If you are reading this when you should be working, you probably need a technique that will help you tune out distractions and focus on the tasks you need to accomplish. I mean, we’re happy to have you here, but we want you to be the most productive you. Luckily, there is an easy method that you can use to fight distractions and get more things done – the Pomodoro Technique. You may have heard about it, so let’s discuss whether it’s worth doing.


Well, what is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is one of simplest and most popular time management techniques used today. It is crafted by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s to improve his personal productivity as a university student. He named it “Pomodoro” ( the Italian word for tomato) after the tomato-shaped timer he found in the kitchen and used to time his work.

The Pomodoro Technique requires that you break down your work day into 25 minute working periods then rest for five minutes. Each 25 minute work session is called a “Pomodoro”. It’s best to simply jot down each of the Pomodoro’s and their subsequent breaks on a piece of paper. After each Pomodoro, you record your progress with an “X” and take a short break. After four Pomodoro, the equivalent to 100 minutes of working time and 15 minutes break, you take a longer break of 30 minutes. Done. How many breaks!? Sounds bliss.


How to get started

The Pomodoro Technique is really quite easy to implement, in fact, you can get started in just a few steps. Here is a step by step outline of what you need to get the most out of this technique:


1. Identify and outline your most important tasks

On a piece of paper (or through your task management system) list down the tasks you need to accomplish for the day. If you already have a to-do list, go through your list one by one and ask yourself which of the tasks you have listed should be prioritized. We recommend getting your hardest / largest tasks done first, ending on the smaller more manageable tasks. Add each of these to a pomodoro, and it’s ok to have tasks run over several pomodoro’s. However, if you estimate it’ll take you over 3, then you’ve probably not broken down your task into small enough sections.


2. Set the timer to 25 minutes

The Pomodoro Technique requires a countdown timer. It doesn’t have to be a cute kitchen tomato timer like the one used by Cirillo. You can use any physical countdown timer you have in your home or any countdown timer on your computer or mobile phone. aka: iPhone; does the job perfectly.

In the office here for those that use the technique there’s a cool nifty timer created by Tomato Timer that we highly recommend. Check it out here: www.tomato-timer.com

There’s also an app if that’s how you roll. Pomodori – available for Mac Os X


3. Work on each task without distractions.

Now this is important. The main pillar of this technique working requires you to have NO distractions. So put your phone on silent (they can wait 25 minutes), stop your email notifications. Close Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc etc etc. And if you’re working in a busy office / at home, put headphones on. You’ll be amazed at how much you can actually get done when you set your mind to a 25 minute stint without distractions. If you’re a freelancer, this will help you massively, and you should definitely check out other techniques we recommend to get you on top of your career. When the timer rings, cross the Pomodoro section off your list and enjoy your break.


So what’s the verdict?

The Pros

What’s good about this technique is that it is so easy to get started and you can see results quickly. Crossing off Pomodoro sections will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to keep going forward. This method is also great because it will help you beat deadline-related stress, and make you learn to get yourself organized. You can’t do this technique without breaking down your tasks in to 1, 2 or 3 Pomodoro’s.

Working in 25 minutes interval and resting for 5 minutes refreshes your brain and it will enable you to complete tasks faster with less mental exhaustion. Ultimately, if the technique works for you, you’re going to be more productive.


The Cons

Pomodoro, is a great productivity technique, but it’s not perfect for everybody. People with tasks that require longer sessions of concentration or tasks that are too short for a 25 minute work period find that the Pomodoro technique is not applicable for them.

Another possible drawback of this method is that interruptions are nearly impossible to avoid especially if you are working in an office. You may find it almost impossible to do 25 minutes without being interrupted. Some critics have also pointed out that when using this technique, reaching the 25 minute Pomodoro timeout when you are in the flow of work can interrupt creativity and concentration.

To work around these disadvantages, the technique can be adapted depending on your needs. Try different amount of intervals that work better for you.

All in all, it is important to understand that just because it works for some people, does not mean that it will work for you. But, we use it to get us back on task, so it’s definitely worth a try.