomodoro session is long enough to get some work done, but not so long that you find it painful or overwhelming. As opposed to trying to work without a break for hours on end, it’s relatively easy to stack small sessions on top of each other.
Four sessions of Pomodoro can constitute a productive morning. It’s surprising how much you can get done in short bursts of focused work. Then it’s time for lunch or even a nap.
How effective is the Pomodoro technique?
I use it to write first drafts of articles and other work assignments I’ve been putting off. It’s generally a bit of a dull, boring exercise, but it’s necessary. Of course, it’s so easy to get sidetracked by an immediate idea. And Pomodoro reminds me that there is a time for everything.
I find that the Pomodoro technique works best early in the morning when I’m fresh and want to focus. When I start a 25-minute Pomodoro session, I know I can’t start by reading emails, social media or the news. It’s like a brain workout. Your style of working out will vary, of course.
Sometimes I go hardcore and ban myself from the internet during a Pomodoro session. Sometimes I’ll put on noise-cancelling headphones and listen to ambient music on repeat during the session. Still, the apps and extra equipment are an extra step. A timer is enough to monitor the session.
I extended my Pomodoro sessions to 30 minutes because I prefer a round number. Some advocates focus on 60-minute blocks of focused work. You can also go the other way. If 25 minutes seems too long, try 15 or a random block of time, such as 18 minutes. Remember, the goal is to cultivate blocks of focused work.
You don’t have to stack four Pomodoro sessions on top of each other as the technique prescribes, although it helps. One or two Pomodoro sessions a day will set a tone that will make you feel more focused and productive, even if you don’t have a self-timer in front of you. Adapting to short bursts or sprints of work takes practice. Don’t shy away from watching Pomodoro sessions either, because what gets measured gets managed.
This technique can help anyone who feels distracted or overwhelmed to focus on what’s important. Given the onslaught of distractions we all face at work, it’s a superpower.