Productivity is a concept that is present in nearly every sector of work. No matter what the task or job at hand is, productivity is a concept that everyone strives to achieve and maximize. The market for helping with your productivity is huge across mac, android, and other processing systems, and it can be difficult to sort through the noise for an effective time management system that can help you get more done in a day while also not adding a significant amount of extra work time.
The Pomodoro technique and other timer based time management techniques have taken the world by storm in recent years and for good reason. As technology becomes increasingly entangled in your life, it can be difficult to resist distractions and get work done. Timer based time management techniques like the Pomodoro technique provide a very simple structure that makes tasks more manageable.
The Pomodoro technique took off in the world of higher level education students. Students are faced with mass amounts of information in the form of textbooks, lectures, and assignments. Without a method to tackle these tasks, it is easy to get lost and feel defeated. Pomodoro offers a way to systematically get your stuff done and break your large tasks into short bite-sized chunks with regular break times.
Below is an overview of the Pomodoro method, what it is, and how it helps with productivity. Knowing how this lucrative productivity hack works can better enable you to incorporate it within your own routine.
What is Pomodoro?
The Pomodoro technique was created by Francesco Cirillo as a struggling university student. To force himself to commit to studying he utilized a tomato-shaped kitchen timer and set it for a specific study period no longer than 25 minutes. Once he had discovered the technique, Cirillo went on to publish a book and many productivity aids based on the methodology.
While Cirillo created the Pomodoro method in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s, a lesser known individual named Nathaniel Kleitman discovered the basic rest-activity cycle(BRAC) much earlier. Kleitman originally studied sleep and was a lead scientist in the discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Through his studies he discovered that the human body undergoes multiple cycles during both sleep and waking hours. The cycle consists of cycles of 90 minutes of excitation followed by a period of rest. When applied to workflows, the BRAC is known as the Ultradian Rhythm methodology and is similar to the Pomodoro technique but with longer work periods.
With adequate background, you may wonder what exactly constitutes the Pomodoro technique, what you need to have to perform it, and the number of Pomodoros needed to be effective in a cycle. Below is a breakdown of the materials you need as well as a description of each phase of the work cycle.
What do you need for the Pomodoro technique?
When you think about productivity tools you most likely think of advanced spreadsheets, tools, applications, and more. The nice thing about Pomodoro is that it can be as basic or complex as you need it to be. At its most basic, all you need is a timer, paper, and something to write with. The timer is to set your flow periods and breaks, while the paper and pencil is utilized to keep track of how many flow periods you have successfully completed. The simplicity of the technique allows you to tackle large tasks no matter what your immediate resources look like.
At its more complex, you can download a Pomodoro timer application that can automatically track Pomodoro sessions in addition to other functionalities. These other functionalities in Pomodoro apps can include the ability to block tempting sites like social media during your flow periods as well as applications you utilize during your leisurely time. This solution is great for those that need rules to help them avoid temptations to distractions. Without the ability to procrastinate on your favorite websites, make phone calls, or get lost in Wikipedia articles, you are much more likely to do work rather than sit there.
The flow period also known as the Pomodoro session, is the time that you set aside to get your work done. With the traditional Pomodoro technique, the flow period is set to 25 minutes. This time fits a perfect balance of being long enough to get work done and short enough where you are not struggling through the end of a session. During this time period you are only focused on the task at hand. Put your phone away in your desk or bag, turn off notifications, and find a quiet place to work. This aspect of Pomodoro requires discipline and the ability to resist temptations of distractions.
While 25 minutes may work for you, some find that the 25 minute cut off is intrusive to their ability to stay in a state of flow. The state of flow is utilized to describe when your attention, effort level, and abilities are being utilized to their maximum capability and you are simply in the moment. A great example of when people experience flow is when you get in the zone during a presentation, performance, or test. Everything seems to just be working as it should and you are just cruising through putting your effort out and feeling good.
Instead of utilizing the 25 minute cut off, there are many other modifications of the Pomodoro technique that includes anywhere from 30-90 minute flow period instead. Ultimately you can tailor the Pomodoro technique exactly to your liking. If you find that a 25 minute timer is not long enough for you to get into your writing groove simply extend. If you find a 45 flow period too grueling for studying, opt for less time. The beauty of the technique is in the ability to tailor it to work best for you and your workflow.
Small break period
The small break periods are really what make the Pomodoro technique an effective means of improving your productivity. Anyone can go at a task with all of their might and get a lot done, however your ability to sustainably do it all day long, day after day is most likely slim. By having a small break that intervenes the focus sessions, it allows your mind to decompress and breath.
Imagine you are a sprinter and are looking to improve your speed. If you were to try and get an improvement in your speed by continuously running laps without a break, you are most likely not going to succeed and you will ultimately get slower and even risk injury. If instead you performed one lap as hard as you coil, took a break, then attempted again you are more likely to achieve your goal. This same situation can be applied to our brain and attention. The small break periods give your brain the opportunity to decompress and take a breather.
If you are following the traditional Pomodoro technique, the 25 minute focus sessions are followed up by a 5 minute break. In these five minute breaks you should utilize it to do something that does not deal with being productive or work. Simply enjoy your time, pull out your phone from the desk, parooz your social media or even go get a cup of coffee. When the break timer goes off, it signifies time to get back to it and hopefully you will feel a little more energized which will allow you to get more done.
Long breaks are the next component of the Pomodoro technique. Long breaks take the place of the short break after the completion of the fourth successful Pomodoro focus sessions. If you are following the traditional Pomodoro guidelines, this will mean that after approximately two hours you are allotted a longer break. This break can range anywhere from 15-30 minutes with the traditional methodology.
For those that choose the longer 90 minute focus sessions, you may want to consider implementing longer mini breaks between sessions and an extended long break. A great method is to follow the 90/20 rule in addition to taking a longer hour break after completing 3 90 minute sessions. Utilizing this time method is ideal for those that need to get a lot done in a short amount of time and for those that need extra time to get into a state of flow. After five hours of near continuous work, you deserve an hour break to unwind.
Dealing with distractions
The hardest part about the Pomodoro technique is having the self control and discipline to follow through with it. You should strive to make each focus period impenetrable to distractions. Order some noise canceling headphones, put your phone away, turn notifications off, and having a workspace free of clutter and distraction is a great start to limiting distractions.
The truth of the matter is that distractions always seem to find a way to you no matter how hard you try to get rid of them. In the moments that you are in a flow period, it is important to know how to assess and deal with a distraction quickly so that it doesn’t significantly impact your work. The founder of the Pomodoro method Cirillo describes a strategy known as the “inform, negotiate and call back strategy”. The strategy outlines actions that you can take to effectively deal with potential interruptions.
Inform means that you should inform others around you that you are actively working. If you work in a cubicle you may want to consider having a flag or note that describes what you are doing and to look at the timer for when you will be available for a chat. Whatever your circumstance, it is important to have a way to let those around you know that you are unavailable.
Negotiate is the act of scheduling an interruption. Lets say for instance a co-worker would like to talk to you about an upcoming project, but you are working in a Pomodoro cycle and want to continue with your work. Your instinct may be to drop what you are doing to have the conversation, but the strategy outlined by Cirillo would urge you to value your time and find a better time where you are not in a work session to discuss the project.
The final aspect of the strategy is to follow up after your Pomodoro session to ensure everything is squared away. Ensuring that you stay true to your word is important and by establishing these norms with your fellow coworkers and employer, you can facilitate an optimal work environment where your time is respected and everyone knows you’ll get back to them.
Why is Pomodoro good for productivity?
With a solid understanding of what the Pomodoro technique is, the next logical question is how does it positively impact your productivity. Afterall a simple timer can’t have that much impact on your productivity, right?
In practice, the Pomodoro technique is a great tool for productivity because it breaks up tasks into manageable chunks. If you think of the tasks and projects you need to complete as a meal, the Pomodoro technique acts as your figurative fork and knife. Having more manageable tasks and clear boundaries for which you work and rest are ideal and facilitate a better working experience.
The Pomodoro technique impacts productivity in three distinct manners. This includes reducing the sensations of burnout or fatigue, getting the initial momentum with your work, and it’s ability to facilitate the state of flow. Taken together, it makes the Pomodoro technique a great option for go getters and those that want to get more out of their day.
Reduced burnout and fatigue
Burnout is ever pervasive in today's society. With a global pandemic and many jobs requiring more from their employees, it is easy to understand why people are feeling overloaded to the point of burnout. Frontline workers were placed at the forefront of a largely unknown virus and expected to produce their own PPE and in some cases reuse their equipment in the name of helping others. While admirable, pushing these workers to overextend themselves for months unfortunately led to many experiencing burnout and leaving the profession.
Burnout is often caused by a continual go go go attitude that is unsustainable. As time goes on, the constant sprinter will begin to slow down eventually reaching a breaking point known as burnout. Even if you are not a front line worker, the pandemic has most likely also had drastic impacts on your work. The transition to work from home environments can make it difficult to balance a good work life balance. To avoid burnout you need to ensure that you are taking care of yourself and your overall well being.
At its core, the Pomodoro technique has built in brake pedals that make you stand back, relax, and take a break. During these break periods you have no obligations and can do whatever you want to relax and unwind. You can even utilize the longer breaks to get in a workout to help maintain your energy levels throughout the day. Not only are you productive by getting more done through the day, but you are also getting a much needed mental health check in and break.
In addition to utilizing the Pomodoro technique, you may want to look for supplements that can help bolster your energy levels to work alongside your new productivity methodology. MitoQ is a great way to bolster your mental energy and focus throughout the day by providing support to the mitochondria throughout cells in the body. Being the non-stop power house of the cell, the mitochondria is constantly working and needs to have CoQ10 to help support it in its energy producing endeavors. MitoQ provides a CoQ10 molecule that easily crosses cell membranes, allowing it to get to the mitochondria and get to work.
Gets the ball rolling
Oftentimes the hardest aspect of getting more productive is the task of simply starting the task. Procrastination is often the default when it comes to working and while you may be self aware of your procrastination, you may wonder why you are continuously doing it. You may wonder if it is a lack of motivation or if it is just a trait of yours.
Thinking in this manner is unproductive as it associates your inability to get motivated with an external cause that is outside of your control. The “Do Something Principle” pioneered by Mark Manson is a principle that challenges the traditional notion that getting things done and being productive requires you to feel an inner sense of motivation. The Do Something Principle essentially states that rather than waiting around to feel compelled to do something, that you should just go and do it. Typically once you begin the task you feel accomplished and therefore feed your motivation to continue your work. Just by doing a simple task, it can lead to you getting your work done.
The Pomodoro technique can come into play alongside the Do Something Principle by getting you to just get to work. Starting your timer for a work session is that first something that then feeds into the feedback loop of productivity and getting things done.
Additionally, the Pomodoro method makes intimidating tasks seem less intimidating as each work session requires only 25 minutes of your time. Even if you are feeling down or unmotivated, 25 minutes of concentration is not too much of an ask. Over multiple sessions you may find that you are fully working to your maximum efficiency and no longer dredging the work day, but rather getting stuff done.
Facilitation of flow
As stated before, flow is a state of being completely enthralled within your work. When in flow, you are maximizing your productivity and efficiency. The Pomodoro method is a great tool that helps you get into a flow state by designating periods of time where you eliminate distraction and allow yourself to work uninterrupted.
To maximize your time in the flow state, it is advised to utilize the longer Pomodoro sessions like the 90 minute sessions. These longer sessions allow you to get past the initial resistance to the work and to enter into a rhythm and zone for a longer period of time.
Becoming fully immersed in the task at hand not only allows you to get more done, but it can greatly improve your perception of satisfaction. One study actually found that frequency and duration of flow at work were correlated with the perception of job satisfaction. By facilitating flow you can in turn make your work more enjoyable and rewarding which can help tremendously with your motivation and willingness to stay productive throughout the day.
Manageable attention span
While your attention span is most likely significantly better than when you were a young child, you still have a degree of limitation to the amount of time that you can spend on a single task. The Pomodoro method is a great way to take advantage of your attention span and make the best of it. The 25 minute focus period is an ideal goldilocks period of time which is long enough to allow you to be attentive, yet short enough to not lose focus.
Everyone's attention span slightly differs and the Pomodoro technique allows you the ability to tailor your work cycles to align with your attention span. This in addition to the limitation of distractions during the Pomodoro session all aid your ability to stay attentive for prolonged periods of time. Each small break helps to facilitate focus and mental clarity.
The Pomodoro method is a heavily popularized Italian time management method that many have found to work tremendously well in their endeavor to get work done in a more productive manner. All it takes is a timer and some self-governance and you can be on your way to implementing the Pomodoro technique into your workflow. With a series of focus and break periods, the Pomodoro technique aims to get you to focus on one task at a time and eliminate all distractions.
The series of mental sprints and breaks is able to facilitate productivity because it creates a reasonable attention span, facilitates the state of flow, gets the ball rolling, and can reduce the chances of work fatigue. Implementing small breaks throughout the workday can give you the mental recharge you need to tackle your day to get more done.
Reviewed by: Kai Man Yuen/ BSc., PGDipSci., MSc.