The six steps of the Pomodoro Technique
If you wake up each morning with dread about facing your insurmountable to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique could be just right for you. It’s one of the simplest productivity techniques and all you need is a timer and pen and paper.
The six core steps of the technique are:
1. Choose a task
Pick a task from your to-do list based on priority level.
2. Set the timer for 25 minutes
Set your Pomodoro Technique timer for 25 minutes.
3. Work until the timer rings
Focus on the task until the timer rings. No distractions are allowed.
4. Record the task on your to-do list
When the timer rings, stop working and record the work done. Check off one pomodoro from your to-do list.
5. Take a five-minute break
Move away from your place of work for five minutes to refresh your brain and avoid mental fatigue. You could use this time to get a cup of coffee, read a few pages of a book, or even take a power nap.
6. After four sessions, take a 20-30 minute break
Repeat until you have completed four pomodoros. Take a longer break of around 20-30 minutes.
The Pomodoro Technique is a cyclical method and helps with repetitive work, such as checking email or tracking project progress. It is also ideal for tasks that require flow, such as coding, designing, writing, and studying.
To get the most out of the Pomodoro method, consider a few rules:
1. Break down complex tasks
If your task cannot be completed in four pomodoros, you need to divide it into smaller and more actionable tasks. This will help you track the progress of each sub-task and motivate you to continue working on the complex task.
Alternatively, if you finish a task before a pomodoro is over, you can invest the rest of the time in overlearning.
- You can review your task and edit it to make it better
- You can review the progress made or measure the improvement from the previous pomodoro (gamification)
- You can learn something new. Read industry blogs, complete a course module, or work on networking opportunities
2. Batch similar tasks
Tasks like checking email and social media or setting up a meeting will not take 25 minutes. They can be grouped into one pomodoro time.
You’ll see better productivity when some of these little tasks are out of the way in one session than if they were scattered throughout the day.
3. Create a to-do list in advance
Plan the day’s work—either at the beginning of the day or at the end of the previous day. Create a to-do list with the tasks you must complete.
Estimate how many pomodoros each task will take. Consider scheduling no more than two pomodoros per hour. If you work for four hours per day, you have eight pomodoros scheduled.
If you have more than twelve tasks on your to-do list, move the low-priority ones over to the next day.
4. Don’t entertain distractions
Once the Pomodoro Technique timer starts ticking, you cannot work on anything other than your chosen task.
You don’t stop to quickly check the new email that has come in, you don’t take a brief Twitter break to tweet that cool thought you just had, and you don’t participate in the IM chat discussing the latest movie.
A pomodoro is an inviolable unit of time and should be religiously guarded. If requests or ideas come up, make a note of them for later.
What if you cannot put off the distraction? Let’s see how the pomodoro method deals with unavoidable interruptions.
The cost of distractions
According to research from Dr. Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and fifteen seconds to return to your full flow once you’ve been interrupted?
Context switching, the phenomenon of jumping between tasks, costs you more brainpower, hampers concentration, and decreases productivity.
If you follow the Pomodoro Technique, you work in short bursts of focused work and are forced to concentrate on one task at a time. However, there are times when you cannot avoid distractions.
Cirillo offers two options when you get distracted:
1. You can end the pomodoro time, save/record your task, and return to the task later when you start a new session.
2. Or, you can use the inform, negotiate, schedule, and callback (INSC) strategy to postpone the distraction. It involves four steps:
- Inform the person distracting you that you are working on an important task
- Negotiate a time when you will attend to the person’s needs later
- Follow-up immediately to schedule a meeting at the agreed time
- Once your Pomodoro Technique timer rings, end your task and call the person back to deal with their request