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. 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 time management technique known as the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique
In this post, I'm going to discuss Cirillo's book and its popular technique. The Pomodoro technique has helped save people time doing tasks while avoiding all the everyday distractions. I'll talk about time setters, what to use when practicing this technique. Also, I'll go into the differences between internal and external distractions, and how to avoid distractions whenever you can.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique refers to a tomato size timer that helps you keep track of your time doing tasks. You 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.
Stick to time & breaks
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. Use breaks to get up and stretch, or walk around to clear your mind before the next time block. 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.
The Pomodoro Technique: Tools
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.
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.
The Pomodoro Technique: Distractions
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. 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 has proven to work for many people managing 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, then stick to the time limits. Even I tried the technique for a few days, and it was quite challenging. But after sticking with it for a week, I noticed some changes 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, go to his website for more in-depth training on the Pomodoro Technique.
If you've tried the Pomodoro Technique before, please share your experience by leaving a comment below.
Check our Cirillo's book on the Pomodoro technique below!