The Pomodoro Technique sounds simple. But, if you’re where I was when I started doing the work for my new book LIFESCALE, applying it may be incredibly difficult at first. But, trust me, it works. And the process does get easier.
A brief history-named for the easily recognizable Pomodoro kitchen timer (the one shaped like a small tomato), this time management technique was developed in the 80s by Italian Francesco Cirillo. The timer is used to break down your work into tightly focused 25-minute intervals. Though it sounds easily doable, it can prove a tremendous challenge for those of us who are tethered to our phones and emails.
The technique includes 6 basic steps:
- Choose one task
- Set the Pomodoro for 25 minutes.
- Focus exclusively on your assigned task.
- Stop when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- Take a 5 minute break before starting again.
- After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break of up to 30 minutes and use that time to check email, and follow up with callers, coworkers, etc.
It’s essential that you visualize the task you’re setting out to achieve beforehand, and that you avoid interruptions (including phone calls, bathroom breaks, etc.). If you are interrupted during a Pomodoro, start over. As you build up your capacity to focus, you can apply the Pomodoro technique for longer intervals. This technique will become more effective as you train yourself to block out emails and phone calls during the intervals. It also helps to make your intention clear to coworkers-you’re focusing on an important project and can’t be disturbed for 25 minutes.
After years of becoming increasingly distracted by technology and social media – to the point where I couldn’t accomplish much more than the simplest tasks – I realized I needed to regain my capacity to really focus. This simple exercise – which only requires a manual timer, pencil/pen, and paper – was a lifesaver.
Pomodoro is just one of the techniques I explore in LIFESCALE. It’s a journey we take together to recover (or even discover for the first time) the capacity to focus our minds and energy for extended periods of time. We will not only make up lost ground but uncover greater productivity and creativity than we’ve ever known before.
Productivity 101: A Primer to the Pomodoro Technique, by Alan Henry/Lifehacker/July 2, 2014