Could the Pomodoro Technique Help Your Productivity?

by Miranda Marquit

I’ve been struggling lately with my productivity. A lot of it has to do with what’s been happening in my personal life, as well as my professional life. At some point, though, even though I’m struggling, I need to pull it together and boost my productivity.

While it’s not necessary to productive all the time, there are times when you need to focus on your work and just get it taken care of. One of the techniques that a friend recently told me about is the Pomodoro technique.

I was curious, so I decided to check it out. And, it turns out that a modified version of it works pretty well for me. If you are struggling with productivity, see if the Pomodoro technique might be right for you.

How the Pomodoro Technique Works

Pomodoro Technique - Time Management

This isn’t what I had in mind when I said “Time Management!”

Pomodoro is based on the idea of timing your tasks. You break down your day into 25-minute Pomodoros (Pomodori?). So, you work for 25 minutes, concentrating on the task at hand and working at it. At the end of the 25 minutes, you take a break that lasts between three and five minutes. After every four Pomodoros (which is about two hours), you take a longer 15 to 20 minute break.

The idea is that you work in concentrated blocks of time that are ideal for you to get a good amount of work done, but that aren’t long enough for you to start lagging behind. It makes sense to identify the task you are working on by prioritizing your to-do list. That way, you work on your most important tasks during the first few Pomodoros of your day.

During the three to five minute breaks between Pomodoros, you aren’t supposed to start on anything that requires a great deal of mental effort. You should also be realistic about what you during these mini-breaks. Don’t start answering emails or returning important phone calls, or start reading an interesting book. You’ll be beyond your small break in no time.

Instead, use the time between Pomodoros to do simple, mind-clearing tasks like brief meditation, a quick walk, stretches, or a quick check of Twitter. Personally, I like the stretching or meditation, since it helps me re-focus and get ready for the next Pomodoro.

During the longer breaks, the 15 to 20 minutes you take after four Pomodoros, it makes sense to do something a little more. This is a time I like to eat a mid-morning snack or lunch, and to peruse the newspaper or ready an interesting article online, or a chapter from a book (but I have to be good and put the book down when the chapter is over).

Studies show that we need time to re-set ourselves with small breaks throughout the day if we want to be more productive. The Pomodoro technique can help you focus those efforts. You parcel out your day, focus on tasks, and then take brief breaks to refresh yourself so that you don’t end up burned out and increasingly ineffective as the day wears on.

Adapting the Pomodoro Technique

Of course, we’re all different, and what works well for one person may not work as well for another. This is why it can make sense to adapt different techniques to fit your needs.

Instead of setting a time for a set amount of time, I often parcel out my work day according to blog posts. Since I am a freelancer that primarily writes blog posts for others, this makes sense. I write a blog post (which takes me between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on the post), and then take a break for three or four minutes. Once I’ve had my small break, I can move on to the next blog post. This keeps me moving for a couple of hours until it’s time to take my longer break. (I often end up doing five or six modified Pomodoros, depending on how long the blog posts have taken me.)

It’s a fairly straightforward technique that incorporates a lot of the long-held principles of productivity.

What do you think? Have you tried this technique? Does it work for you?

Photo credit: Roberto Ferrari

Published or updated September 6, 2013.
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