The Pomodoro Technique and Why You Should Try It


Pomodoro: Italian. n. Tomato


You may be wondering, Traci, this is primarily a writing blog, why are you telling us the Italian word for tomato and what the heck does it have to do with writing? Believe me, it all comes together and makes sense. Now, let me tell you a little story about a man named Francesco Cirillo.

Back in the late 80s, Cirillo was a college student who could not manage the organization of his time. Between studying, classes, work, exams, and all the other things students go through, he was left with a whirlwind of work and could not figure out a way to get things done. Eventually, through studying people, trials, and errors, he realized that when he would try to concentrate on something, there would be distractions. He would feed into the distraction and next thing you know, time has flown by and he has accomplished nothing. Frustrated with his lack of progress, he made a bet with himself. He would study for ten minutes, no interruptions, no distractions. In order to do this, he used a little pomodoro (tomato) timer.!

Of course things did not go perfectly for Cirillo that first time, but he kept trying and eventually came up with what is now popularly called the Pomodoro Technique.

There are six main steps to using the Pomodoro Technique.

1. Pick a task

In order to be the most productive, you need to pick one activity to do. It can be anything: writing, folding clothes, exercise, anything you want. Just pick one thing that will have the whole of your attention. Do not try to split your sprint into different activities, that will do nothing but cause your mind split its attention, thus defeating the purpose. So pick one activity and stick with that activity.

2. Set the timer for 25 minutes

Most pomodoros last or 25 minutes. Honestly, you do not have to do this part. Some people do better with more time and some with less. It will throw off the rhythm of the schedule, but I believe your optimum productivity time is more important than adhering strictly to a single technique. That being said, I would strongly recommend at least starting with the 25-minute sprints and see how they work for you.

3. Work on ONLY the task until the timer goes off

Focus is the key to this part. You have to ignore all distractions and work straight through the activity until the timer goes off. I would suggest shutting off the TV, phone ringer, internet, anything that could distract you. You will only do the activity you have selected and give that your full attention for the entire 25 minutes.

4. When you complete the task, check it off your list

Once that timer goes off, you have get to have the satisfaction of checking the task off of your list. Doing so can release dopamines in your brain that makes you feel good about accomplishing something and makes you want to do it again. So reward yourself! It doesn’t have to be a literal check. I like giving myself star stickers.

5. Take a short break

Five minutes. Run to the bathroom. Get a drink of water. Make some more coffee. Take a breath. Use these five minutes to reset yourself before diving back into a sprint.

6. Do four Pomodoros, then take a longer break

Do steps one through five three more times for a total of four pomodoros (about 2 hours). After this, feel free to take a long break. Usually, this will be between fifteen and thirty minutes. You can use this time to give yourself a chance to check your email or scroll social media. Do something to relax. After you’ve had your break, go back to step one and do it all over again!

There are a ton of apps out there to help you. You can use something as simple as a free timer or use one of many productivity apps. I have two suggestions for apps I use.

On my Mac, I use an app called Be Focused. I have only used the free version of the app, but it is sufficient for my needs. The free version allows you to set sprints for 25 minutes, then automatically resets the timer for a five-minute break. You can even break down what project you are working on and measure how many sprints you are doing for it.

On my phone, I use the Productivity Challenge app. It is available on Android and iOS. This app is a bit more interesting. You have to average a certain amount of time spent working to reach different levels. If you are in the app and not sprinting, it will occasionally send you scoldings. If you complete sprints, it will give you encouragements. It is a minor form of gamification and I love it.

The Pomodoro Technique may not be a fit for everyone, but I am sure it will work for a lot of people. I recommend at least trying it.

Have you tried it before? What was your results? If not, do you have another techinique you use? Share all your thoughts in the comments below.

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