Improve your productivity: An introduction to the Pomodoro Technique

If you've found working from home tough, this tried-and-tested method is an effective way to boost your output and get through that stack of tasks.


With living rooms across the country now our new temporary workspaces, you may have found it difficult adapting to your daily duties outside of the office as a result. If procrastination levels have been high and the pile of tasks mounting up show no sign of getting completed, then it may be a good time to check out the Pomodoro Technique.

As popular as it is proven, Pomodoro is a time management technique that can help you to reduce distractions, improve your focus and get things done in short bursts. If your role is the kind of job where you need to deliver and produce, then it’s a method that can see huge benefits when implemented.

If you’ve been looking to improve your working techniques, then this article is here to help. We’ll jump into what the Pomodoro Technique is, how you can use it, and the benefits you’ll see after putting it into practice.

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What is the Pomodoro Technique?

Invented in the late 1980s by developer and entrepreneur Francisco Cirillo, and named after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a student; the Pomodoro Technique is straightforward. Whenever you have a large set of tasks to complete, break down the tasks into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) which are then spaced out by small breaks.

 

woman working at home

The technique in full looks something like this:

  • Choose a task that you want to complete.
  • Focus and minimise distractions. Close your emails and social media, keep your phone out of view, and close your office door. Narrowing your focus by eliminating distractions is a key part of Pomodoro.
  • Set your timer for 25 minutes and start working. Stick to the task at hand for the allotted time, taking note of any distractions that present themselves.
  • Take a short break. Get up from your desk, grab a drink and stretch your legs.
  • Repeat the process.
  • After your fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break of 20 minutes.

 

How does the Pomodoro Technique work?

The main idea behind Pomodoro is that the timer provides a sense of urgency. How many times have you thought you have plenty of time through the day to complete something, only to see that time go to waste through distractions and procrastination? With the timer, however, you know you only have 25 minutes to make as much progress on a task as possible.

Additionally, by taking frequent breaks, it helps to alleviate that burnt-out feeling that we get at the end of the day. The constantly-ticking timer is there as a reminder that, using the Pomodoro Technique, it’s simply not possible to spend hours in front of your desk as you previously would.

Since a Pomodoro is an indivisible unit of work, it means that if you’re distracted by a family member or flatmate (with regards to the current situation) or a colleague, then you either have to save your work, end the Pomodoro there and begin another later, or “postpone” the distraction until you’ve completed your 25-minute Pomodoro.

man working at home office

If you can do the latter, then Cirillo suggests the “inform, negotiate and call back” strategy, as follows:

  1. Inform the other person that you’re working on something right now.
  2. Negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue in a timely manner.
  3. Schedule the follow-up immediately.
  4. Call back the other party once your Pomodoro is complete and you’re free to tackle their issue.

With that said, while some distractions will require immediate attention, not all distractions do. It’s perfectly fine to tell your family member, flatmate or colleague that you’re currently working and will get back to them in ten minutes (or however long). What’s important is that the rhythm of your work isn’t disrupted.

 

What are the benefits of the Pomodoro Technique?

Manage distractions and control your time

The technique allows you to take control of your time. Along with the “inform, negotiate and call back” strategy which aids in managing your distractions, internal distractions in the form of checking Twitter or looking at the news should be taken note of during each Pomodoro. Once your break begins, you can then help yourself to all the distractions you listed without feeling guilty about it.

Increase accountability

After each Pomodoro, take a note of everything that you’ve accomplished. A record of your work and productivity can paint an impressive picture, showing what you achieved with your time and give you something to better when your next Pomodoro begins.

woman at home office

Improve weekly and quarterly planning

This record of your accomplishments will make it easier to plan effectively in the future. That means that, in time, you’ll be able to estimate how many Pomodoro sessions you’ll need to complete a certain project. Say, for instance, there’s a blog post to write; it’d perhaps take one Pomodoro session to do the appropriate research, another to outline the article, and a third to write it.

This also allows you to better manage both yours and your colleagues’ expectations too. Instead of fooling yourself into thinking you can complete a 10-hour job in one day, you can use the technique to work out how many Pomodoro sessions and breaks it will take to get said job done instead. This means no more leaving things to the last minute, or frustration over missed deadlines.

Decrease back pain and mental fatigue

Whether you’re working from home or in the office, all those hours in front of your computer screen can take their toll in the form of back pain, eye strain and mental fatigue. The 25-minutes bursts of work that Pomodoro provides you with some respite from the pressure of sitting at your desk for hours on end. When it’s time for your break, be sure to get up and stretch your legs once in a while, and let the mind wander too; you’re always in a better position to a good job if you’re physically and mentally healthy.

Maintain motivation

Rather than slowing down as you approach the end of each Pomodoro session, the ticking clock provides you with an incentive to speed up and complete your task before the time’s up. Over time, these short bursts of motivation build up over and increase the amount of work you can get done too.

Improves willpower

Through these allotted timeslots, you won’t be tempted to have a quick look on Facebook or other time-draining activities. Think how many times you’ve promised yourself a quick perusal of your social media, only to find yourself having a chat with your mates about what’s on Netflix. Now that we’re working from home too, this is something that’s even easier to fall into. But each Pomodoro eliminates the temptation to do such things because you’ll be too focused on completing your work to give into distractions.

 

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