If you know me, you know I don’t do well at taking breaks. It’s common for me to be engrossed in a project and look up 2.5 hours later only to realize I haven’t had a drink of water or moved around. Great for productivity, not so great for my health.
For some, they have the exact opposite problem. Staying focused on a single task and not checking email, Facebook or Instagram every 5 mins or following an idea down the rabbit hole and losing track of what you were really working on. Each of these can really wreak havoc on productivity.
Enter the Pomodoro Technique.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
In the late 1980’s Francesco Cirillo realized that he needed a better method of time management to help him get through his college work and stay focused. He began by using a tomato shaped kitchen timer (Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato) and set it for a 25 minute session. Thus the Pomodoro Technique was born and by the mid 90’s it had begun to catch on in the professional world.
The Pomodoro Technique is based on the theory of time blocking and consists of 6 easy to follow steps:
- Choose a task you’d like to complete
- Set a timer for a Pomodoro cycle (25 mins)
- Work on your designated task until the timer dings
- When the timer dings mark a check mark on a slip of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes) to reward yourself
- Start the next Pomodoro and after 4 completed Pomodoros take a longer break of 15-30 mins.
The magic is in the process. During a Pomodoro when an idea or thought outside of your current task pops into your mind, you simply jot it down and get back to the task at hand. That way you are clearing your mind, but not losing all the wonderful ideas you’re coming up with. Additionally, you are not checking emails or social media – that’s what your 5 minute break is for.
How Will This Help?
There are a number of applications for this technique from school, to work, home and kids. Here’s a few examples:
- Your kids and their homework. For a child’s attention span a window of 20-25 mins is management and you can build in small rewards during the 5 minute break. Hello elimination of nagging.
- Cleaning & Organization. Tackling an organization project can seem overwhelming but if you break it down into small 25 minute chunks it’s not so bad. You could set a goal to do 3 Pomodoro’s a week of organization and watch your house transform.
- Work. Whether it’s working on your blog or working in your 9-5 job, staying focused is critical to productivity. By using this technique you can accomplish large projects broken down into small manageable tasks. This has also helped me to race against the clock and make a game of it. I’m an Inbox Zero girl and by allowing myself just one Pomodoro to get through emails I have to be decisive and take quick actions.
- Health. As I mentioned before, I’m horrible about remembering to get up and move around and sitting at my desk all day is terrible for my health (just look at all the studies). Using Pomodoro’s I’ve been able to force myself to break concentration, move around or stretch and grab a glass of water. This has been the biggest game changer of the Pomodoro method for me personally.
Is There an App For That?
Yes! If you’d prefer to go digital with your Pomodoro tracking there are several apps available. I’m a Mac user and love Pomodoro One. It has a timer that counts down the Pomodoro and dings when the session is up. It then begins counting down the break time which prevents me from getting lost in my Facebook feed and forgetting to get back to work (don’t tell me I’m alone in that). Bonus: Pomodoro One provides a day by day count to measure your productivity over time.
There are many other apps available out there which can be found with a quick search of the app store.
Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique or do you have another tip for staying focused and productive?