How to Be More Productive: The Pomodoro Technique

Date: February 18, 2015

Part 1 of our five-part series on productivity features a method to help you manage your time and your distractions.

Productivity is one of the keys to success for small business owners,
though it is also one of the most challenging traits to master. We are
featuring five popular methods that have helped others increase production
efficiency. Productivity methods can help you organize, manage the workday and
reduce stress. The first installment of our series delves into the Pomodoro
Technique.

What Is It?

Developed by Francesco Cirillo
in the late 1980s, the Pomodoro
Technique
involves using a kitchen timer (shaped like a tomato, hence the
name) to set 25-minute intervals in which you work uninterrupted. In between
each work interval is a short break. The idea is that periods of intense focus
followed by short breaks improve mental function, creativity and productivity,
while reducing procrastination. It also helps you manage your tempting
distractions and shows you the amount of time each task takes, so you can
properly structure your workdays. 

How Does It Work?

1. Choose a task that
deserves your full attention.

2. Set the Pomodoro for 25
minutes.

3. Work on the task,
uninterrupted—no checking email, no answering the phone, no surfing the
Internet, no talking to coworkers—until the Pomodoro rings. When it rings, put
a check mark on a piece of paper.

4. Take a five-minute
break. Get up, walk around, grab a glass of water, stretch. These breaks are
meant to reduce fatigue and reenergize you.

5. After your break, set
the Pomodoro again and go back to your task, uninterrupted, for another 25
minutes, again putting a check mark on a piece of paper when the Pomodoro
rings. The idea is to have a record of how many Pomodoros it takes you to
complete certain tasks.

6. When you have completed
four Pomodoros (a set), take a longer break, 20 to 30 minutes.

7. Repeat the process until
you finish your task.

How Can It Help Small Business Owners?

Jeannel King uses the Pomodoro Technique in
her San Diego-based business, Big Picture Solutions.

“I’m a huge fan of the
Pomodoro Technique, and I use it whenever I need to focus, get things done or
eat the proverbial elephant one bite at a time,” King says.

She starts by writing the
tasks she needs to get done that day on sticky notes: one task per note and
organizing the notes in the order they need to be done.

“I’ll pick the first one,
even if it feels like an energy drainer and I’m dreading working on it and set
my Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes,” she says. “As the timer clicks away, I get
to it. I can work on anything for 25 minutes. I take my five minute break,
usually a walking break, before I start the next Pomodoro.”

She tends to work this
way—25 minutes of intense focus, five-minute break, after four intervals,
taking a longer break—for about three hours.

“When I feel myself
slipping out of that highly productive and focused zone, I stop using the
method and call myself done for the morning or day,” she says. “I can do this
and feel good about it because I get more good work done in those three hours
with my Pomodoros than I would if I pushed myself for the rest of the day.” 

Would this productivity method work for you? 

Related Content: Resources | State | National | Time Management

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