Trying Out the Pomodoro Technique

If you read my blog, you know I sometimes obsess about enjoy finding ways to increase my productivity. Everyone is limited to the same 24-hour day. As my kids get older and are in school a bit more, I’ve really worked hard to focus my work time to the hours they’re in school so that we can have fun when they’re at home. This means my [still limited] work time is precious. I’ve talked about attention management in the past and my tendency to get distracted and veer off course. Keeping Post-It notes front and center with my top 3 tasks listed has been a huge help in keeping me focused. My struggle has been, and continues to be, attention management. Working in a technical field means it’s easy to open up a new browser tab and hop on Pinterest when I’m supposed to be fixing a web page.

I’ve known for a while that productivity declines the longer you work without breaks. There are different productivity methods and studies out there that suggest working in 45, 60, or 90-minute blocks. Then I came across the Pomodoro Technique, which advocates setting a timer and spending 25 minutes on one single task, then taking a short break. At first, 25 minutes seemed like too little time to accomplish anything. But, I soon realized the benefit of working in these small, short bursts of time:

  • It’s easy to commit to doing almost anything for 25 minutes. This is especially helpful for tasks I’ve been procrastinating on or putting off.
  • It’s easy to manage your attention for 25 minutes. Knowing I only have 25 minutes to work on a specific task gives it some urgency and keeps me focused.
  • By setting a timer, I’m reminded to get up and take a break from my screen. I’ve found that when I really get immersed in my work, I forget to take a break.

The Pomodoro Technique itself is easy to implement right away – there’s no long book to read (although they do have a book and an official timer you can purchase). Here are the basics:

  1. Choose a task to work on.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on the chosen task until the time goes off.
  3. Take a five minute break after the time goes off.

You repeat this sequence four times, then take a longer break – around 20-30 minutes.

I’ve been using this technique for a little over a week and I’d say it’s been a success. I’ve felt very focused during the 25-minute time spans and I’ve been able to knock off some tasks that I’ve been putting off. Here are some tips I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been using it:

  • It helps to have a very specific task to work on and this should be decided before starting the 25-minute “Pomodoro”.
  • Make a commitment to focusing on only the task you’ve set out for yourself.
  • Be aware of distractions, including incoming texts and phone calls.
  • Have a plan for your short breaks; sometimes I’ll meditate and let my brain rest, other times I’ll get a drink and do some stretches, but I’ve also found I can do other things, like empty the dishwasher or start a load of laundry.

Visit the Pomodoro Technique website for more info and getting started to give this productivity method a shot. Do you work in set times blocks? What size blocks work for you?

Image by Alice Henneman (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

2 Comments

  1. Maria Schaller

    Reply

    I really like this idea and can’t wait for the day where I will have a large enough block of time to repeat the 25 min work block 4 times in a row! Something to look forward to :-) Also, great shot of your history buff…you can just see the wonder and amazement he is probably feeling as he looks up at the flag.

    • Jessica Reilley

      Reply

      Yes – it’s not every day that I can fit in four 25-minute blocks, but it’s amazing how much I was able to accomplish in those short, focused blocks of time. It also felt good to take the breaks in between; sometimes when the kids are at school, I feel like I need to use every single second toward work, when it’s becoming more clear that giving my brain some downtime is just as important as the work itself.

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