According research, one of the biggest problems with productivity is the task switching inherent with multitasking. When you try to multitask, your brain has to constantly switch gears, since it actually can’t manage to focus on more than one thing at once. Instead of effectively working, you are actually constantly switching from one task to another.
Each time you switch tasks, though, you have to re-adjust. You are actually more likely to be productive, and get more done overall, if you focus on one task at a time.
One of the ways to do this is to use what is known as the Pomodoro technique. This method of work can help you focus your efforts, and keep from burning out with the help of breaks.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro technique gets its name from the fact that its inventor used a timer that looked like a tomato to make this work. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato.
The technique is fairly straightforward. You work for between 20 and 25 minutes on a single task. You focus exclusively on that task, without getting distracted. Many of those who use this strategy set a timer so that they aren’t distracted by looking at a clock.
After the timer goes off, you take a break that lasts for between three and five minutes. This break allows you to take some mental refreshment. Get up and go to the bathroom. Check your social media profile. Read a horoscope. Go get a small and healthy snack. Once your short break is over, you set the timer again for your next Pomodoro.
A single Pomodoro consists of one work period and one break period. After you complete the work section of your third or fourth Pomodoro, it’s time for a longer break of 15 minutes. You can use this break for a bigger snack, or for lunch, for a brisk walk outside, or to engage in a little small talk with someone nearby. It’s also worth noting that 15 minutes is a good amount of time for a power nap or for meditation.
Arranging matters this way allows you to focus exclusively on your project, and get more done with it. There is no awkward task switching because you have a break in between work periods to help you avoid burnout, and to help you find a natural transition. After your break period, you can keep working on the same project, or you can choose to work on a different project.
Tools to Help You with the Pomodoro Technique
All you really need to make the Pomodoro technique work in your favor is a timer. Just set a time for the allotted period and you’re good. You can also get timer apps for your phone. It’s relatively easy to set this up.
I like to use a Chrome plugin called Strict Workflow. There is a free version that allows you to divide your work into Pomodoros that consist of 25 minute work periods and five minute break periods. One of the great things about this plugin is that it allows you to block time-sucking web sites so that you aren’t distracted as you try to work. You can personalize this plugin, changing work and rest periods (although you might end up with something less effective), and you can choose which sites are “whitelisted” (for research).
The Pomodoro technique is a great way to manage your productivity so that you get more done. The quality of your work will improve, and you’ll be surprised at what you can actually get accomplished.