“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”
– Desmond Tutu
In this blog I am going to introduce the Pomodoro technique of time management and explain why it will help you be more productive especially if you are working from home. When 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 far too easy to procrastinate or be distracted by the contents of the fridge, the T.V, the housework, 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.
As Desmond Tutu once wisely said that “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 bit-sizing 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 of a Pomodoro. When a pomodoro is interrupted that Pomodoro 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 and 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 your drink enough water, and mentally prepare yourself for the work you are going to do in the next segment.
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 your day down into 25-minute schedules. Also note what time you have meetings, client calls and other important events and plan your 25-minute Pomodoro’s and 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 grab drink something to keep you hydrated, take a short walk, have a much-need 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 Pomodoro
Four full Pomodoro is equal to 100-minutes of your full focus, so now is the time to 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 and review your work 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, you must reset your count to zero and return to step 2. Reset 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.
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 and other pain.
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Below are links to other blog articles that you might be interested to read.
Are you a secret self-sabotger? Me too! Here are my tips for how to stop self-sabotaging today
If you asked me what was one of the things I was most proud about in my corporate career, apart from moving up the ladder fairly quickly, it would also probably be my work-life balance.
When it comes to goal setting, you’ll have heard about SMART goals. But if SMART goals are the way to do it, then why do so many of us not achieve our goals? Here is why SMART goals are stupid and some top tips how you can improve your goal setting!
The way to achieve success and get your goal isn’t to do with what you might think. It has nothing to do with willpower, determination or how many degrees you’ve got. It is about the daily discipline of habits.
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.
For more information please see www.alicedartnell.com.
Copyright 2020 Alice Dartnell Limited