In the 21st century, procrastination is a bad habit people practice more often. It’s especially the case when you’re at your job working on a big project and get caught into many distractions taking place. If you’re working on a report due the next day, you may end up getting very little done if colleagues interrupt you throughout the day. Or worse, having your cell phone go off or seeing constant email notifications popping up on your computer screen. Any of these little interruptions can determine how much you can get a challenging task done on a given day. The outcome can be feeling some guilt and stressed over an unfinished project, and putting off important tasks at a later time.
Situations such as the ones mentioned above are what Francesco Cirillo experienced while he was in college. His struggles back then lead to creating a well-known time management technique known as the Pomodoro Technique. The term “Pomodoro” comes in a tomato-size timer where you set time limits working on specific tasks.
In this post, I’m going to discuss Cirillo’s book and his popular technique that’s helped save people time doing complicated tasks, while avoiding all the everyday distractions. I’ll talk about time setters, what to use when practicing this technique, internal and external distractions, and how to avoid distractions whenever you can.
25-Minute Time Blocks- Then 5-Minute Breaks
As mentioned earlier, the Pomodoro Technique refers to a tomato size timer that helps you keep track of your time doing complex tasks. Your work on assignments in 25-minute time blocks, followed by five-minute breaks, Small time blocks are better than longer ones since you’re not spending time much time on a task. Instead of blocking out an entire day to work on a project, break down the process in smaller time frames. Or as Cirillo suggests, do 25 minute work periods, then five minute breaks throughout the day while getting portions of a project done on a given day. Cirillo stresses that Pomodoro is always 25 minutes long; also, no half time, no 80% time spent on a task; it’s just a full 25-minute working period. If you happen to finish a job before the 25 minutes are up, stick with it and keep going. What else can you do with the spare five or ten minutes you have left? If you finished writing a report, proofread it to yourself and check for spelling or grammar errors. Especially when writing stories, you’ll probably find a couple of mistakes here and there that need corrections.
Breaks are essential if you want to make the most of your productive time useful. Cirillo suggests five minutes because your mind needs to rest briefly. Our brains can’t be working on challenging tasks all the time, so it’s necessary to give it a rest before getting back right into it again. Use breaks to get up and stretch, drink some water, or some walking in between to clear your mind before the next time block. Following this technique with the breaks in between can help you stay motivated while getting more done in a shorter period. After around four Pomodoro (roughly 100 minutes of working), Cirillo says to take a more extended break between 15-30 minutes. The longer breaks can be used to do things such as checking email, making a follow-up phone call to a client, or grabbing a quick bite to eat.
Tools To Practice The Pomodoro Technique
1.) A Timer
It doesn’t have to be a tomato-shaped timer that Cirillo demonstrates in his book. It can be an alarm clock, your smartphone, or a stopwatch if it’s more convenient for you to use. As long as you can set time limits for yourself, any timer device will work. When I practiced this technique, I used a regular alarm clock along with an app on my Mac book called “Red Hot Timer.” The app is useful when I’m doing work on the computer. Another useful timer that I recommend is called the Hexagon Rotating Timer. This timer allows you to rotate to different time sets while going at your own pace (Check out my video below for a brief description of the timer).
2.) To-Do Lists
a.) To-Do Today
This list includes tasks that you intend to get done today; in other words, the priorities you need to be put front and center before anything else. Once you put those tasks together, then separate them by how much time you think it’ll take you to complete those tasks. Will it take three Pomodoro (about 75 minutes of work), or 1 Pomodoro (25-minute time block)? It’s up to you.
Below is a shortlist I wrote out earlier.
From this list, these consist of tasks you want to get soon or maybe at some point down the road. If you cannot complete some tasks today because they may take much longer to do, then make some notes determining how long it will take you to do them when ready. So if there is a powerpoint presentation that you know, it’ll take a couple of days to finish, then divide it up into smaller units one day at a time. Would you instead get smaller groups done in a two-hour block instead of dragging it out for one full day? I think we know what the obvious choice would be- to go with the shorter time frame whenever possible.
These are distractions that can range from random thoughts scrolling around your mind or shopping online. Online shopping is widespread but can be tempting when you want to look up something you might want to buy now or later. But keep in mind, these internal distractions can end up taking a good 20-30 minutes away from accomplishing your work goals.
These distractions can range from colleagues interrupting you throughout the day, email notifications going off on your desktop, or smartphone notifications going off every couple of minutes.
Of course, interruptions by colleagues or your manager are inevitable, but keep in mind that you can control these kinds of distractions. If one of your coworkers needs you to help them out, kindly say you’ll get with them in 5-10 minutes. Or it happens to be an informal chat about something outside of work (i.e., sports), definitely put that off until later. Those types of conversations can end up being a massive time-waster at work. Unless it’s urgent, getting a couple more minutes working on a project won’t hurt. Getting used to this practice will help be more disciplined with your time.
The Pomodoro Technique is unique and has proven to work for many people needing to manage their time wisely. Cirillo doesn’t stress enough the importance of practicing the technique as a whole; in other words, sticking to 25-minute time blocks and 5 minute breaks to follow. If you want to change the way you work and see real results, then stick to the time limits. Even I tried the technique for a few days, and it was quite challenging because my body wasn’t used to the time restrictions. But after sticking with it for a week, I noticed some changes in my daily routine and found I was getting more things done. So I benefited a great deal practicing the technique because I was doing tasks at a much slower rate than usual.
If you would like to try this out at the office, or interested in finding out more details, feel free to purchase Cirillo’s book, or go to his website for more in-depth training on the Pomodoro Technique.
Feel free to comment below. If you’ve tried the Pomodoro Technique before, please share your experience with it. Also, share this article and spread the word to someone you know.