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How to Make the Pomodoro Technique More Productive

How to Make the Pomodoro Technique More Productive

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method developed to increase your productivity. The theory is simple: you break down your work into periods and then take short, scheduled breaks. I’ve been using this technique for a while and even if it really helped me focus on one task at a time I was missing something. Indeed, I found the Pomodoro Technique very restrictive and not user friendly. My main concern was about the “timer” which is not really friendly, but I finally found a solution—an alternative to this unkind timer: the musical timer!

The Pomodoro Technique in a Few Words

The Pomodoro Technique is really simple to understand: you work for 25 min, and then you take a 5 min break. After 4 Pomodoro slots you take a longer break. In order to work with this method, you first need to break down your to-do list into 25-minute periods. If a task is going to take you more than 25 minutes then you can set up several periods for one task (you’ll be surprised how long certain projects can take!).

Your to-do list is organized, so now you’re ready to get started. You only need a timer to set up the 25 minute slot—you can use a kitchen timer, your iPhone timer or the mobile application Pomodoro timer. This timer is here to help you focus on what you have to do. In fact, during those 25 minutes you’re not going to do anything else except the task you planned to do. Then at the end of the period the timer will ring to notify you that you can now take a break.

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The basic idea is to have a short period of time in which you’ll only focus on a single task. During this period, you’re not supposed to check your emails, open your Facebook, or respond to your phone. I found this technique really useful for two reasons:

First, it really helps you focus for 25 minutes straight. You’ll meet your objectives by telling yourself that you’re not allowed to procrastinate during a slot.

Secondly, it helps you realize how long some tasks could take… and measure the effort you put forth to complete those tasks for less than stellar results.

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The downside of this technique is that it’s really not much fun; you have your timer on your desk, and it vibrates/rings when time is over, like a school bell (it brings up so many bad memories!) So I found a new way to make this technique more fun.

My Musical Timers

I’m a music lover—I love to listen to it when I work, at home, or in my car. Most of the time, when I have a very specific task to do, I would just listen to music to isolate myself in my bubble. It feels great because I can really focus on what I need to do, and I can’t hear what people are saying around me so I don’t get distracted.

That’s how I started to use my playlists as personal Pomodoro timers. One day I was listening to a 30 min music mix I had made a few weeks before. I told myself: “Okay, you have this article to write and you’ll have until the end of the mix to write it”. It worked really well, as the music helped me focus on my task and still had a limited time to complete my task.

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From then on, I made few other mixes from 25 to 40 minutes that I would use as Pomodoro timers! No more unpleasant ringing to notify me that It was time to take a break, and I could still track the time I was spending on a task.

How do I manage my time with my musical Pomodoro timers?

This is really simple. In the morning I check my to-do list, and for that I use the collaborative task management application Azendoo. I prioritize the things I have to do and I estimate how long each task is probably going to take me. Then I select a musical mix for each task and I start working. I even add the link to my music mix in my task description so when I open it I start the music and I begin to work immediately.

When each mix is over, I’ll take a 5 minutes break (I check my emails, go grab a cup of coffee, check my Facebook, phone, etc.) and then go on to the next task and the next music mix. It really makes me much more productive because I know that I’m done when the music is over, and it’s way more pleasant than a ringtone!

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Now, I don’t really respect the 25-min slots anymore. Instead, I use mixes with different lengths and I affect them to my task according to their level of difficulty. Of course this technique is not going to work for everyone, but if you love to listen to music at work, give it a try!

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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