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The Unconventional Guide to Work

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How To Use The Pomodoro Technique To Get Things Done

“I’ll just finish that email, oh look my friend is messaging me, oh and there’s someone knocking on the door of my office, and that report is due, and my phone is buzzing …”

Does this sound like you? Are you trying to do a million things at once and failing at them all?

I hear you, my friend. At any one time I’ve got several different projects on my desk at work, and that doesn’t include my personal projects like writing books and trying to build a house. It’s chaos in both places, and I’ve always struggled trying to get everything done.

So I’m here to tell you about a technique that literally transformed my life. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique, and it’s so ridiculously simple that you might think it’s silly, but it works.

So what is the pomodoro technique?

The pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s as a way to focus on one task at a time, break tasks down into small goals, and get more done. It’s strongly related to timeboxing and iterative incremental development techniques used in software design, but has applications far beyond the programming space.

The technique gets its name (pomodoro is Italian for tomato) from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used as a student.

Simply put, the pomodoro technique involves using a timer to focus on one simple task for a set amount of time. When the time is up, you reward yourself with a little break. It’s all about focusing your brain to work on one thing, just for a little while, and then rewarding yourself for your good efforts - after a while you get so keen on the rewards that the system starts to become second nature.

What are the steps involved in the pomodoro technique?

There are six steps to the pomodoro method. They are:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the pomodoro timer to n minutes (traditionally n = 25). This is the length of one pomodoro, or pom.
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings. If a distraction pops into your head, write it down so you don’t forget it, but then immediately get back on task.
  4. After the timer rings, put a checkmark on a piece of paper. That’s one pom down!
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 1.
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes). It’s a good idea to get away from your desk during this break. Then, reset your checkmark count to zero, and go back to step 1.

If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. And the great thing about the pomodoro technique is that once you get started using poms, you get so much more done that it’s a real incentive to do more. You soon finding yourself using poms for any task you can imagine – my husband and I use them for doing house chores.

How can you use pomodoro technique to improve productivity at work?

  • Got a report to write that you keep putting off? Put on the timer and get it done, then reward yourself with listening to a fun song from Spotify.
  • Need to clear out your inbox but you just don’t want to? Set up your poms first thing in the morning and reward yourself with a fresh cup of coffee.
  • Poms work great for meeting prep, admin, accounting, invoicing, or any other task that tends to pile up.
  • Do you have a sit-to-stand desk? I like to use the poms timer as a signal to move to another position, so that I’m constantly changing my posture throughout the day.
  • Get your whole team involved and try some competitive poms. Set the timer and see who can get the most done.

What other uses are there for poms?

  • If you’re struggling to get motivated for exercise, poms can sometimes be a clever way to push your brain into doing a bit of a workout.
  • I love to use poms to do housework. Set a timer for twenty minutes and see how much you can get done. It’s even more fun if you can get the whole family involved.
  • If you have a lot of hobbies and like to jump around between projects, business coach and author Barbara Sher recommends using a timer to do a little chunk of each project every night.

Find out more

Visit the Pomodoro Technique website and check out how other people are using poms to imrpove their productivity. Alternatively, you can check out Francesco Cirillo’s book The Pomodoro Technique on Amazon.

Want more info on being more productive at work? We have some articles that can help:

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