Create an Effective Time Management Habit with the Pomodoro Technique
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I think I am an efficient person.
I write two blogs, with most posts coming in around 1,500-200 words, I come out with 20,000-word book about every month.
I manage all other sorts of my business-related aspects. I walk or run most days of the week.
I read I research, and I discover new things. I spent time with loved ones and manage to fit personal time.
I do not think I could get a fraction of all of this done if I was not fairly efficient. But I am not naturally efficient, I have grown my efficiency skill over time -and much of it has been due to using the simple Pomodoro technique.
Find out more about the Pomodoro technique, why it can be important for any efficiency or time management habit, how and why it works and get find out some ways to help you stick to it by reading the rest of the article below the fold.
I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about the Pomodoro technique. I used to work in blocks based on tasks and how I felt. Sometimes I would go 2 hours uninterrupted on a task. I certainly felt like I was getting a lot done.
"How could breaking up tasks into 25-minute blocks and taking more time off in an average workday help to actually improve efficiency and help me to actually get more done," I wondered.
I decided to give it a shot to spite my misgivings, and boy am I glad I did. While I have no firm data on myself from before, it feels like I have increased my output and productivity threefold. I am getting a lot more done in the same amount of total time. You have to love being efficient.
Why is Effective Time Management Important?
There are only 675,450 hours in the average human life!
Time is one commodity we can never get back. Like sand running through your fingers, once it is gone -it is gone for good.
As you can see the stat above (based on an average 75-year life) even people who live exceeding long lives will not reach a "million hour" life mark.
600+ thousand may seem like a lot. But it really is not.
I know plenty of people who toil away, hour after hour, working hard but not getting much accomplished. It shocks me when I find that they are not tracking and measuring their efforts.
As Peter Drucker famously said, "What gets measured, gets managed"
In other words, when you spend the time to track your time, you can get more done and utilize the 80/20 principle to eliminate those things that are less effective toward the end result you require. All of this leads to getting more done in less time.
This is where the Pomodoro Technique comes into play. You may need / can use some other systems to track and analyze your process, but the Pomodoro technique really helps you stay laser-focused on the task at hand, avoiding distractions and gives you a loose system of accountability.
Ultimately, whatever time management system works best for YOU is your best option. I am only telling you about one that "I" think is effective. I do encourage you to give it a fair chance, though, you might just find it quite useful.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
In the late 1980's, Francesco Cirillo first came up with the Pomodoro System. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, and he named this system because he utilized a tomato-shaped egg timer when working it out.
The system simply breaks down all actions into 25-minute time blocks. Between each time block, there is a five-minute break. These short periods of work allow increased productivity, increased efficiency, intense focus and mental agility and complete disregard to multitasking.
5 Simple Steps of the Pomodoro Technique:
- Choose your task
- Set a timer to 25 minutes (Either manually or with an app)
- Work on task for 25 minutes. Allowing no distractions. Record task completion or failure (if interrupted).
- Take a 5-minute break to recharge your batteries.
- After four of these Pomodoro's take a 20-30 minute break.
Very simple, but brutally effective. People who use this system claim all sorts of increased efficiency results -and I have to say I agree.
Personally, I know it has helped me quite a bit to be more efficient and get things done.
What the Pomodoro System can do for you:
- Eliminate multitasking
- Helps you focus on the task on hand
- Creates a sense of urgency
- Keeps you from overly "fine tuning" tasks
- Increases concentration
- Decrease stress
Rules of a Pomodoro
Like any system, there are rules to making Pomodoro's work, and they need to be followed to make the system work.
Breaks are a requirement, they are not optional!
When that buzzer rings at 25 minutes, you stop work and get up. You need a quick break for your mind to relax so you can maintain focus during your next session.
You can use this time for a little exercise, to get yourself a snack, use the restroom, stretch -whatever you desire, as long as you are up and not working. Giving your mind this time off is essential to the next session of focus.
Pomodoro is the smallest unit.
If you have 12 free minutes, use it if you want -but you are not doing Pomodoro's. You cannot do half now and half later. A single 25 minute task is the smallest unit and cannot be subdivided.
Every task is completed in pomodoros.
Tasks that take less time than 25 minutes should be grouped together. Tasks that take more time should be dived into multiple Pomodoro's.
For example, my social media consists of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Google plus. In two separate Pomodoro's every day, I spend my 25 minute blocks on these networks, replying, posting and dealing with sll the social media stuff. That is the grouping of small tasks.
On the other hand, I also have a massive task of writing my eBooks. Every day I dedicate a few Pomodoro blocks to writing my current eBook.
How to Handle Interruptions
It is important to not get interrupted during pomodoros.
Keeping outside interference that you can control, like keeping email notifications off, is important, but you cannot always control what happens around you.
Pomodoro Tools and Apps
The great thing about the Pomodoro method is that you do not need anything to start it.
No fancy guide. No pricy app's or software. A watch or stopwatch will do, although a simple egg-timer might do best.
Why an egg-timer: There are two reasons why an egg timer is best. First the that the simple action of winding your timer gives you a "start" focus mentality. The second reason is that the "tick-tick-tick" egg-timer helps to create a sense of urgency and helps you focus on your task.
How about using an app?
I love apps. They help to make things even easier. While I do my lists with an old-fashioned pad and paper, I do not lug an egg-timer with me everywhere. I use a Pomodoro app. There are lots of good ones, and many of them will even give you that audible "Tick Tick Tick" I mentioned.
A word of warning when using a Pomodoro app: Disconnect your mobile device completely from the 'net while doing Pomodoros. Emails, IM's and messages from other random apps are huge distractions. The entire point of this system is to eliminate distractions.
Focus. Focus. Focus. Focus on the task at hand!