Productivity at work and school is a struggle for many. How many times do you find yourself re-writing to-do lists with the same items not yet complete? Or maybe you are just getting into the groove of a task that requires concentration and get distracted by the ping of a notification for a new email that you feel the need to check and respond to right away, breaking your concentration and motivation to complete the previous task. If so, you’re not alone — this article in Harvard Business Review reports that people check their email 15 times throughout their workday.
So, you know that you could be more productive, but what is the solution to boosting productivity in a way that can prevent burnout and preserve a sense of mental wellness? One proven technique that has been adopted successfully by many is the Pomodoro Technique. Created by a Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the technique gets in name from a kitchen timer that was shaped like a tomato he used when he was a student. While they are much better tools for the job now, like this Productivity Cube, the technique still works. It breaks down the day into manageable chunks which allows your brain to focus on one task at a time, resulting in a more efficient schedule leaving more time for needed decompression throughout the day.
What is it?
The Pomodoro Technique is a system that encourages you to use time effectively by using a timer to break up your day into short chunks of time that are then separated by a short break. Each chunk coupled with a break is known as a Pomodoro. After you have finished about four Pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15-40 minutes. Repeat for desired amount of time- using this technique through your start and finish time for the day.
The reason why this works is that when you know you have a set amount of time to focus on a specific task it creates a sense of urgency. It helps eliminate distractions when you know you have a set amount of time to make progress and it helps prevent burnout by not pushing your mind to focus for longer than it is capable of or to multi-task, which does not work. In fact multi-tasking can reduce productivity by up to 40%.
When correctly implemented this method also comes with other health benefits. You can use your short 5-minute breaks to give your eyes a break, get a drink of water, or just get up and stretch. The longer break can be perfect to squeeze in a quick walk or workout, to call a friend, spend time with a loved one, or even a pet.
Who Can Use it?
The Pomodoro method can be a great tool for both setting up a school schedule or tackling your workday calendar. Parents, help your at-home learners practice discipline without the decision fatigue of planning it on their own. Teachers, this timing method can be helpful to use as a rule of thumb to help students avoid distractions by providing specific stop and start times. This technique also works for those looking to improve their productivity in their workday. It can help avoid those feelings of being stuck with a never-ending to-do list by forcing yourself to pick one task to focus on at a time — no distractions. No more switching back and forth between checking your inbox and competing a task that requires deep concentration.
Get started now!
Many have experienced great results with this method. Give it a shot today to find out if it works for you.
We recommend this timer block available at these Staples stores. It comes with pre-set increments of time that are ready to set which makes it easy to just get started. Leave it on your desk as a reminder to use the Pomodoro technique. There are also apps to install on your PC or Mac for this purpose. The Pomodor app is free.
Plan your day ahead of time by deciding on a start and end time. Then fill in your schedule with Pomodoros. Remember each block of work time should be between 15 and 40 minutes, the ideal time for concentrating. Play around with the times to find your sweet spot. Many people find it also helps to decide what task you will be working on for each pomodoro — this can help you make the most of your time by pre-determining priorities and tackling them in order one by one.
For this to truly work you need to break up each work session with a 5–10-minute break spent doing non-work-related tasks — then get right back at it. After 3-4 pomodoros (work session and a 5–10-minute break), take a longer 25–30-minute break. Your brain needs this time to recover and remain efficient the rest of the day.
Stick with this method for one month to see how it can benefit you. Feel free to change up the increments of time for work and break sessions and go with what feels natural. This will be different for everyone but resist the urge to continue the break or the work session longer than you planned.
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