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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 March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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