Correct planning and time management have always been the key point for achieving a goal or completing a task. In this post, we will talk about one of the known time management techniques called “Pomodoro” invented by Francesco Cirillo, an Italian student who had performance issues because of poor time management skills.
Cirillo named the system “Pomodoro” after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work.
The methodology is simple: when faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and implies sufficient time for rest. With time it can even help improve concentration.
The Pomodoro Technique is probably one of the simplest productivity methods to implement. All you’ll need is a timer. The creator and his proponents encourage a low-tech approach, using a mechanical timer, paper, and pencil. The physical act of winding the timer confirms the user’s determination to start the task; ticking externalizes desire to complete the task; ringing announces a break. Flow and focus become associated with these physical stimuli.
However, the technique has inspired many software developers to release Pomodoro-based products. Play Market and App Store are full of Pomodoro apps, and the web has lots of sites to offer this time tracking method. It’s up to you to choose which method works better for you: manual or automated.
Here’s how to get started with Pomodoro in five steps:
- Choose a task to be accomplished.
- Set the timer to 25 minutes.
- Work on the task until the timer rings.
- Take a short break (5 minutes).
- Take a longer break (15-30 minutes) every 4 periods (aka pomodoros).
The “longer break” will make you feel recharged and ready to start another 25-minute work session. Repeat that process a few times over the course of a workday, and you actually get a lot accomplished — and took plenty of breaks to grab a cup of coffee or refill your water bottle in the process.
It’s important to mention that the goal of the technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on your focus and workflow. A pomodoro is indivisible; when interrupted during a pomodoro, either the pomodoro must be abandoned (the unfinished work left and a new one started later) or the other interrupting activity must be postponed.
The latter means if you’re distracted part-way by a parent or friend, coworker, ad-hoc meeting, or emergency, consider if it’s possible to postpone the distraction until the pomodoro is complete. If yes, Cirillo suggests the “inform, negotiate, schedule and call back” strategy:
- Inform the other (distracting) party that you’re working on something right now.
- Negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue in a timely manner.
- Schedule that follow-up immediately.
- Call back the other party when your Pomodoro is complete and you’re ready to tackle their issue.
Of course, not every distraction is that simple, and some things demand immediate attention — but not every distraction does. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to say: “I’m in the middle of something right now, but can I get back to you in… minutes?” Doing so doesn’t just keep you in the groove, it also gives you control over your workday.
Nonetheless, remember that Pomodoro is a productivity system, not a set of shackles. If you’re making headway and the timer goes off, it’s okay to pause the timer, finish what you’re doing and then take a break. The goal is to help you get into the zone and focus, but it’s also to remind you to take a break.
Also, keep in mind that Pomodoro is just one method, and it may or may not work for you. It’s flexible, but don’t try to shoehorn your work into it if it doesn’t fit. Productivity isn’t everything — it’s a means to an end, and a way to spend less time on what you have to do so you can put time to the things you want to do. If this method helps, go for it. If not, don’t force it.