Have you ever heard of the pomodoro technique? Up until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t either. Basically it’s a technique that applies time management tools to help you achieve your goals and improve your productivity.
I’m usually at my most productive in the morning and tend to fall victim to the afternoon slump, and decided that in order to counteract that dreaded midday feeling, I would need to find a way to work with time instead of allowing time to work against me.
When I first heard of the technique, I was intrigued. I was also sceptical about it, but willing to give it a try because I wanted to see if it would actually work.
So how does this time management technique work?
Well, you’ve got 25 -minute increments within which to do your work with five minute breaks in between. After four 25 minute periods where you straight up focus on whatever task you’ve set yourself, you get a longer 15 minute break.
Whatever task you set won’t necessarily be finished within the 25 minute time frame, but because you’ve set that deadline for yourself you’ll at least make a sizeable dent in your workload.
The five minute breaks in between are meant for you to take quick breathers – I use my time to get up to go to the bathroom, get coffee or just to even stretch my legs at my desk.
The 15 minute breaks I use to try and leave the office (here I get a friend and colleague to help drag me out of the office because I tend to spend almost all of my working day in front of the computer – something I know isn’t healthy).
My experience with it so far is that it’s been helpful for the most part – working with time, within a 25 minute deadline has given me the push to lessen the distractions around me and focus more on making progress on a piece – particularly when it’s a piece that’s difficult, requires research or is something I’m struggling with.
I should add here though that while this has helped me, it hasn’t been 100% foolproof against distraction. It’s helped to increase my focus yes, but I definitely think there’s still room for improvement here.
There have also been days where I’ve been inclined to bouts of writer’s block, and where I’ve struggled to finish something not for a lack of trying, but simply because I’ve battled with inspiration or have gotten stuck trying to figure out where a certain undertaking has gone wrong.
I don’t have a solution for bad writing days, but I’m definitely working on finding one!
Another disadvantage I found is using the timer (which you can find on Google Play) at work doesn’t always help. Because I’m in an open plan office, I often set my phone to vibrate out of respect for my fellow colleagues.
I know many probably wouldn’t mind the odd phone beep or too, but it’s programmed in me keep the noise level down as much as possible.
As a result of this, I often forget to take those scheduled five minute breaks and work straight through my next 25 minutes, only realising much later that I’ve forgotten to take a breather.
The thing about the Pomodoro technique though is that these short breaks (and the longer one after a 100min work sprint) are designed to increase and sharpen your focus.
I’ve found that working without a break leads me to become a lot more tired than when I do remember to take breaks.
Clearly this means I need to find some way to remember to take a break or else I’ll fall into the same cycle of working non-stop (and not always producing the best results).
Other than that, what I like about utilising this technique is that, as lifehack.org states, it holds you accountable for whatever assignment you’re undertaking within that time frame and helps to reduce procrastination – something I think many of us can relate to.
Of course, Pomodoro isn’t for everyone – some can work in short bursts of speed, some can’t.
The trick is to find a time managing tool that is suited for your needs. And the great thing about the internet is that there are a variety of apps that you can download and adapt according to whatever time limits you feel you can work with.
I definitely think I’m going to stick to using this method for now – sure I don’t get it 100% right, but it’s helped me more than anything else I’ve tried in the past.
And that for me is progress.
What tools do you use to help with your productivity levels at work? Do you have tips you’d like to share. Send us an e-mail and we could feature your response in a future article.