We all had it before: You have tons of work in front of you, so you keep on working until you have the feeling you’re not moving forward any more. Your body gets sleepy and it’s hard to get back into the zone. I was sick of these unproductive situations, and found the solution with the Pomodoro technique.
The principle is simple. You work in short slots of 25 minutes. Then you take a break of 5 minutes, in which you get away from your desk. After four slots of 25 minutes, take a longer break from 15 to 30 minutes. 25 minutes of working is long enough to get work done, and short enough to hurry up because you see the time limit approaching.
A bit of background first. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. The technique is named after the traditional cooking timer you use in your kitchen. Francesco Cirillo came up with the idea in the late 1980’s. Accordingly, you can name one interval a pomodoro, and multiple intervals get the name pomodori, the Italian plural for tomato.
-It’s not about hours worked. It’s about how much work you did at the end of the day.-
To get started, you should make a brief planning of your following pomodoro. Next, choose on a time limit for your task. The standard is 25 minutes, but you can adjust this to your preferences. You better don’t make it too long. When you see a tight limit, you tend to work faster than when you have all the time of the world. Use the tool of your preferences, but I recommend using something where you can quickly see how much time you have left. I currently use moosti.com, but you can easily use a common kitchen timer as well. Moosti is simple and does what it has to do. You can change your time preferences easily and you can choose between a short and a long break. I keep it open in a separate window, so I always see the time left in my taskbar on the bottom of my screen. It not only reminds me to keep on working, but also to keep on working hard.
-When you stay at your desk, you think you took a break, but your brain knows you didn’t.-
I can’t emphasize enough this rule. Do whatever you want, but get off your ass. Get up, start walking, jumping, dancing or whatever it takes to move your body. You can even do some small chores, such as swiping the floor or watering your plants.
I too like to stay up to date with friends and news on the internet. I check my Facebook and Twitter quickly in a half a minute during my short break on my phone while walking around. If I need some more time, I spend about 5 minutes during my long break. Spending more time on it is just a waste of time anyway. Thanks to the pomodoro technique, I question every link I click or every scroll I make: ‘Should I really spend my limited time on this article or just move on?’ In a lot of cases I choose the latter, while I save really interesting articles to read later in the evening.
What about you? How do you keep your focus?
I recommend everyone to try the Pomodoro technique. It helped me in a way I couldn’t imagine before. At the end of the day, I get a lot more done in a shorter time. Do you use a different method to boost your productivity? I’d love to read your tips in the comments or on Twitter. I’m always up to learn something new!
I challenged myself to write this post in 2 pomodori and 1 pomodoro to review and finish up. Turned out the third pomodoro could be shortened to just 10 minutes, which gave me time to make a detailed planning for the rest of my day to get things done. Pomodoro for the win!