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Time Management Basics: The Pomodoro Technique

Time-Management-Basics-The-Pomodoro-Technique

GTD and time management experts as well as professionals from numerous fields stand by The Pomodoro Technique as one of the best methods to get things done on time and manage procrastination and distractions. This simple technique is extremely useful for those looking to boost their personal and team productivity by eliminating interruptions and distractions at work. The main idea behind Pomodoro is to decrease work anxiety by breaking down the tasks at hand and doing them in small intervals of 25 minutes each. This intelligent breakdown of time allows the person to complete the task at hand in small chunks during which their attention is completely focused on the task, followed by a small break to refresh the mind, and then starting again. Each productive 25 minute period builds momentum, thereby increasing the feeling of productivity as well. This technique can be used by almost anyone, in any form of work setting. However, it’s most effective for people who have to work at a designated place and have trouble concentrating for long periods of time sitting at the same place. Let’s have a closer look at the technique:

You will need:

  1. A timer (also called a Pomodoro)
  2. A pen/pencil
  3. Paper
  4. Desktop Manager (optional)

The Pomodoro Technique has 5 steps to it:

Step 1: Pick a task

Step 2: Set your Pomodoro to 25 minutes

Step 3: Work until the Pomodoro rings

Step 4: Take a short break (roughly 5 minutes)

Step 5: After every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (15-20 minutes)

Here’s a detailed breakdown of each step:

Step 1: Pick a task

The first and most obvious step to getting things done is to identify what you need to get done. A lot of people use desktop manager softwares of applications to keep a track of their to-do lists. However, if you don’t have a software for this purpose, you can use a normal Excel sheet or even make your own to-do list for the day with a pen and paper, and pin it up at your desk. Write down everything that you need to do today, preferably in order of priority, starting with the most important and going down to the least important. Now take the first task from your list and assess it, how you will go about doing it and what all you will need to get it done.

Step 2: Set your Pomodoro to 25 minutes

The next step is to actually getting down to work and starting on the task you picked out in Step 1. For this you will need a timer which will be set to 25 minutes. You can use a physical timer, such as the Official Timer for the Pomodoro Technique which can be bought from Amazon.com for $5.90 or even a normal timer on your cellphone. To make it easier for those who work on their computers, there are a number of applications available on download that help with this technique. We recommend using cross platform applications such Focusbooster and Pomodairo or My Little Pomodoro for Mac available in the Apple App Store. The advantage of using a desktop timer is that it involves lesser hassle with setting the time on another timer and with these applications it is easy to monitor your Pomodoro progress.

Step 3: Work until the Pomodoro rings

With your task decided and timer set, it’s time to start working now. Start your timer and begin working on the task at hand, making sure that you have all your attention focused only on what you are doing. Don’t worry about the time; it’s not a test you’re taking. The time intervals only serve to better your attention span over successive Pomodoros. Be careful to not let your attention get diverted while you are working. A few dos and don’ts:

  • Focus on only ONE task at a time. Don’t mix up tasks and don’t think about the remaining tasks on your list.
  • If your Pomodoro rings and you haven’t completed the task yet, move it to the next Pomodoro. Don’t drop it or leave it incomplete.
  • Do not try to squeeze an extra 30 seconds to finish an almost complete task. If the timer rings, stop immediately, no matter how close you were to finishing it.
  • Once your task is finished, review it and check for any problems or mistakes. But make sure you aren’t stopping at 20 minutes. Make full use of the 25 minutes.

Step 4: Take a short break (roughly 5 minutes)

Once your Pomodoro rings after 25 minutes, take a short break to mentally refresh yourself. Do something entirely unrelated to your task at hand, listen to bit of music, go out for a bit of fresh air, use the bathroom or simply stretch at your seat. Again, make full use of the 5 minutes to attend to things you were unable to while working. It’s a good idea to remove yourself from your place of work to take your mind off the tasks still to be done, since it makes relaxing a lot easier. Desktop applications for Pomodoro automatically start the 5 minute break once your 25 minutes are done and set an alarm off for the same. Once your 5 minutes are over, start working again in the next interval of 25 minutes.

Step 5: After every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (15-20 minutes)

This is an important step and if done correctly, can determine the success of the first four steps as well. After every 4 Pomodoros, i.e. after four 25 minute intervals and 3 5 minute breaks in between them, you take a longer break of 15-20 minutes to refresh yourself. This time can be used to read something, check your phone, talk to people or even grab a quick bite if you’re hungry. Make sure you completely disengage yourself from your place of work and get a change of environment for the brief period, which will provide the much needed mental break as well and help you to get back to work with renewed concentration and focus.

The Pomodoro Technique is most beneficial for those with a low attention span. It helps them to break down their work so that tasks appear less daunting and productivity remains stable across time intervals. However, this technique is neither for everyone nor for every kind of task. Its usability and effectiveness depends to a large extent on the kind of task you wish to finish. If you’re looking at something which does require longer hours at work, then Pomodoro is not the way to go about doing it. Not every task can be broken down into small chunks because the attention and focus might get disrupted and affect the overall result.

Pomodoro can also be used right at the start of your day when you’re more likely to procrastinate and put off things. With this technique you’ll have your momentum going and may even choose to not break down further tasks because you’ve got the flow in your system and are able to work for longer time spans without losing focus. The best part of Pomodoro is that it can be put to use at any time of the day, for any task. The technique is at your disposal, use it the way you like it as long as it’s your productivity that’s increasing and your time that is being managed well.