Will the Pomodoro® Technique Work for You?
You’re overwhelmed. Your to-do list is a mile long, and you’re frustrated that your productivity seems to have taken a nosedive recently. A new email comes in, and you respond. The phone rings, and you pick it up. You end a meeting with a new client and try to work through some of the action items right away. Yet, you’re still drowning in work and you’re not sure how to dig your way out.
You’ve asked your friends for tips on how they fight through a massive list of tasks, yet it seems like they’re approaching their work just like you are — things are often all reactionary.
Working in a reactionary way rarely tends to produce great work. Sure, some tasks will be completed efficiently, but you’re still stacking your to-do list against you. Instead of working as a reaction, instead implement a method that will create hyper-focused periods of output, and then reward your hard work with a break.
One such method is the Pomodoro® Technique. Will it work for you?
What is the Pomodoro® Technique?
Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the Pomodoro® Technique is a time-management system that breaks work into focused intervals separated by short breaks to maximize productivity.
The name of this time-management system comes from pomodoro, Italian for “tomato”, which was the shape of the kitchen timer Cirillo himself used as a university student.
While the technique has certainly evolved with the times — you can ditch the kitchen timer and paper and instead choose from a variety of apps to keep you focused — the basic approach is still immensely popular today.
How Does It Work?
The basis of the Pomodoro® Technique is that a person will focus on work for a 25-minute period of time followed by a five-minute break. This cycle is considered one pomodoro. After four pomodoro cycles are completed, a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes is warranted.
During the working periods, only focused work should be completed. That means no scrolling on Facebook, no checking your email, and no listening to podcasts or audiobooks while you work. There’s time for social media, correspondence, and mental stimulation. It just shouldn’t be in the middle of your focused work, especially if it feels like you’re swimming in a long list of tasks.
While this is the historical approach to the Pomodoro® Technique, many people develop variations to the approach that better suit their working styles. For example, someone may choose to do a focused 90-minute work period followed by a 20-minute break, cycling between that on-and-off approach all day. Another person may stretch the minutes spent working, but still work in groups. For example, they might work 40 minutes straight with an eight-minute break, and after a set of four choose to take a full hour off as a break.
How to Make the Pomodoro® Technique Work for You
Ready to try the Pomodoro® Technique out? The first thing you need to do is complete a brain dump of everything that needs to be done. When you use the Pomodoro® Technique, it’s up to you to decide what you’ll complete during one work sprint, and having everything down on paper helps make space in your brain for focusing on the task at hand.
If you’re considering implementing the Pomodoro® Technique into your work approach, start with the original sequence (four cycles of 25 minutes working and a five-minute break), until you’ve trained your brain to work in that focused manner. Then, only at that point should you adapt the method in a way that works for your personality and time constraints.
Here’s the best part of using the Pomodoro® Technique: you don’t need anything special to be successful. You can still use an old-fashioned kitchen timer and a piece of paper to keep you on track. Or, modernize your approach by asking Alexa or Siri to notify you when your work sprint is finished. But if you want a little backup, there are some specific tools to help you succeed. Consider using the free downloadable worksheets from Cirillo’s website, or apps such as Focus Keeper and PomodoroTimer Lite.
It may feel like you’re overworked, unfocused, and drowning in a never-ending to-do list now, but that doesn’t have to be your experience forever. With just a few simple tweaks of your approach to work, you can ensure a future of organization, productivity, and focused work.