What do tomatoes and productivity have in common? More than you’d think.
In fact, there’s a wonderful method called the Pomodoro Technique™ that you can use to help you power through distractions and get things done. And, the best part is that it’s really easy!
The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the early 90s by developer, entrepreneur, and author Francesco Cirillo. He named the system "Pomodoro" after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student. The approach is quite simple: When assigned any large task or project, break the work down into brief, timed intervals (called "Pomodoros") that are offset by short breaks. This helps you stay focused on only the project at hand, and helps to suspend distractions such as ringing phones and nagging email alerts.
How can the Pomodoro Technique help you? Well, let’s say you have this project that you estimate will take around three hours to complete. You keep trying to get to it; but meetings, small tasks, and telephone calls are getting in the way. No matter how well-intentioned, you just can’t seem to find the time to focus. Before you know it, the due date has arrived and you haven’t even touched the project. Now you’re going to have to work late to get it done before your 10:00 AM meeting. Instead, try this:
- The first thing to do is to create a Task and assign it a start date a few days before the project due date.
- If there are back-up documents (paperwork) that go with the task, store them in a numbered ‘tickler’ folder that’s cross-referenced with the task.
- When the start date arrives, determine how much time you’re able to give the task that day, taking into account your other commitments. Let’s say about one hour in this case.
- When it comes time to work on the project, pull out your folder with your supporting documents, set your Pomodoro Timer for 25 minutes and work uninterrupted until the alarm rings. That means you don’t answer the phone, you don’t respond to emails, and you gently ignore all passers by and co-workers with their own agendas. This is YOUR time.
- Once the alarm goes off, take a five minute break (return voicemails, check email, get some coffee, etc.).
- Complete this cycle two times on each of the three days before the due date and your project will be done on time. Voila!
The most important thing to remember here is that a “Pomodoro” is an uninterrupted work session. Trust me when I say that most any request can wait 25 minutes without the world ending. After all, you do go lunch sometimes right?
Would you like to see for yourself how this easy and fun technique can boost your productivity? Well, here are some links to a few different timers. Choose the one that’s best for you:
http://www.marinaratimer.com/ (web based)
In case you’re wondering, the Pomodoro Technique works for more than just project work. I’ve used it for strategic planning sessions, study and/or reading sessions, phone calls/conferences, and to batch smaller ‘to-do’ items together.
Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: No tomatoes were harmed in the writing of this blog post. As a matter of fact, I'm not certain there are any in the photo above.