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.
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.
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.
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!
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!