I have been using the Pomodoro Technique on and off for several years now and I recommend it to anyone suffering a crisis of poor productivity. The Pomodoro Technique helps you stay focused on the task at hand, encourages good skills for handling interruptions (aka productivity killers), and provides a simple mechanism for measuring data so that you can learn about and improve your own working style. Unlike a lot of other time-management methods, the Pomodoro Technique is not overly complex which means it has a higher success rate. It is simple, easy to use, and you get to see great results straight away.
My Story - Tripling Productivity in 2 Days
In 2008 I was working full-time for a Government organisation. Too often had I received the red-tape smack-down by bureaucratic paper-pushers that I just did not care anymore. I frittered away my time, taking days to do a task that should take me an hour, simply because that was the expectation. Then I re-discovered* the Pomodoro Technique and everything changed.
The first day was my baseline test and I managed to complete three full "pomodoros" of work, or about 1.5 hours of productivity. From an 8 hour day. I had completed all my assigned work for the day but I felt disgusting for having wasted so much time. I hate wasting time.
The second day I took my personal laptop to work with the aim of using that extra time to work on my personal projects. I managed five "pomodoros" (2.5 hours) but suffered too many interruptions with pointless emails, useless meetings, and general chit-chat.
Day three I took it seriously. I followed the rules rigidly, and even plugged in some headphones (with nothing playing) to help deal with interruptions. I successfully completed 10 "pomodoros" (5 full hours of productive work) and it felt amazing. I achieved more work in one day then I would normally do in a week at work, and more importantly I went home feeling mentally stretched - something my job had failed to do for years. I was hooked.
Six months later I had used my extra time to; start my own company (16 Threads), visit my brother in Europe, draft an eBook (Positive Happiness), test several income "muses", and begin writing a novel.
How it Works/The Rules
I will include a very basic summary of how the Pomodoro Technique works but I really recommend heading over to The Pomodoro Technique to read the fantastic PDF document which explains the whole process in detail. Plus it comes with lots of examples and cool tips and tricks to help you get started.
The basic concept of the Pomodoro Technique is pretty simple - break your work into small, well-managed, timed segments (called pomodoros). The (very simplified) process is as follows:
- Keep an overall list of tasks. This list will forever be changing as tasks come and go
- At the start of the day, pick tasks from that list to define the daily "todo" list
- Work through tasks in 25 minute pomodoros, taking a small break (5 minutes) at the end of each
- Take a longer break (15-20 minutes) every 4th pomodoro to "recharge the batteries"
- Block "urgent" work interruptions and reschedule them for AFTER your current task
- Record your progress, including interruptions, so that you can identify improvements
There are lots of good Pomodoro-based software options on the market but my current preferred one is Pomodoro by Ugo Landini for Mac OSX. It works a treat.
For Windows you can use something like Focus Booter but I wasn't the biggest fan of using a browser-based timer to prevent procrastination (irony anyone?) so I ended up building my own.
So if you are struggling to get through your task list or cannot help but procrastinate your time away, try the Pomodoro Technique for a week and see how you feel. You wont regret it. Happy Pomodoring!
*I actually implemented my own version of the Pomodoro Technique to study for my final High School exams in 2001. It worked so well that I implemented similar techniques during University, but never really caught on to using it as a daily tool until reading the Pomodoro Technique.