The Pomodoro Technique: Time Management Method You Should Try
Organizations and researchers have been exploring productivity techniques for a long time. In fact, a significant part of management research is associated with empowering employees and workers to be their most productive selves.
While the techniques have evolved and improved over time, research suggests that there is still a lot of room for improvement. According to many sources, an average employee is only productive for around two to three hours in a typical 8-hour workday.
The Pomodoro technique is an approach lauded by productivity gurus all over the world. In this blog post, we explore this technique and its benefits.
Francesco Cirillo, an Italian university student developed it to help him focus on his course and studies. And the name Pomodoro — the Italian word for tomato — came from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he was using to set his intervals.
In this technique, every 30-minute interval is termed a Pomodoro. Practitioners of the technique work for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. After every 4 Pomodoros, they take a longer 25 to 30-minute break.
The technique has grown in popularity over the years. Cirillo even released a book about it titled “The Pomodoro Technique: The Life-Changing Time-Management System.”
Cirillo has suggested practitioners use a simple kitchen timer and a pen-and-pencil approach. But over the years, many productivity apps have evolved around this technique allowing users to set timers and stick to their schedules. Even then, the low-tech approach can help train our brains over time. Setting the timer and listening to the alarm bells can train our brains to enter a flow state or to be in the zone with these stimuli.
Besides helping you become more productive, the Pomodoro technique also helps us learn our capabilities. By working in strict intervals, we gain a better understanding of how much time it will take us to do a task. And in the long run, it will help us plan the day better and finish our tasks on time.
The technique finds success because it appreciates the limitations of our brains and minds. It realizes that it is simply impossible or severely draining for a person to be engaged for a long time in an activity that needs a lot of focus.
If we sit down to work straight for 2 hours, odds are our minds will start to wander around the 45 min mark (or less). But by taking appropriate breaks, we’ll be productive for 100 minutes(ideally) out of the 120 minutes.
The technique is fairly easy to understand and use. But it may take a while for you to perfect it and reap the benefits.
Here’s how you use it.
- Create a list of tasks
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working
- Once the timer rings, mark off the tasks you’ve done
- Set the timer for 5 minutes and take a break
- Once the break is over, go back to step two.
- Repeat these steps four times (for a total of 2 hours).
- After you’ve done these four times, take a break for 30 minutes.
Let’s dive deep into these individual steps:
Make sure you create tasks to work on for at least two hours. Each session is about being productive as well as training your brain to work in this pattern. So you mustn’t be sitting idle after completing your work or taking a break earlier. You need to keep your mind focused during this period.
As we mentioned before, it may take a while for you to gauge accurately how much work you can perform in a given time. But when you’re just getting started, you can just err on the side of caution and add more tasks to your list.
Once you start working, you must be focused only on the tasks on your list. It’s very important that you’re not disrupted by emails or Slack messages, or app notifications.
It’s also important that you’re occupied with these tasks until the end of these 25 minutes. Because of this, it may be a good idea to split your list of tasks into ones that will take a lot of time and ones that can be done in a jiffy. For example, you can make a list of tasks like preparing the budget, evaluating employee performance, and finishing an article. And in a separate list, you can add things like checking your email or following up with your colleagues.
In this way, if you finish a task before 25 minutes but don’t have the time for another huge task, you can check off the tasks in the second list.
The moment the timer goes off, drop what you’re doing. Make sure that you clearly note how much work you were able to do in 25 minutes. This will help you become better at planning your tasks.
During this period, you need to log off completely from your work. Step away from the table and don’t think about work at all. Take a walk, drink some water, and completely recharge. If you’d like, take a power nap. Whatever you do, make sure you’re completely separate from your work. Your body and mind need to completely understand the triggers. Ideally, you shouldn’t even be in front of your desk or even in your room.
While not an ideal situation, the consensus is that if you face an unavoidable interruption during your 25 minutes of work, it's best to take a break then. And start again once you’ve solved the issue.
As soon as the five-minute break is over, set the timer again and start working for another 25 minutes. Once again, you mustn’t delay the return once the five minutes are over.
Every 30-minute interval is considered a Pomodoro. The first 25 minutes of this are spent working followed by 5 minutes of break. To be at your most productive self, you’re advised to have a single session of four Pomodoros or a total time of 2 hours.
After 4 Pomodoros, take a break for around 25 to 30 minutes. Just like the five-minute breaks, make sure you completely disassociate from work during this period as well. But of course, this doesn’t mean you have to sit idle.
It may be a good idea to engage in tasks that are not associated with your work. If you’re writing a novel, go take a walk or water your plants. If you’re designing a house, maybe go do the dishes or the laundry.
The virtues of the Pomodoro technique have been lauded by CEOs, managers, and business owners globally. Practitioners claim that the technique helps them manage their time more effectively. So why is the technique so effective? Let’s explore.
When faced with large tasks — maybe writing a huge novel or calculating the salary for 2000 employees — we are often afraid to get started. We take one look at it and start putting it off.
The Pomodoro technique helps us approach large tasks in smaller segments. Instead of working for 6 hours straight, it helps us focus just on the next 25 minutes. The technique helps us get started.
We’re often unaware of our capabilities. We don’t know how much it may take for us to finish a task. Sure we may know that we sit in front of the laptop for 7 hours to write an article or search for clients, but we rarely know how much of that time we’re working. This makes it difficult for us to plan our day efficiently.
The Pomodoro technique encourages us to take note of how much time or how many Pomodoros it took for us to complete a task. And over time, this helps us gauge our capabilities, plan better, and become more productive.
The Pomodoro technique puts you in that focused mode where you’re least distracted by anything else. It gives you more freedom to be not distracted.
Normally when you’re working, and you get a message from a colleague, you may have to respond to that message as soon as possible. This makes you distracted, and it may take you a while to get back into the zone. But with the Pomodoro technique, you know that you’ll soon be available to look at the messages and hence can ignore them when you’re working. It helps you remain in your productive mode with the least distractions.
The five-minute break at the end of every 25 minutes acts as a reward. This motivates you to power through your tasks. It works like positive reinforcement training rewarding you for a task done. And soon, it will help you get started and finish your tasks on time.
The actions of a human brain can be pictured as responses to stimuli. When the sunlight hits your eyes, you realize that it's time to wake up, when your brain perceives a threat, it triggers a flight or fight response. While some of these responses are innate, the rest are learned. And you can train your brain to act in a certain way in response to a trigger. For example, if you ring a bell before you feed your dog, the dog will start salivating every time it hears the bell.
Similarly, the Pomodoro time management technique essentially trains your brain. It teaches your brain to go into the most productive mode when you set the timer. And it trains your brain to relax when you hear the time timer go off. It trains your brain to become productive when you sit down to work.
The Pomodoro technique is proven to help individuals power through their tasks. But while you can get started with the recommended intervals, you should find a time interval that works well for you.