Increase productivity with the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a good method to accomplish tasks in a focused way. If you integrate this technique into your daily routine, you will most probably achieve your goals earlier than if you would do your tasks half-heartedly.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a management method (invented by Francesco Cirillo), which enables you to keep focused on your tasks. A timer is set (25 minutes), and during this time you have to work 100% concentratedly on a task. If you get distracted or do something completely different, the timer is reset and you try again to keep your focus for 25 minutes.
Many people find it very motivating to count their Poms (short for Pomodoro) for each day. The Habitica group ExtraBoost launches weekly challenges, which make you count your poms during 3 days.
How can you apply the Pomodoro Technique?
Firstly, you need to ensure that you won't get distracted in your environment. If you have a job where you get phone calls often, or you have children in your household, of course it is very difficult to achieve a quiet environment. But inform the people around you about your use of this technique. Maybe they want to try the technique for themselves, which would lead to a bit more tranquility as a side effect. Then you choose a task that needs to be done and proceed as follows:
- Set a timer to 25 minutes
- Work on one task for 25 minutes
- After the timer has run out, take a break of 3-5 minutes
Repeat this until the task is done. However, there is still a small exception. Once you've done 4 Poms in a row, this is called a set, you can take a longer break (15-30 minutes).
For the whole duration of your use of the Pomodoro Technique, you can keep a tally of the Poms you did. Thus, you can see on which tasks you have worked the longest respectively shortest time. After all, recording your success is very motivational. Keeping a diary can also help with this.
What timer should you use?
The inventor of this method recommends a ticking egg timer. The ticking is supposed to remind you that you should keep working on a task and not interrupt it. And the alarm rings in the break. Unfortunately, egg timers are not suited for the office, as they might disturb your colleagues, and productivity generally decreases. Therefore, there are a lot of alternatives which are not disruptive and even can motivate the user of the method additionally.
Apps for smartphones and browsers
The probably most widely used method of measuring Poms are apps and browser plugins.
Here is a small selection:
With Forest App, you can plant a virtual tree per Pom done and create your own virtual forest in a playful way. For each tree planted, you gain points. These you can use to buy further tree species. While you are working on a Pom, you can´t open another app, lest the tree you just planted will die. Forest App is a good choice in either case if you get easily distracted by your smartphone‘s notifications. After all, you want to achieve something and use your time efficiently.
Brain Focus Productivity Timer
The Brain Focus Productivity Timer app, with its minimalist design, offers all basic requirements to measure your Poms. It is even possible to assign the individual Poms to specific tasks to get a better overview of the time invested.
With Toggl you can measure Poms for Habitica on a website, with an app or even with a browser plugin and assign them directly to tasks. It´s also possible to assign diverse tasks to a project. In addition to that, comprehensive statistics on time invested can be shown and analyzed.
Classical and simple timers
A real hourglass
For some people, an alarm after 25 minutes is very interruptive, because they could work even longer on the task. With an hourglass, you can always see, if you are allowed a break, or not. Like this, you can set your own pace without being forced to take a break.
Classical egg timer and timer
As already described above, the inventor of the Pomodoro Technique recommends using a simple egg timer. But also simple timers, like you can find them in old cellphones or wrist watches, are absolutely adequate.
What can you use the Pomodoro Technique for?
You can use Poms for any task you can imagine. Additionally, this technique has many positive side effects which help you accomplish routine or uncomfortable tasks.
If you have to pay bills, clean your flat or do other unpleasant tasks, this technique helps a lot. In many cases, you´re just having trouble starting on an uncomfortable task and procrastinate. While in fact it´s so easy. Just start! As soon as a timer is running, you work on the tasks right away. So, you just have to push a button to start.
Even if you have already built a habit of doing a certain task regularly, it can still motivate you to track your tasks. Whether you work a 9-5 job, are a student or even have to look for a job. If you have the goal in mind to accomplish a certain number of Poms per day, you get a veritable boost to keep the ball rolling. You shouldn´t use Poms as a kind of time stamp clock though. So, if you say, „After 16 Poms I can go home!“, you probably use this technique in a wrong way.
Hobbies and leisure
But even for tasks you like to do, it can help to build a structure in everyday life. If you for instance have planned to play an instrument for at least one hour, to sew for two hours or to do sports and then to read in a book for an hour, you are going to keep to these plans with great pleasure. Exactly because you set yourself a daily or weekly stint for a specific hobby, you will be able to improve in the respective hobby.
What can you do in the breaks?
When you have focused on one thing for a long while, it is recommended, to do the exact opposite in the break. If you did office work for a long time, you should be physically active. And if you have just done intense sports, a few minutes of meditation can give you balance.
Here are some suggestions:
Exercises (e. g. yoga, planks, sit-ups, push-ups, squats), meditation, breathing exercises (breathing deeply), practicing mindfulness, drawing, brain training/sudoku, lying, running, going to the toilet, stretching, looking out of the window, listening to music, drinking something/filling up water, playing with the smartphone, checking messages, analyzing the last Pom, taking care of the things that tried to interrupt you during your last Pom.
Reading in a book or a newspaper, watching internet videos or an episode of your favorite series, playing computer games, taking a walk, walking the dog, playing with animals or observing them, taking a nap (power napping), eating a snack, analysing your to-do list and determining your next task.
Tips & tricks
Using a stopwatch instead of a timer
An alarm and the resulting break can distract you quite a bit. If you are just having a run, an alarm might interrupt it rather quickly and the break might lead to complete loss of focus on your task. Therefore, sometimes it is better to use a stopwatch instead of a timer. You can see when you may take a break, but you aren´t forced to take it. Also, you can see how long you already have been working on the task, which can motivate you once more.
Using a timer for the breaks as well
During the break, you often forget time. You revel in thoughts or let entertainment media or other things you are just doing distract you too much. A timer for the break can help you regain focus. However, it is important not to ignore the timer, when the alarm goes off.
No distractions with addiction potential during the breaks
If you consume an excessive amount of entertainment media in your spare time and if you usually go to bed after the consumption, it´s a bad idea to do this in your breaks. The breaks might mutate into closing time and to-dos fall by the wayside. If you reinforce this with excuses such as „I didn´t even have any time left to do the tasks“, you only justify your own laziness.
Avoiding distractions beforehand
If you look at your smartphone, just because it makes a sound, it is advisable to turn WLAN/mobile internet off or mute the smartphone. If you don´t need the smartphone for the task in the works, it may as well stay in another room or disappear in a drawer. If you have an email program open, which fetches emails regularly, you should switch to manual fetching. If you have a timer or an hourglass right on your desk, you can explain the whys and hows to the people in your environment and ask them to not disturb during those times.
What to do if you get distracted?
If you get distracted, you should return to the task as soon as possible. It is very helpful to keep a notebook handy to write down the distraction. If you suddenly get an idea, if the boss comes by with new instructions or if someone has a question - write those things down and don´t let yourself get distracted too much by them. It can be helpful in this case to stop the timer briefly. However, if the distraction takes longer than a minute, the current Pom doesn´t count and you should reset the timer.