First developed in 1992 by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the simplest and most effective methods of time management.
A study conducted at the University of Illinois in 2008 showed that taking short breaks like those used in the Pomodoro Technique significantly increases productivity.
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Normally, mental focus declines over time. However, when subjects periodically shifted their attention to a secondary task, the decline in focus was averted.
On the surface, the Pomodoro Technique is simple. Set an egg timer for 25 minutes. During that time, work constantly on your chosen task with no distractions.
When the timer runs out, take a break for three to five minutes. Every fourth break is longer, lasting for 15 to 30 minutes. Simple enough, right? It is, and here are three key elements that will maximize your day.
One: Use A Physical Egg Timer
Most people are tempted to use the timer on a watch or cell phone, but there’s a reason why the Pomodoro Technique specifically recommends an egg timer. First, the act of physically winding up the timer when preparing to begin signifies your determination to complete the task at hand.
A French study on brain activity found that meaningful actions like this engage the frontal lobe, which controls attention and decision-making.
A physical timer also makes a ticking sound as it winds down. This is a constant reminder that you need to be focused on your task. If you become tempted to engage with a distraction, the ticking can remind you what you’re supposed to be doing. The timer also displays the time remaining without requiring you to divert your focus like unlocking a phone would.
Two: Plan Your Tasks And Record Results
Before beginning the Pomodoro Technique, make a simple to-do list. Decide what tasks you’re going to complete and the order in which you’re going to complete them.
Each time you finish a 25-minute Pomodoro, make a mark next to the task, then disengage and begin your break.
At the end of the day, look over this list and examine the number of Pomodoros each task required. This allows you to analyze the amount of time and effort you spent on each task. If the number of Pomodoros spent on a task seems to high, set a goal to reduce that number the next time you perform a similar activity.
Three: Examine And Avoid Interruptions
Despite the short period of focus required, there will inevitably be things that might interrupt a Pomodoro. We’ll separate these interruptions into two types: internal and external.
Internal interruptions come from your own mind. In the middle of a Pomodoro, you might suddenly think of another task you need to complete. Instead of allowing this task to interrupt your focus, take a moment to add the new task to your to-do list, and then return to what you were originally working on.
There are few tasks so urgent that they can’t wait until the end of the current Pomodoro. Writing down the task allows you to acknowledge its importance without immediately engaging with it and interrupting your focus.
External interruptions can be more complicated. While disengaging from your own thoughts can be difficult at times, disengaging from another person can seem rude or awkward.
Instead of simply choosing not to be interrupted, you must actively protect the Pomodoro. Some sources of external interruptions can be handled easily. Turning off audio notifications for new emails prevents them from distracting you.
Similarly, you can allow any phone calls you receive during a Pomodoro to go to voicemail. Protecting a Pomodoro from other people can be more difficult, but most people will understand if you tell them you can’t be interrupted now.
You can also look at your timer and inform them when your next break will be, asking them to return then or assuring them that you will seek them out at that time.
Applying The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique can take some getting used to, but the increase in productivity is very real and can be examined through your daily record.
Using short periods of uninterrupted focus helps to maintain your mental acuity over the course of the day and allows you to put off potential interruptions until you can deal with them all at once.
Depending on your circumstances, the Pomodoro Technique can be used every day or reserved for occasions when you need to get the most out of your time.