Why the Pomodoro Technique Increases Your Productivity

 “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”

- Desmond Tutu

 

Why the Pomodoro Technique Increases Your Productivity

In this blog I am going to introduce the Pomodoro Technique of time management and explain why it will help you to be more productive. Practising the Pomodoro Technique enables you to focus better, breaking down your tasks into bite-sized chunks, so you work in short, sharp and more productive bursts. 

The Pomodoro Technique is especially valuable if you are working from home. After all, when you are working from home it is incredibly easy to lose track of time, lose the boundaries or work vs non-work, and forget to take all-important breaks. It is also easy to procrastinate or be distracted by the contents of the fridge, the T.V., the housework, and your partner or your children too. Procrastination and distractions are big problems for productivity anyway, but can be heightened when working from home!

Practising the Pomodoro technique will help you overcome these problems.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

As Desmond Tutu once wisely said, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time”. The Pomodoro technique divides the working day into easy to manage segments – think of these as elephant bite-sized chunks. All tasks, big and small, are broken down into small, manageable activities that can be tackled one-step at a time.                    

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method developed by the entrepreneur and author Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. He advocated breaking down your time into 25-minute work intervals. Each 25-minute work interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for 'tomato', after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used to develop this technique (which he did in order to cope with his university studies). Cirillo is now the owner of Cirillo Consulting and the author of The Pomodoro Technique: The Life-Changing Time-Management System. 

To adopt this technique, all you have to do is use a simple timer to break down your day’s work into multiple 25-minute work intervals (it doesn’t have to be tomato shaped!). Each 25-minute pomodoro is then separated by a short 5-minute break. After every four full Pomodoro segments you need to schedule a 30-minute break, completely away from your work. The best thing about the Pomodoro Technique is that you don’t need any expensive or complicated equipment. All that you need is a cheaper kitchen timer. Better still, just set the alarm on your mobile phone.

When you start work, set a timer to go off in twenty-five minutes time. When the timer goes off, you stop working, take a break of five-minutes, drink some water, get up from your desk, stretch, have a walk around, then sit back down, reset your timer and restart your work. After three repetitions of this, you will need to take a longer, 20 to 30-minute break.

One of the objectives of the Pomodoro technique is to reduce the negative impact of internal and external interruptions on your focus and flow. A Pomodoro should be indivisible and cannot be split up. There is no such thing as half of a Pomodoro or a quarter. When a Pomodoro is interrupted, that Pomodoro segment should be considered void, as if it had never been set; then you should make a fresh start with a new Pomodoro.

When you use the Pomodoro technique, you will always work in short sprints, which will make sure that you’re consistently productive. I always advocate in my coaching and training on goal setting & time management, that it is best to work in short, sharp bursts. Taking regular breaks will also keep you creative, focused and also free from burning out. As Dr. Michael Mosley explained in his recent newspaper article, sitting continually is extremely bad for your health and your immune system. Dr. Mosley recommends standing up and walking around every 30-minutes. 

During the break you should get up from your desk, take a walk around, stretch your body, make sure you are drinking enough water, and mentally prepare yourself for the work you are going to do in the next segment. 

 

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Alice Dartnell, Life & Success Coach working on her laptop at a desk in her home office

How to Use the Pomodoro Technique

Step 1: Plan your day and make a list of tasks you need to do

Look at what you need to achieve for the day and break it down into 25-minute schedules. Also note what time you have meetings, client calls or other important events, and plan your 25-minute Pomodoros & breaks around them.

Step 2: Set your timer for 25 minutes

You now need to fully concentrate on the task-in-hand for 25-minutes. You will be amazed at the amount of work you can complete in such a short time, when you give what you are doing your full attention. This technique also helps you avoid procrastination, as it focuses the mind on the task-in-hand. After all, the clock is ticking, the work needs to be done, and in just 25-minutes you can take a break.

Step 3: Stop when the alarm rings

Stop doing what you are doing when the alarm you are using rings. You are not allowed to keep on working “just for a few more minutes”, even if you’re convinced that in those few minutes you could complete the task at hand.   

Step 4: Take a short break after each Pomodoro

Now is the time to take a 5-minute break. This is sufficient time for you to drink something to keep you hydrated, take a short walk, or have a much-needed stretch.

Step 5 : Start the next round of Pomodoro

Reset your timer, concentrate on your work for 25-minutes, and then take another break.

Step 6 : Take a long break after four Pomodoros

Four full Pomodoro is equal to 100-minutes of your full focus, so now is the time to take a 30-minute break. After all, your mind now needs a rest to recharge and your body needs some exercise to prevent aches and pains.

Step 7: Take 10-minutes to review your day

Now take 10-minutes to review the work that you just completed, diarise future tasks, review your work and plan upcoming tasks for the next planned Pomodoro time blocks.

Step 8: Reset your count to zero, then go to step 2.

Now you are fully rested, hydrated and ready to go. Reset your count to zero and return to step 2. Set your timer, concentrate on your work for 25-minutes, and then take another break. When you have completed four Pomodoro segments, take another long break.

Step 9: Review the day and plan for tomorrow

At the end of the day, take 10-minutes to review the work that you have completed, diarise uncompleted tasks and review your work plan for tomorrow.

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Don't forget to take a 30-minute break after four full Pomodoros. After all, your mind now needs a rest to recharge!

Perfecting the Pomodoro Technique

Obviously, you need to be flexible when you are practising the Pomodoro Technique. You will still need to interrupt your Pomodoro plan if an important client calls or something very important or unexpected happens. 

Once you have perfected the technique, you will be surprised by how productive you have become. Tasks that took hours to complete can now be effectively completed in just one 25-minute Pomodoro. You will also finish the day more relaxed, less drained and suffering from less muscle aches & other pain.

  • Make sure you set a timer for your breaks too! Otherwise it is all too easy to think ‘I’ll just check Facebook for a few minutes on my break’, and suddenly half an hour is gone!
  • There are plenty of apps you can download to your laptop if you do not want to use your phone (for example, perhaps you are putting it in another room, out of sight to reduce distractions).

Further Reading

Visualising  success has been used by phenomenally successful people all over the world, from athletes and entrepreneurs alike. This is something I was first introduced when I started to read books like Rhonda Byrne's The Secret and John Assaraf’s The Answer.

It is not difficult to do and can transform your thinking. See my fascinating blog on Harnessing the power of visualisation to create success to use visualisation as a powerful technique to create success. 

Vision boards are a powerful ways to keep you focused. In my article, Vision Board — A Powerful Tool to Achieve Your Goals, I explore the science behind how to construct a vision board and how using a vision board will keep you focused, motivated, and help you fulfil your goals.

Are you stuck in your comfort zone? Read my article, How to Expand Your Comfort Zone to Achieve Your Goals to understand what a comfort zone is and why it is important to step out of your comfort zone in order develop new skills, experience new things and fulfil your true potential.

What is the link between health and productivity? As I explain in my article, Why Looking After Your Health Improves Your Productivity, poor health habits are one of the ‘Four Thieves’ that can have a serious impact upon your time management & productivity. In the article, I give five of my top tips for improving your health and productivity, including the The Unexpected Benefits Of Hydration On Productivity.

 

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This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.

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