How this tomato can increase your productivity

If you are a productivity and time management junkie, you’ve probably heard about the Pomodoro Technique. It is very effective and efficient for both students and employees. It is not for everyone though, but you should give it a try.

Without further due, let me introduce you to the system.

What’s the Pomodoro Technique?

Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, referring to the tomato-shaped kitchen timer. The technique was originally created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. It is based on short chunks of time for work (25 minutes) followed by short breaks (five minutes), without any distractions or interruptions. A 25-minute session of continuous focused work or activity is called a ‘Pomodoro.’

How do you use it?

Who knew tomatoes could be this useful?

The Pomodoro Technique helps your brain focus for a short time, so there is no way it will wander, so if you want to use it, it is so simple as long as you eliminate distractions and interruptions along your short 25-minute session.

  • First: Plan and prioritize

List all the tasks you want to accomplish for the day. Then, prioritize them according to their importance or urgency.

  • Second: Start

It sounds so simple, but the start is not as simple as you think it is. You should eliminate all distractions and interruptions, so no emails, no Facebook, no calls and no chit-chats. It’s 25 minutes; anything can wait for 25 minutes.

  • Third: Break

Take a short break, about five to seven minutes. Do some stretches, meditate a little, have a short walk to the coffee station in your office, check that Facebook notification you have been waiting for, send that SMS to your mom! Do whatever you need or want to do during this short break.

  • Fourth: Repeat second and third

Keep going on! Work, break, work, break…, so on. It might seem boring while you are reading it, but believe me, your brain is looking forward to that short break, so don’t underestimate the power of Pomodoros.

  • Fifth: Long break

Every four Pomodoros, you can have a longer break, as long as a full Pomodoro. Here all the distractions are allowed if you want. As for me, I prefer to always plan for my long breaks, whether I grab a snack or fruit, call a friend, surf YouTube or watch a TED talk.

What matters with long Pomodoro breaks is that you don’t ever make them about any tasks or work.

Am I bound to 25/5 minutes?

The Pomodoro technique is designed to be 25/5, but actually, you can play around with any numbers you’d like to start with. You can start even by 10/2, if you find it hard for you to focus for nearly half an hour, then you can move gradually to whatever numbers you want.

However, remember, you have to take periodic short breaks and long breaks every certain number of Pomodors (ultimately every four Pomodoros).

But hey, there is a study out there that states that the best Pomodoro-style division of time is 52 minutes of work followed by a 17-minute break. I haven’t tried it, but it’s worth a shot.

How many Pomodoros should you finish per day?

As many as you can. Personally, I don’t count and don’t use the numbers as an indicator of my productivity, but if you’re into numbers, eight is the minimum, and the maximum can go up to 16 (There is a life out there, so I don’t recommend it!)

Why is it efficient?

The Pomodoro technique has many benefits, if you are experiencing any of these, then you should give it a try:

  • Have a hard time to concentrate.
  • You keep fighting procrastination.
  • You get distracted easily.
  • You spend so much time on social media or watching cat videos
  • You feel that certain tasks take forever till they get finished.
  • You have trouble estimating how long each task takes
  • You miss deadlines.
  • You cram all the work before your deadlines

I’ve been there; I was used to calling myself a professional procrastinator. My optimism used to convince me that I could finish whatever task in no time, which made me fail to plan for them, so when deadlines come closer, I panic and start working like hell to get things done. Later, I discovered that there was always room for improvement and that I could’ve done better if I had more time.

Whenever there is a content project, a research paper, a university assignment or an article I want to write, I put my phone on ‘do-not-disturb’ mode, activate the ‘stay focused’ nuclear option on my laptop and started with the first Pomodoro. Never have I failed to finish in way less time with a quality I am proud of.

The Pomodoro Technique helps you be mindful

The Pomodoro technique focuses on only one task at hand for a given period. This concept is one of the core ideas of mindfulness, which helps you be less anxious and relieve the stress of work, it also lets you focus better and take back control of your time and surroundings.

Your colleagues (if you work full/part-time) or friends and family (if you work as a freelancer, like me) will adapt to it.

The Pomodoro Technique teaches you to say: No

Whether you’re too shy to say no to anyone who distracts you or you follow the urge to feel needed from a friend, there is always a downside to failing just to decline. It means that you have no control over what to accept and what not to. It is as if all the people around you are rearranging your schedule, activities and time according to their priorities, while your priorities are ignored.

The Pomodoro technique will help you build the proper boundaries that will keep you in control of your time and priorities, and that also will help ease the stressful nature of the work itself.

The Pomodoro Technique saves you from burnouts

By eliminating distractions, setting limits and boundaries, focusing on only one task at a time, saying no to other people and unnecessary priorities, dividing big tasks and projects into chunks, having short and long breaks, working for short repetitive Pomodoros and controlling temptations to get distracted, you save yourself from burning out.

Regularly, when you just have a master list of tasks, and you keep juggling between multiple tasks while getting distracted by emails, phone calls and chit-chats and social media (the origin of all time wasting evils), you are setting your brain on fire! Being stressed for a day is OK, being stressed for work is good within limits so you can be ready for the task, but living a consistently stressful professional and personal life is the nail in your coffin.

I don’t have to tell you about the drawbacks of stress, I guess you can google them yourself, but you can be free from that additional deadly pressure by just incorporating a productivity technique (Pomodoro or something else) in your work style.

The Pomodoro Technique forces you to take care of yourself

When I go for long sessions of work or study, I break down. After four to five hours, I feel like this is it, and I can’t take any more information or do any more tasks. Hence, I feel drained (remember the burnout?) and fail to cook a healthy meal or do my share of home-chores (worse mood for a decluttered surrounding), and there will still be other undone tasks or assignments that I feel guilty I couldn’t finish!

Though, short and long breaks give room to bits and pieces of small non-brainy tasks that give my brain room to rest and get ready for the next session, so don’t go for the long shots of work. The Pomodoro breaks are as important as the Pomodoro work/study-sessions, and that great brain of yours needs rest so it can help you more.

Now, let’s get practical, how do you execute it?

Apart from the very detailed files out there and worksheets, I find the following application the simplest and easiest.

You will need:

  • Four sheets of paper (or a google sheet).
  • One pen.
  • One distraction-eliminating app on your phone.
  • One distraction-eliminating app on your laptop.
  • One countdown timer.
  • One schedule/calendar (optional).
  • The ability to say no.

Instructions:

  • Use the first sheet of paper as a brain-dump, dump in there all the tasks you want to do now or later.
Brain-Dump Sheet

Pick up laundry.
Schedule new coaching clients.
Review my account on WUZZUF.
Email client A the invoice.
PR campaign for StreetPal.
Study that Coursera course I never open.
Assign the plan to an intern.
Schedule a meeting.
Draft blog article about the Pomodoro Technique.
Buy mangos.
Do dishes.
New web-content workshop material.
Organize junk drawer.
Prepare for exam.
Read chapter 8.
Create budget for August.
Go to Paris.
  • Use another paper to sort these tasks out, and prioritize them by signifiers (it has nothing to do with the Pomodoro Technique, it is just my thing).
Master List *= Important = Urgent

Home

 Create budget for August.
 Do dishes.
 Organize junk drawer.

Work

 Schedule new coaching clients.
 Review my account on WUZZUF.
 Email client A the invoice.
 PR campaign for StreetPal.
 Draft blog article about the Pomodoro Technique.
 New web-content workshop material.

University

*  Prepare for exam.
   Read and take notes on every chapter.
   Re-do all self-quizzes.
   Read chapter 8.

Personal Development

 Study that Coursera course I never open.

Volunteer

 New video on the Survivors Workshop Group.
 Video about consumerism of Egyptian minimalists.

Errands

  Buy mangos.
  Pick up laundry.
  Buy a brain figure + markers.

Later Plans

*Go to Paris.

In this step you can put as many categories as you want; it is completely customizable. You may make it as broad as my example above or you can limit it to work and categorize them to calls, emails, plans, research… etc. It’s totally up to you. This is not related too much to the Pomodoro Technique, but it is a Kickstarter for you before you go, to eliminate any distractions and pop-ups while you are working/studying.

  • The third sheet of paper, use it as your Pomodoro Tracker.
Remember these rules:

Any Pomodoros that are interrupted by anything are not counted. You have to restart that Pomodoro over again.
No other tasks are done in a certain Pomodoro, except the task assigned to that Pomodoro, even if you finished before the 25-minute alarm goes off, do a revision, enhance the quality, do anything related to that task, but never ever break the Pomodoro.
Add any unplanned or urgent tasks at the end of your list.
Teach yourself some self-discipline and control!
#TaskNumber of Pomodoro
1Email client A the invoice√ √ √ √
2Schedule new coaching clients
3Review my account on WUZZUF
4Email client B the invoice
5PR campaign for StreetPal
6Draft blog article about the Pomodoro Technique
7New web-content workshop material
#Unplanned & Urgent Tasks
1Call back client B
  • Activate all the distraction-control apps on your devices (phone, laptop, tablet …etc).

I use the basic ‘don’t disturb’ mode on my smartphone and the brilliant ‘Stay Focused’ Chrome extension.

  • Use your calendar or mobile alarm.

Do this to schedule sessions with limited time to check your email or social media accounts if you need to check them constantly. I prefer to dedicate a Pomodoro for emails and Facebook messages. Try both and see what suits you better.

  • Use the last paper as a distraction inventory.

It has been recommended by the creator of the Pomodoro technique and previously by Albert Einstein.

We are used to instantly responding to every distraction, but the more you eliminate these distractions, the more focused you can be. Divert your urge to respond to distractions by putting them in the inventory.

Every time you get distracted by thought, someone wants to chat, a call or an email notification while you are working in a Pomodoro session, write it down in the distraction inventory, and never respond to the distraction itself until the Pomodoro ends. Stay focused; you can do it!

I will NOT be distracted by these again

Checking Facebook notifications.
Watching bullet journal videos.
Reading productivity articles.
  • Set the timer and start your first Pomodoro!

At last, remember that there are no rules, these are all practices. Try several times till you find what suits you and fits your lifestyle and personality.

Have a productive day!

 

Did you previously know about the Pomodoro Technique? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

 

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Noha Medhat

Author Noha Medhat

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