How To Use The Pomodoro Method For Productivity
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time-management method that is designed to eliminate distractions and increase focus. It’s been around for almost two decades, with the original idea coming from Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The Pomodoro Technique is simple to understand and implement but requires discipline and commitment to stay consistent. If you can stick with it, the results should pay off in the long run. Instead of being a drag on your productivity, using the Pomodoro Technique could be what you need to get things done more efficiently every day by dividing your work into deep-focus intervals.
What Is The Pomodoro Technique?
Pomodoro is a productivity and time management technique created by an Italian university student – Francesco Cirillo – to help him complete his coursework. The method is named after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer (Pomodoro is an Italian word for tomato) alluding to the one tool you will need to implement this simple time management strategy. In a nutshell, using this method you complete a single task working in short bursts of time (typically 25-minute intervals) before taking a break. During the Pomodoro sessions, you are in deep focus concentrating solely on the task at hand, avoiding and ignoring any other distractions (including phone calls, family members and TV playing in the next room).
As a time management method, Pomodoro Technique helps break up large tasks and big projects into 25-minute work sessions, making the important tasks more manageable and the progress easy to measure.
Pomodoro Method is for you if you:
- Struggle to focus on a task for long periods of time and have a short attention span.
- Continue working after mental fatigue sets in and your productivity is diminished, producing suboptimal results and eventually, burnout.
- Cannot estimate how long a big project will take and struggle to set timeframes to complete it.
- Enjoy structure in your life.
- Think you are great at multitasking but would like to test this claim.
What Makes Pomodoro Effective?
Effective time management can be a daunting and even overwhelming subject, especially if you are just starting out. Pomodoro Method, however, is one of the simplest time management strategies you can adopt that will not require much time to understand, with almost no pre-panning and no expensive tools or apps. This makes it incredibly easy for anyone to get started!
Breaks The Habit of Multitasking
What is more, this method emphasises deep work and complete focus on a single task, which can be extremely beneficial for people who have a habit of multitasking. Shorts work intervals alternated with frequent short breaks make it easier to concentrate on a particular task.
The Pomodoro system helps reduce distractions. No, not all of them, but, with time and practice, it helps you manage how you perceive certain interruptions and whether you give in to distractions. For example, if your phone vibrates, it is almost impossible to resist the temptation to pick it up. But when you’re in a deep focus flow state during your Pomodoro session that you know will only last 25 minutes, you are more likely to ignore such distractions and wait for the upcoming Pomodoro break. The Pomodoro Technique is also renowned for being highly effective for individuals who struggle with ADHD.
Using a fun timer and setting clear limits to work time can actually become a motivating factor. Similar to playing a game, a 25-minute Pomodoro session is a way to get to another level (which comes in a form of a short break). Carrying on with more sessions will carry you through to a longer break. The method has a clear reward system embedded in it!
How To Use Pomodoro Method? Step-By-Step
Pomodoro Method is incredibly easy to grasp and get started with. Here are the steps:
- Decide on the task and get a simple timer (no, it does not need to be a tomato-shaped timer).
- Set the timer for 25 minutes and focus on the task you chose in Step 1 from start to finish, ignoring any distractions.
- When the timer rings, stop and take a 5-minute break.
- Continue working on the task for another 25-minute session. If you finished a task, continue with the next one from your to-do list. Carry on alternating between work intervals and short breaks until you finish 4 Pomodoro sessions (4 x 25 minutes of work with 3 x five-minute breaks in between).
- After 4 Pomodoros are complete, take a longer break (typically 20-30 minutes).
In keeping with recent research, both focus and unfocus are vital. The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience, enhance creativity, and make better decisions too.Harvard Business Review – Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus
How Long Should You Work In A Pomodoro?
If you are like us, you probably wonder why the typical Pomodoro work interval is 25 minutes. After researching the topic for a long while, it seems that there are no scientific studies to support the idea that 25 minutes is the best amount of time for deep focus. However, 25 minutes is claimed to be the perfect length of time to get a significant amount done or even complete smaller tasks. What is more, people tend to see 30 minutes (or half an hour) as a significant numeric value, psychologically setting a goal for working less than 30 minutes may seem like less time than it actually is. That’s why most people start with a standard 25-minute Pomodoro.
Why is it not less? Well, working in less than 25-minute bursts may prevent you from recognising significant progress. If you work for only 10 minutes before taking a break, not only will you stop before you are really in the groove of things, but you won’t be able to see clear progress or results which might be demotivating if it doesn’t give you a sense of achievement.
Adjust Session Length To Suit You
Having said that, if you feel that you can hold focus for longer, increase the work time, but make sure to take breaks whilst you are still at the peak of your energy level and efficiency. On the other hand, if you struggle to concentrate for 25 minutes, reduce the time to 15 or 20 minutes and increase it gradually as you develop a better attention span. Try a longer or a shorter time, it’s all about finding what works best for you.
How Many Pomodoros Should You Do In A Day?
In short, it depends! You can do as many Pomodoros as you need to get things done, however, you should never underestimate the rest and recharge time needed in order to work at your full potential. The number of Pomodoros you can (and should) do in one day highly depends on your natural ability to keep focused (even with breaks), how enjoyable you find tasks that you’re working on and the tolerance you’ve gained in practising the Pomodoro technique. If you are just starting out, I would highly recommend estimating how much time you would have allocated to do the tasks on your to-do list on any given day without Pomodoro Method. Spend just as much time, but use this time-management system and track if you’ve done more at the end of the day than you suspect you would have otherwise.
As with any habit building, start small to ensure you stick to it long enough to see results. Setting out to do 24 Pomodoro sessions will only make you overwhelmed. Walk before you run!
Best Pomodoro Timers
No, you don’t need to buy a tomato-shaped timer to be successful at Pomodoro Method! All you need is well… a timer and commitment (of course!). When choosing a timer, there are a couple of options to consider, all with their advantages and disadvantages:
- Timer on Your Phone. The most obvious option of all, but also the one that we recommend least. It will also require you to spend time unlocking your phone and setting the timer for your work sessions and breaks. More importantly, the Pomodoro technique requires deep concentration, and having your phone nearby (even on mute) may be a detriment to your focus.
- A Pomodoro Timer App On Your Phone. The benefit of a dedicated Pomodoro app, like Pomodor, is that once you hot play, it automatically starts cycling through sessions. However, most apps have a countdown displaying on the screen, which simply poses a distraction if you keep checking how long you have left until your next break. If you must use it, make sure to place your phone behind you, so that you don’t feel the constant need to look at the screen.
- Desktop Extention. Many of our tasks in the modern day and age take place on our laptops. And there are plenty of extensions that you can install to help you implement the Pomodoro system if you are working on your laptop. Whilst many display the overlay countdown in the corner of the screen, I personally find it distracting, so I prefer the ones that you can hide.
- Voice-controlled devices such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Using your smart device to track your Pomodoros is a great productivity hack. You can set timers manually in bulk (timers for 25 minutes, 30 minutes, 55 minutes, 60 minutes, 65 minutes and so on). Or you can install a skill/app on your device through the app (like Tomato Helper on Amazon Alexa – there’s a silent timer option too).
- Kitchen timer. Just grab a kitchen timer that you have! Just make sure you can focus through any noises that it may make (we prefer silent digital ones).
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Whilst the Pomodoro Method is extremely simple, there are a few things you can do to make you more successful in using it.
- Find a quiet place to work away from as many distractions as you can. This way you will only need to deal with self-inflicted distractions.
- If your task doesn’t involve working on a computer or your phone, keep them out of sight for your 25-minute intervals.
- If you are working on your computer, only open documents, website pages and apps that you will contribute to completing the task.
- If you are working on your phone, turn off any notifications from social media/ news apps before you start your Pomodoro cycles. If you have to, sign out on all your accounts.
- If you expect your task to take less than 25 minutes, batch smaller tasks together, so you know exactly what to start next once you complete a task.
- Make sure to stop work as the timer rings. Keep a notepad nearby to take a quick note of where you stopped or any ideas that you need to implement in the next work session. Taking structured breaks will ensure that you don’t work past your best efficiency levels.
- On your breaks, leave the work area, change the scenery and only come back for your next work session.
- Keep water and anything else you might need (tissues, reading glasses, credit cards, address book) within 25 minutes nearby.
- Stick to the Pomodoro Technique for at least a cumulative 30 days of using it to see if it works for you. It will take time to find a suitable time length for each Pomodoro and find your own rhythm.
Personal Experience Using The Pomodoro Method
I first started using Pomodoro in April 2022, so at the time of writing this post, I’ve stuck with it for 6 months. Having started with 25-minute sessions, I faced three main struggles in my first month:
- Stopping Multitasking. I’m a self-confessed multi-tasker (and a proud one too). For years, I’ve played music, and had Netflix as a background noise being able to capture the essence of the program whilst completing other tasks at the same time. Focusing on a single task made me feel like I am missing out on the fun part of work (a.k.a. fun background noise). I felt that I could do more Pomodoros without getting bored if I had something entertaining on the go simultaneously. However, having tracked the progress that I made in the same amount of time on similar tasks, I am 100% convinced that deep focus aids in completing tasks much quicker (my estimate is an average 15% reduction in time taken).
- Distractions were difficult to ignore. I do most of my work on my laptop and various notifications kept popping up, giving me the sense of urgency to see what the new email was about or the desire to know what was behind that news headline that popped up in the corner of my screen. Once I turned all notifications off, I was a lot less distracted.
- Stopping At The Peak of Your Work Session. I started with typical 25-minute work sessions and soon realised that this period of time is too short for some reoccurring tasks I have on my list. For some tasks, like writing an article, I felt frustrated when I had to stop midway through the paragraph and then frantically scribbled down the notes not to forget where I was going with my thought process, which took up half of my short break time. With writing, it also took me longer to get back into the groove when I started my next Pomodoro. I have since segmented the tasks into the more and less enjoyable ones, and increased the deep work time to 40 minutes for the former and kept 25 minutes for the latter.
Final Words: Should You Use The Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a great concept that has been around for years and successfully implemented by individuals, large corporations and universities, but it does require discipline and commitment to implement. If you can stick with it, it can be extremely effective, especially for individuals who struggle with attention span and are easily distracted. If you try the Pomodoro Technique, don’t expect the first day to be easy because it takes time to adjust to the new ways of working.
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