Two of the biggest productivity killers are distractions and interruptions. If you can eliminate these two you WILL be more productive. There are a lot of systems, methods, and methodologies that cope with those productivity killers and we’ve tried most of them. However, there is one method that we have found to be the most useful for increasing your personal productivity and for getting things done. What we are about to show you is called the Pomodoro Technique.
The main idea behind the Pomodoro technique is something called “time-boxing” and it is a really simple time management technique. The basic premise is to firewall your attention for a small amount of time and mentally recharge after each interval of work. By completing small chunks of work you will build momentum so that you will feel more productive which in itself leads to getting more work done. This productivity tip works great for people who have to work at a desk, but you can also use it in different settings.
The Pomodoro technique is a way of managing time and becoming more productive by managing tasks in 25 minute intervals. All you need is a timer (also called a Pomodoro) for this technique to work. Here are the steps:
- Identify what the task at hand is.
- Set your Pomodoro to 25 minutes.
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro is over.
- Take a 5 minute break.
- For every four Pomodoros take a longer break (15-20 minutes).
By completing each Pomodoro, you will feel more productive. 25 minutes is not too long and not too short to feel like you are working towards completing a task. By completing a Pomodoro you will feel more productive, feel more happy, and build momentum that will help you get more things done. It’s really that simple. Let’s take a look at each step and see how it all ties in with each other.
Step 1: Identify what the task at hand is
The first step is identifying what tasks you want to complete. If you are using a to-do or taks manager, go through your projects and decide which tasks you want to complete. If you are not using a to-do manager, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Write down all the tasks you want to complete today. Seriously, write them down.
A good idea is to prioritize your to-do list. Ask yourself, “What are my 3 most important tasks?” List them in that order. This is an important tactic to always tackle your most important tasks first.
Step 2: Set your Pomodoro to 25 minutes
The next thing you need is a timer. You can use an egg or physical time or a digital timer on your computer. It doesn’t really matter which one you use. I’ve used this physical digital timer in the past, and nowadays I use a software timer on my Mac.
Step 3: Work on the task until the Pomodoro is over
Now that you have your list of tasks and a timer, it is time to start working on your tasks. Start your timer (make sure it’s set to 25 minutes) and then start working on your task. As you are working, don’t focus on the timer. Use your attention for the task ahead of you.
Some important guidelines behind the Pomodoro technique:
- You can only work at the task at hand. No other tasks are allowed during your Pomodoro.
- When your Pomodoro ends, you stop right away. Even if you think you only need a few more minutes, stop.
- When you didn’t finish your work in a Pomodoro, move it to your next Pomodoro session.
- When you finish your tasks before the deadline, don’t stop. Review your completed work till the timer ends. Always finish the 25 minutes.
Step 4: Take a 5 minute break
Once your Pomodoro has ended, you take a 5 minute break. It is important that you disengage from work for a little bit to mentally recharge. This is really important, especially for people with short attention spans. Some things you can do on your little breaks are stretching, refilling your drink or using the bathroom. Getting away from your desk is a good idea because it makes disengaging a lot easier (not to mention the health benefits). Once your 5 minute break is over, either move on to the next task or finish your previous task.
Step 5: For every four Pomodoros take a longer break
This step is really important. Make sure that every 4 Pomodoros (so after 4 * (25+5) = 2 hours) you take a longer break. Do something else that is totally unrelated to your task. A good idea is to get something to eat, to fuel yourself. Some things we like to do are to take a little walk, or to have a small snack.
Also by changing your environment you will sometimes get a different perspective on problems and your tasks. Not to mention, like said earlier, it is easier to disengage from your work and mentally recharge.
So you might wonder how you exactly use this technique? Let me give you an example of how I use it. Whenever I’m starting my day, I look at my Omnifocus task manager and prioritize what tasks I’m going to complete today. The most important one is always the one I’m going to tackle first. Once I have a list of tasks, I’m going to start completing all of them one Pomodoro at a time. It’s really that simple, but so effective.
The Pomodoro is not a solution for everyone nor for every task. It’s a great technique for people who work in office settings and sit behind a desk a lot. People with short attention spans love this time management technique. However, we wouldn’t advise using this for running errands or for people who do work that require long sessions of focus (e.g., coding).
It is a great way to beat procrastination at the start of your day. If you begin your day right, it is much easier to do things done later in the day. Some people use the Pomodoro technique to get started and once they have that momentum going, they just free flow the rest of the day. Use this technique to your own liking, because in the end, all that matters is that YOU are getting work done. It doesn’t matter how you do it then.
Getting started with something is usually the largest hurdle for most people. First, implementing the Pomodoro technique requires that you need to be organized with your tasks. We highly recommend you use a to-do list manager. It does not have to be a software program, pen and paper work fine too. (You can read up on simple task and to do list management here.) The next step is to get yourself a timer and start working on your tasks.
We suggest you give this time management technique a try. So starting right now, download a software timer and hit a Pomodoro. Let us know in the comments below what you think of this time management technique.
Do you want to see more examples of our personal systems and workflows? We reveal them all on our Personal Systems seminar. It’s completely free and you’ll get to see the exact step-by-step systems and workflows that we personally use to be insanely productive. Register for the next available seminar here.