With email, social media and smartphones constantly providing distractions, it can be nearly impossible to give any task the attention it deserves. If you need a way to manage time better and stay focused throughout your work day, the Pomodoro technique could provide the right framework.
The brainchild of Francesco Cirillo, a developer and entrepreneur who used a “tomato shaped timer” to track his work time while at university, this time management tool breaks otherwise overwhelming jobs down into smaller chunks and addresses each one for a specific amount of time.
There are four basic “rules” to the technique:
• Work on a given task for 25 minutes
• Take a break for five minutes to do something unrelated to work
• Repeat the cycle four times for a total of 100 minutes of work and 15 minutes of rest
• Take a longer 15- to 20-minute break
This cycle is repeated throughout the day as many times as you feel is necessary. Whenever you complete a pomodoro, you mark it off with an X and note what distractions attempted to steal your attention.
Since the whole point of working in pomodoro’s is to be less distracted, it’s a good idea to do a little planning before you get started so that you stay on track.
Start by choosing how many pomodoro’s you want to do each day. Don’t set the bar too high at first. Go for a number you know you can reach before gradually adding chunks of time until you reach a comfortable level of productivity. If you start to feel overwhelmed, reduce the number and be more diligent about potential distractions.
If you’re the type who does well with having your day lined up and tracked with the help of one or more apps, you might find it helpful to download a dedicated timer for your pomodoro intervals. Some apps allow you to set custom times for your work periods depending on personal preference. Task management apps make it easier to prioritize what to work on during each chunk of time, and a calendar app designed to sync with your existing iCalendar or Google Calendar listings helps you schedule pomodoro’s around prior commitments.
Breaks between pomodoros are perfect for getting in quick walks, catching up with co-workers at the water cooler or sneaking in a short cubicle workout. There’s even nothing wrong with pulling out your phone and playing the game you used to be distracted by. With your mind refreshed, it should be easier to focus on work for another 25 minutes.
According to the official Pomodoro website, it can take anywhere from seven to 20 days to get used to using the technique. It doesn’t hurt to give it a try and see how your productivity improves over that short period of time. Track your progress to determine if working in pomodoro’s is right for you.
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