- Do you feel like you have lots of things you need to do or should be doing, but you just can’t seem to get them done?
- Do you have trouble being productive and staying motivated to get your tasks completed?
- Do you find yourself getting distracted and end the day feeling like nothing was accomplished?
- Try tomatoes! That’s right try tomatoes.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that alternates focused working sessions with short breaks. The goals of this technique are to improve your ability to complete tasks by maintaining sustained focus on one task, and to reduce mental fatigue by intentionally resting between tasks. It was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. He was feeling overwhelmed and underproductive. So he decided to commit to 10 minutes of focused time on one task and he found a tomato shaped kitchen timer to keep him accountable for his 10 minutes of focused time. Tomato in Italian is pomodoro.
The technique is very simple:
- Make a to-do list and a get timer.
- Set your timer for 25 minutes and focus on a single task until the timer rings.
- When your session ends, mark off one pomodoro and record what you completed.
- Then enjoy a five-minute break.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer, more restorative 15-30 minute break.
To get the most out of each interval, follow these simple rules:
- Break down complex projects. If a task requires more than four pomodoros, it needs to be divided into smaller, actionable steps with each step being a separate pomodoro on your to-do list.
- If the task will take less than 25 minutes, combine it with other shorter time period tasks. For example, "write rent check," "schedule doctor’s appointment," and "empty dishwasher" could go together in one session.
- Once a pomodoro is set, it must ring. The pomodoro is an indivisible unit of time and cannot be broken, especially not to check incoming emails, team chats, or text messages. Take note of any ideas, tasks, or requests that come up to come back to later.
Tips for using the pomodoro technique:
- Weekly: Take a look at your schedule for the week to get an idea of the time you have available that week to work on completing your tasks. This is time when you have not committed to be at an appointment or will not be able to be working on the tasks you want to complete.
- Every day: Make a list of all the tasks you want to complete and estimate how many pomodoros it will take to complete each task (marking them with one tomato for each 25 minutes the task will take). Prioritize your list and only plan to achieve the number of pomodoros you have in that day. If you don’t complete items, add them to the next day’s task list.
- Many small interruptions add up quickly. It’s not just that you lose time to distractions, but refocusing your attention also takes time and energy. Try to avoid being distracted by notifications on your phone during your focused work session. Set aside a pomodoro for checking notifications, text messages and emails and use that time to complete that task instead of responding to notifications and messages throughout the day. If you have trouble ignoring notifications, turn on the do not disturb on your phone. Sometimes there are distractions and disruptions that come up and are unavoidable. If this happens, take your five-minute break and start again. Take this time to write down your interruptions as they occur and reflect on how to avoid them in your next session.
- Experiment with the length of your pomodoro, for some people a 20 minute pomodoro works best, while for other people a 30 minute pomodoro is optimal.
- If your tasks involve working on a computer or on your phone, stay away from screens during your 5-minute break.
- Use an app to help you organize and time your pomodoro. Try the app Focus To-Do or Focus Keeper—Time Management.
Sara Tysman | Intern