There are only 24 hours in a day and one often thinks that there’s way too much to do and accomplish with not there being enough time to do so. And if that wasn’t enough, we’re guilty as charged with always procrastinating, being distracted, and being overconfident of easily finishing a task without being realistic. There are many tried and tested methods and guides to tell us how to manage our time better, and a popular one that has proved successful is the Pomodoro Technique. If you’ve tried it all, trying one more wouldn’t hurt.
So here’s why it works and how you should do it.
But first, who discovered it
The man to thank is Francesco Cirillo who developed the method in 1987. A university student back then, Cirillo, much like most of us, struggled to focus when it came to studies and completing his assignments. He found a kitchen timer that was shaped like a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) and set a two-minute timer where he challenged himself to stay focused for that duration. He then moved on to five, then 10, and found out that 25 minutes followed by a five-minute break was the optimal time. His findings revealed that anything less was too short an interval to get anything done, while an hour-long interval was way too long. And that’s when and how the Pomodoro Technique was born.
And what he learnt
Cirillo realised that instead of time being something that makes him anxious, it can be channelled and used to one’s advantage. This technique trains people to focus on tasks by reducing the length of time they take to maintain that focus and giving them breaks to switch off after their efforts. Doing so eliminates procrastination as well as ensures that they focus on one task at a time, two things that delay productivity.
Here’s what you got to do
1) Chalk out a to-do list and choose a task to complete.
2) Set the timer to 25 minutes.
3) Work on the task and focus on it until the timer rings
4) Take a short break of five minutes
5) Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4.
Using the Pomodoro method, you break your workday into 25-minute focus periods followed by five-minute breaks. Each of these focus periods plus a break period is called a Pomodoro.
6) After four pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
How to make this work better?
An effective way to do so is by breaking down tasks that take more than four pomodoros into smaller parts. This way, you’ll be able to track your progress. Furthermore, your day will have tasks that get done well within one pomodoro. So try squeezing in such small tasks so that you spend the entirety of the 25 minutes.
Checking your phone or laptop for any texts and messages, or attending to something else is something to be done for later. Not during those 25 minutes. There simply cannot be any distraction.
Plan your tasks: It always helps when you know what you’re going to do with your time as it helps you get in the heart of the action without wasting any time.
Do take your breaks (they’re there for a reason): This is where you have a snack, get up from your seat and move away from the screen to take a short walk. Attend to anything that you put on the side when you were completing your task in those 25 minutes.
Adjust the timings: If 25 minutes doesn’t go well with you, there’s ample scope for you to change the length of your focus period and breaks until you hit the sweet spot. Remember, the goal is to delegate chunks of your time where you just focus as well as take breaks in between to relax.
So, how does it help?
For starters, it encourages you to be focused on your task and stops you from getting distracted. The most important benefit is that it helps you get started as one might feel lost or overwhelmed when they don’t know what to do and where to start from. The Pomodoro Technique brings a lot of structure to your life and makes you more organised than before as you tackle one thing at a time. Add to that, it makes you more efficient and makes you feel accountable as you go about completing a task. Implementing the Pomodoro Technique into your life also helps reduce stress and anxiety as you now have a structure to your day where you’re in control as you know what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.
And are there any drawbacks?
No method or technique is fool-proof. So is this one. The presence of things being fixed can make someone feel boxed and think that things are way too rigid and regimented. Also, a person can get more stressed if a particular task takes longer than the 25 minutes or stipulated time. Even the reverse holds as one might wonder what to do if they finish before the 25 minutes. The most important thing for this method to work is also the main reason why it doesn’t—external factors. How does one account for the things that aren’t in our control (ad-hoc tasks, colleagues demanding your attention at work, an email that requires your urgent attention)?