Have you ever heard the phrase, “Writing is easy; just open a vein and bleed.”? I am not sure who coined that phrase, I believe it is debatable. But regardless, even those who love writing and recognize its power to change the world sometimes experience burnout. (And if you don’t, please share where you get your magic powers from.)
A few weeks ago I met my brother at a local coffee shop to co-work. I was working to meet several deadlines and, come to find out, so was he. As we sipped our soy lattes and shared a vegan double-chocolate muffin, he explained to me the method he has been using to maximize productivity and manage his time: The Pomodoro Technique.
Isn’t pomodoro a variety of tomato? Yes, indeed it is. And that will soon make sense.
What is the Pomodoro technique?
It is my understanding that the method of working was first developed by Francesco Cirillo. They were struggling to remain focused and meet their multiple deadlines during college. It occurred to them that if they simply committed to focused work for set amounts of time, their productivity soared. Encouraged by results, they found a tomato shaped kitchen timer and started using it to time their work sessions. Hence the name, the Pomodoro technique.
The method is especially helpful for those who are feeling overwhelmed by their to-do lists, writers, students and procrastinators. But the technique can benefit everyone who is striving to maximize their productivity without losing their minds. And the best part, the method is totally egalitarian. One doesn’t need to read a book about the technique to understand it, or purchase special equipment to utilize it. Literally anyone with access to a clock, preferably a timer, can use the Pomodoro method.
Below, see the four steps of the Pomodoro technique:
- First, decide which task you are going to tackle. My brother says that he often goes with the task he is least motivated to complete. Personally, I let my intuition decide. Whatever I’m most stressed out about, I’ll probably start there. So really, there are no rules, just find what works for you.
- Set the timer to 25 minutes. If you have a tomato timer, cool. But we just use our phones.
- Work on the chosen task until the 25 minute timer goes off.
- Take a five minute break. We use this opportunity for bathroom breaks, stretching, checking our phones and small talk.
And then repeat for as long as you need to complete everything you need to do for the day. After a few successful rounds- the traditional method says four- take a longer break. You earned it.
Why it works so well:
Realistically, 25 minutes is a tiny blip of time, but it’s everything when we direct our attention to addressing specific tasks. The incorporation of frequent breaks staves off mental fatigue and keeps you motivated. Pomodoro feels like working with time, rather than against it.
The 25-minute work sessions are the star of the show with this method, but there are some things to keep in mind as well. First, I find it helpful to make a list of everything I want to accomplish. Smaller tasks, like scheduling a dog grooming appointment or renewing car registration online, should be grouped together and completed during one 25-minute Pomodoro. Second, make sure you have broken down your complex tasks into smaller, manageable tasks. Otherwise, you may find you use your first Pomodoro on just figuring out where to start. And last, you must commit to the Pomodoro once it begins. Ignore your phone and emails. Those tasks can be addressed during another Pomodoro, or on your break. And even if you finish a task during a Pomodoro, remain focused until the timer sounds.
Commitment is critical for the Pomodoro method to work. But you’ve got this.
What is funny about this technique is it is so simple. Like, why didn’t I think of this? But it really does work. Now that I’m using Pomodoro, I don’t ever think I’ll stop. Work smarter, not harder, right?
What do you think, will you give this magical method a try?
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Photo: Sebastian Pereanu via Unsplash