Productivity Methods Series: The Pomodoro Technique

Parkinson’s law says that work expands to fill up the time available for its completion. The more time you assign to a task, the longer it takes to complete the task.

37 comments

The Pomodoro Technique
Set your timer for 25 minutes and start working!

Photo source: Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Parkinson’s law says that work expands to fill up the time available for its completion. The more time you assign to a task, the longer it takes to complete the task.

That’s why (most of) you do not finish your work until the deadline comes around.

You push it for later or drag it along until there’s no time left. Sometimes, you miss deadlines because you’re waiting for that sense of urgency to descend upon you to motivate you to work.

How can you develop a more disciplined approach to work?

One way is to use the Pomodoro Technique or variations of it.


What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a task management approach that requires you to complete tasks in specific boxes of time. You take a break after each pocket of focused time and after a few sessions, you take a longer break to rest your fatigued brain.

“Pomodoro” means “tomato” in Italian. The technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo when he was a university student in the late 1980s to help him complete his assignments. He used an egg timer shaped like a tomato, hence the name.

Don’t be fooled by the simple nature of the Pomodoro Technique. It can help you improve focus and build concentration.

In the context of this technique, a “pomodoro” is an inseparable unit of time and effort. It represents a focused session of work.


Who will benefit from the Pomodoro Technique?

You need the Pomodoro Technique if:

  • you get easily distracted and allow these distractions to waste the entire day
  • you underestimate the time required to complete your tasks, thus taking longer
  • you perform a lot of open-ended work such as writing, coding, or studying
  • you feel overwhelmed by a large number of tasks on your to-do list
  • you are unable to start work because your tasks seem too large
  • you sit at your desk all day but have little to show for it by the end

If any of this sounds like you, please read ahead.


The 6 steps of the Pomodoro Technique

At its core, the Pomodoro Technique has six steps:

  1. Select a task from your to-do list.

You can break down larger tasks into smaller sub-tasks to make them easier to complete. Small and similar tasks such as checking email or social media can be clubbed to be completed in one pomodoro.

2. Set your timer for 25 minutes.

Use a physical or digital timer. Set it to ring after 25 minutes. This period is one pomodoro.

3. Work on the task.

Focus on your work for 25 minutes. No distractions (gadgets, people, noises) allowed.

4. Check the task on your to-do list.

When the timer rings, place a check mark on your pomodoro.

5. Take a 5-minute break.

Rest for five minutes away from your place of work. Eat a snack, listen to a song, take a quick walk, or even a power nap.

6. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break.

You can take a 25-30 minute break after working through four pomodoros.

pomodoro timer
Physical timer

Photo source: Photo by Tristan Gassert on Unsplash

A common objection to this technique is that 25 minutes may not be enough to complete a task and the 5-minute break does more harm than good. This is true of tasks that require “creative flow,” such as writing or composing music.

You can use Pomodoro variations to help you tweak the technique to suit your needs.

  • Try working for 90 minutes at a stretch and then taking a 30-minute break, in tune with the body’s ultradian rhythms.

  • If you work from home, try to fit pomodoros around your household tasks. For instance, work on a task until your washing machine completes its wash cycle.

  • A Desktime study has suggested that 52 minutes on, 17 minutes off could be the ideal mix.

What happens if you get interrupted?

An important point to note is that you are not allowed to entertain any interruptions during a pomodoro.

You cannot have a quick chat with a colleague or a family member.

You cannot check social media or your emails.

You cannot have a 5-minute phone call to finish up a trivial task.

No interruptions, whatsoever.

But life isn’t always so convenient, is it? You do have interruptions.

According to Cirillo, you have two choices:

  • You abandon the pomodoro and attend to the interruption. Later, you start another pomodoro to complete your task.

Or,

  • You use the INSC (Inform, Negotiation, Schedule, and Call back) strategy:

a) Inform the interrupting party that you are busy and cannot attend to their request right away.

b) Negotiate a later time when you will attend to their request.

c) Schedule a meeting at the agreed time.

d) Call back the person after you have completed your pomodoro.

pomodoro distractions
Don’t get distracted by social media or emails!

Photo source: Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

Why can’t you just attend to a request during a pomodoro, especially if it’s a small one?

Because it takes time to regain focus — at least 23 minutes — after an interruption.

That’s almost the length of an entire pomodoro!

You may think you’re great at task switching but you don’t realize that you aren’t working at your full potential until after 20 minutes of the interruption.

Think about it. Haven’t you gotten more and better quality work done when in deep focus for a long time?


What are the benefits of the Pomodoro Technique?

There are several!

  • Helps you accurately estimate the time taken for each task, allowing you to plan better
  • Improves your concentration over time
  • Teaches you to manage interruptions without losing focus
  • Helps you tackle task overwhelm by breaking large tasks into manageable chunks
  • Builds motivation by allowing you to complete big tasks bit by bit
  • Gets you over “starting trouble” with difficult, challenging, or big tasks
  • Reduces stress over deadlines by helping you get tasks done gradually


Tips to use the Pomodoro Technique effectively

Tools and techniques are only as good as the person using them.

Here are some tips to help you leverage the Pomodoro Technique better:

a) If you finish your task before the timer rings, use the remaining time to either review your work or spend it in overlearning – improving your skills and knowledge. Read industry blogs or research papers, finish a course module, or conduct research for another task.

b) When you begin a fresh pomodoro, challenge yourself to do better than the previous one. Review your work at the end of each pomodoro, compare and analzye.

c) Schedule no more than 12-15 pomodoros in a day. Push the less important tasks to the next day.

d) You don’t have to schedule the whole work day into pomodoros. Use the morning to get in a few hours of uninterrupted work using pomodoros and continue with the rest of the day as usual.

e) Use 15 minutes at the end of your day to plan the next day’s tasks. Or use the first 15 minutes of your day to plan the tasks for the day.

f) If your work involves looking into a screen, get away from it during your break. Allow your eyes and brain to refresh and recharge.

g) If social media easily distracts you, use apps to block them while you work in pomodoros.

Enjoy this lovely infographic on the Pomodoro Technique:

THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE
Here’s one way to organize your time and workflow to get the most out of your workday and get things done without killing yourself.
Source: www.elvindantes.com

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla and powered by Deyga.

I’m taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa.

37 comments on “Productivity Methods Series: The Pomodoro Technique”

  1. I must say all your posts are well researched, informative and insightful. I did not know about promodoro technique and it is interesting I must say. I will surely implement this at the workplace.

  2. As always, a well-researched and detailed post, Satabdi. Somehow Pomodoro technique does not work for me. I find it difficult to have a time-bound switch on and off. Although it works great for tedious tasks.

  3. World is full of productivity hacks. But this one definitely works. Pomodoro technique has really worked for me. Another layer to it would be to pick easier tasks first. That boosts your confidence for the day to come.

  4. A very detailed post. I have heard about this from my daughter. I am too old for these productivity hacks but I like to stay updated 🙂

  5. Wow, pomdoro the name itself is unique. The way it works really boost the productivity specially for us (working moms). Love your details post n the way it work. I really need this.

  6. I would say start with the difficult tasks first. Break them down into shorter tasks so you feel confident when you complete a certain percentage of the task and you can see yourself bearing completion.

  7. I love how I always learn something new each time I stop by your blog, Satabdi. I am easily distracted and that annoys me immensely. Guess I read this post at the right time. I am surely hoping to give this a try.

  8. A well-researched and detailed post. I am sure many of us who keep putting away tasks till the last minute, like completing tasks for blog challenges 🙂 , will immensely benefit from it.

  9. It’s a well researched post that focuses on how to get work done efficiently. All the details are good enough for preparing us to be a better person.

  10. Very well researched post. I liked that way you write your posts. words are backed by illustrations and examples. Keep writing.

  11. Though this technique is new to me but it seems like this is for me. Loved the details you mentioned here. It definitely going to help people like me who need some discipline to complete their task.

  12. Thank you for reading! I can’t believe you need to instill discipline in your work. Your blog is amazing! And you can’t have such a perfect output without working hard and in a disciplined way!

  13. Thank you for your kind words, Mayuri! Let me know if it helped you. I use a variation of this technique. A 60 min work – 15 min break split works well for me.

  14. Thank you Bhawna! You’re right — it’s really helpful for working moms who have to make the best use of each available pocket of time.

  15. Thank you for reading! I don’t think you need any productivity techniques. It’s for people like me who get easily distracted by the latest shiny object in the vicinity. 🙂

  16. Thank you, Ritu! I prefer to use a 60 min work – 15 min rest split to write my blog posts. (I’m a content writer who primarily writes blog posts.) It helps me box in my research time which would otherwise stretch forever.

  17. Thank you for reading! It’s basically common sense. Work with full focus for as long as your concentration span will allow and then give your brain some rest. Repeat until your tasks are done.

    Procrastination probably has many reasons like tasks being too difficult or too long. Or simply having trouble getting started because of low motivation.

    People can modify this technique to suit their concentration spans. I use a 60 min work – 15 min rest split.

  18. This is a new name for me. Your detailed post is gonna help me a lot. I think shorter span is better . Atleast we will be able to complete a task.

  19. Wow, Satabdi..excellent post as usual…I am the greatest procrastinator..:) I am sure these tips will help me finish the work on time…

  20. This is a fantastic technique. I am going to save this for future reference as well and going to share your blog post link with my students as well.

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