The holiday season is over, you are back in the office nursing your New Year’s hangover and trying to find the strength to fulfil those ambitious resolutions. But staying focused is not coming easy and your mind keeps wandering. We have a juicy solution for you- work on your tasks one pomodoro (Italian for tomato) at a time- introducing: the Pomodoro Technique.
You must be thinking we are crazy trying to battle procrastination with tomatoes, but there is method to this madness and it’s not new. Dating back to the late 1980s this improved productivity technique was invented by then university student Francesco Cirillo. Feeling overwhelmed by his uni assignments and struggling to focus on his studies, Cirillo asked himself to commit to just 10 minutes of focused study time. And, to police himself, he found a kitchen timer which happened to be tomato-shaped, and the Pomodoro Technique was born.
Inspired by the method’s success, Cirillo added a few rules and wrote a book to share his findings with the world. (“The Pomodoro Technique- The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work”)
Although Cirillo started with a 10-minute target, the recommended ‘size’ of a pomodoro is 25 minutes. The principle is very simple and all you need is a to do list and a timer (not necessarily tomato-shaped). Set your timer to 25 minutes and put your focus to the task- no distractions- until the timer rings. And that’s when you can reward yourself with a 5-minute break. Congratulations, you have just completed your first pomodoro. After four pomodoros, take a longer, more restorative 15-30 minute break. It really is that easy.
To make sure you are using the method right, implement the following 3 rules:
- Break down complex projects. If a task requires more than four pomodoros, it needs to be divided into smaller, actionable steps. Sticking to this rule will help ensure you make clear progress on your projects.
- Small tasks go together. Any tasks that will take less than one pomodoro should be combined with other simple tasks. For example, “reply to e-mail”, “book an appointment,” and “return a call” could go together in one session.
- Once a timer is set, it must ring. The pomodoro is an indivisible unit of time and cannot be broken, especially not to check incoming emails, team chats, or text messages.
In the event of an unavoidable disruption, take your 5-minute break and start again. Cirillo recommends that you track interruptions (internal or external) as they occur and reflect on how to avoid them in your next session.
And what if you finish your assigned task before the timer rings? Keep going, use the spare time to improve your skills, maybe read an article that will help with your current projects at work?
It is incredible how something so simple can help us become our best productive selves. Why is this method so successful?
- Smaller tasks are more manageable– the reason we procrastinate in the first place is often the feeling of being overwhelmed by the huge project and not knowing where to start. It’s easier to put off the starting point and just quickly put your focus elsewhere. By breaking the bigger projects into pomodoro-sized chunks of work, you are more likely to make a start, as it feels less daunting.
- By adding structure to your working day, you escape the tempting distractions which very often steal your time. Multitasking is overrated- when you apply your full attention to one task at a time, you end up completing more of them. And that e-mail, text or meme can wait (and they are far less likely to turn into 20 minutes of pointless scrolling).
- As a result of measuring your time and effort in tomatoes you learn consistency and become more aware of your own needs. With each little pomodoro, it gets easier to plan your next one, because you get a better understanding of what you require. No more underestimating of time needed for future tasks.
What should you avoid when implementing the Pomodoro Technique? To make sure it really brings the desired effect:
- Don’t just look at the clock- having a timer set to sound or vibrate allows the full focus on the task at hand. Luckily, with modern technology, you don’t need to bring that tomato-shaped timer from your granny’s kitchen to the office. You can use your phone or watch.
- The break should be your screen-free time. If the 25-minute interval was screen focused, don’t just switch to Facebook or Instagram in your down time. You will get more benefits from standing up, maybe going for a quick walk or having a quick stretch. If you are working from home, go do the dishes or fold the laundry.
- Do not over-book yourself. There may be 16 pomodoros in an 8-hour working day, but make sure you plan well, allow for the longer break after 4 completed pomodoros. And, depending on the nature of your job, you may need some spare tomatoes for ad-hoc tasks.
- No need to be too rigid. You don’t want the pomodoros to stress you out and pull your focus away from the project itself. If 25 minutes is too much at first, start smaller. Experiment with the length of your work intervals and find what works best for you.
- Don’t forget to reflect. Stop and ask yourself how things are. Do you feel more productive? What have you learned and where are you falling short? See how you can improve.
We hope that the Pomodoro Technique is helping you achieve your New Years resolutions and procrastinating will soon become a thing of the past. Who would have thought that tomatoes can help with work productivity.