The Pomodoro Technique is not a new concept — it was created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s — but hey, it was new to me until about four months ago, and has completely transformed my work in terms of productivity. Like many people, I tend to have a million things going on at once, and thrive on the scramble of deadlines, so this technique has been amazing.
In the Pomodoro Technique, tasks are grouped together in timed, 25-minute increments called pomodoros. Those tasks become your only focus for that 25-minute period. At the end of that period, you take a short break and then set up another pomodoro, and so on and so on. The Pomodoro Technique website contains a lot of extra information on tracking pomodoro efficiency and such, but I don’t do any of that. Instead, I’ve modified and simplified the system to meet my needs.
Here’s how I do Pomodoro:
Get a timer. I found a two-pack of flat, magnetic kitchen timers in a blister pack at Target for like $10. They have been perfect.
Make a master to-do list. Dump everything onto this list: calls to make, blog posts to write, contracts and proposals to create, and so on.
Pick your pomodoro tasks. Select however many tasks from your do-list as realistically can be accomplished in 25 minutes. For me, this might mean writing 1-2 blog posts (depending on complexity), or getting a new corporate client entered into our system and a proposal written, or updating a marketing piece.
Optimize your environment. Eliminate distractions (I minimize or close out of all non-pomodoro related windows and programs, close chat windows, and so on) and make sure you have any tools or resources you need to complete the tasks for that pomodoro.
Set the timer for 25 minutes and…GO! Work through the tasks you’ve chosen. If other ideas or to-dos pop into your head while you’re working, jot them on a Post-It and get back to work.
At the end of the pomodoro, take a deep breath, walk around, check email or social media, and then start the process over again. I tend to group phone calls and email replies between pomodoros, and on a focused day (usually a day when I’m alone in the office), I can work through 6-8 pomodoros before quitting time, no problem.
I have found that having a short, achievable block of focused time enables me to get at least 4 times the amount of work done. It gives me a way to corral all those pesky little tasks and really buckle down, and something about the pomodoro lasting only 25 minutes (and knowing I can fool around on Facebook and Twitter when the timer buzzes) makes it seem so easy. I’m always amazed at the amount I can get done when I use this technique.