pomodoro_timerThis post is not about Tomatoes, or the Italian language, or even Italian Tomatoes! This post is about a simple productivity tool called the Pomodoro technique, named after a tomato shaped kitchen timer. It’s a simple method that you can apply at any time when you want to focus on a task, build momentum, regain motivation or break through a wall of procrastination. I’ll explain the technique and show you how this simple method can be highly effective, especially at times when you aren’t feeling your natural motivation.

The Pomodoro Technique

  1. Identify the task you want to focus on
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes
  3. Fully focus on that task for the full 25 minutes
  4. When the time is up, stop for 5 minutes – that’s one Pomodoro
  5. After 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-20 minutes

Very simple isn’t it? This creates short bursts of focussed energy and breaks through procrastination. It overcomes the feeling that your task is too daunting and you don’t want to begin. The Pomodoro also builds momentum and bubbles up your motivation. It even gets you out of your seat which has great health benefits if you’re in an office job.

Pomodoro increases motivation

Motivation is one of the main ingredients that enable your productivity. It helps you focus on your goals and works together with your other productivity systems to enable you to get things done. Motivation usually comes in waves though, and there will be times when you’re stuck in a trough. During these times you can let hours slip by as you willingly let yourself be distracted.

For example you know you have work that you should be doing, however you’re not feeling motivated to put in the energy so you browse news websites and social media, go to a meeting, browse some more, then have lunch. Soon its late afternoon and you’ve let the time slip by.

It’s easy to stay focussed for 25 minutes. If you use the Pomodoro technique you will definitely make progress towards your task in that focussed 25 minutes. A few Pomodoros result in quite a bit of progress as the short time also naturally makes you work faster. When you’re having the 5 or 15 minute breaks you’ll realise that all of a sudden you feel motivated. This builds up your motivation which in turn allows you to focus longer and gets you back on the path of productivity and achieving your goals!

Pomodoro breaks through procrastination

A closely related enemy of productivity is procrastination. There are many causes of procrastination including the feeling that you have an overwhelming amount of tasks, the tasks are all too large to start, or thinking that you really don’t like doing those types of tasks. These things can all stop you from making progress.

When you think about applying the Pomodoro technique you’re only committing to 25 minutes! This will always seem achievable and you won’t face that hesitation to begin. After the focussed session naturally makes you work quickly and just produce some output rather than getting stuck in analysis paralysis, you’ll feel good about the progress. Then you get in the zone and all the hesitation is gone.

You may find that you only need to run through a few Pomodoros when you start work and this sets you up for the rest of the day. You can then engage in longer periods of concentration or use your increased motivation levels to help your team, and achieve good outcomes in group discussions.

Pomodoro overcomes insurmountable tasks

I watched a video a while ago that profiled a great distance / outdoor mountain runner who was able endure through very tough conditions to finish a course. One of the tips was that he didn’t allow his mind to go more than 15 minutes in front of him. This way he could keep pushing himself to run further because he only thought about the next 15 minutes and of course he knew he could run another 15 minutes.

When you apply the Pomodoro technique, you are only committing to 25 minutes and you know you will stop for 5 minutes after that. This helps you get over the feeling that the task is too big and you don’t have enough time to finish it. Once you get started though, you chip away at the large task and complete it much faster than you thought you would.

How did the Pomodoro technique help you achieve your goals?