Finding a decent time management system to motivate yourself isn’t always easy. Even the most hardworking employees need to put measures in place from time to time to make sure they’re staying on track. Luckily, in this day and age, there is no shortage of methods at our disposal to manage our crazy workloads. However, one of my favorites is the tried-and-true system known as the Pomodoro Technique. Designed by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique takes its name from the classic tomato-shaped kitchen timers popular in the 80’s. The idea behind this technique is to work hard with no distractions on a single task for 25 minutes before taking a five-minute break. Then, after you’ve worked four pomodoros (that’s what we’re calling each 25-minute session) you take a longer break. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, that was the initial idea: it’s simple, effective, and all you need is a timer that counts down from 25 (we do live in the age of smartphones, after all…). However, in a time where distractions are constant and setting aside a full 25 minutes isn’t always feasible, we’re forced to make some adjustments to the original concept. Here’s how you can take the idea of the Pomodoro Technique and apply it to your schedule to fully optimize your time management and improve your overall productivity.
Before we dive into the strategies you can apply to this technique, let’s cover why it’s so effective in the first place. Well, for starters, in an average nine-hour day, you will be completing about four full “pomodoros”. If each pomodoro means 100 minutes of solid productivity (four 25 minute sessions plus 35 minutes of breaks), you’re getting a solid six and a half hours of straight productive work. Keep in mind, this doesn’t include answering emails, returning phone calls, or any other side work that often distracts us throughout the day. What’s more, the periodic breaks will help keep your brain relaxed and allow you to focus during those 25-minute sessions, thereby producing a higher quality of work and not driving you crazy.
In addition to the actual amount of work you’ll be producing, this system has another benefit that isn’t quite as obvious. As you track your completed pomodoros (which can be done easily on a sticky note or excel document), you’ll be providing yourself with solid data that reflects how you’re spending your time each day. If you’re finding those 2 pm pomodoros are near-impossible to complete, consider taking a longer break at that time and make up for the missed time earlier in the day. Try to squeeze out a pomodoro or two before anyone arrives in the office each morning. You can also use each session to see how long it takes to complete certain tasks. This will help you plan your days more effectively and help you prevent taking on too many projects and overwhelming yourself. Whatever the case is, use the data you’re already tracking to maximize your productivity.
The ultimate purpose of this technique is to help us stay focused. In the grand scheme of things, 25 minutes isn’t a terribly long time. Depending on your line of work, there probably aren’t too many emails or phone calls that absolutely cannot wait 25 minutes before you can get to them. By committing 25 minutes to a single task, you’re going to be able to produce work significantly faster. If something does come up and you’re forced to quit working before that timer goes off, hold yourself accountable. Start from the top next time and make yourself work an additional pomodoro before taking your longer break. This will help you avoid distractions except in the direst of circumstances.
Nobody’s work ethic is the same and, as I mentioned before, we can’t all afford to go a full 25 minutes without answering an email or question. That is why we have to adjust the technique to make it perfect for us. After all, we all have different periods of optimal working conditions. Because of this, there might be some trial and error involved before you figure out exactly how long you can work before your productivity starts to decrease. Personally, I’m hot or cold when it comes to the exact time-frame I can focus. Sometimes I can’t write more than a sentence or two before I get distracted, but once I get going I don’t stop until I’ve finished. By implementing my variation of the Pomodoro Technique, I’ve found I can be a lot more successful at producing quality content significantly faster than I used to.
The Real-Life Pomodoro
For those like me that go from zero to 60 when it comes to their productivity levels, consider what is known as the Real-Life Pomodoro. This concept follows the same idea as the Pomodoro Technique without the unyielding 25-minute sessions that can sometimes damper the efficiency of our work. Rather than setting a timer, use your surrounding environment to track your work. The data isn’t as solid as the original method, but it’s a great way to get your butt into the chair and get started. There are a ton of real-life tools you can use to track your work. For me, it’s typically music-based. For instance, sometimes I’ll throw on a playlist and force myself to work until it’s over or else go until a certain song comes on. This way I know in the back of my mind that I only have to be productive for a bit and then I’m allowed to take a break. When that real-life pomodoro is up and I’m allowed to stop, I’ll typically feel it out and decide in the moment if I should keep going or get up and stretch and check my emails.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to figure out what the best method of optimizing your time management is. Whether you’re following the rules exactly as Francesco Cirillo designed them or adding your own spin on it, the important thing is finding the motivation to get started.
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