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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Does the Pomodoro Technique Work for Your Productivity?

Does the Pomodoro Technique Work for Your Productivity?

Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the more popular time management systems used today. But this method isn’t for everyone, and for every person who is a passionate adherent of the system, there is another person who is critical of the results.

Is the Pomodoro Technique right for you? It’s a matter of personal preference, but if you are curious about the benefits of using the technique, this article will break down the basic information you will need to decide if this technique is worth trying out.

What Is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Method is a time management technique that aims to provide the user with maximum focus and creative freshness, thereby allowing them to complete projects faster and with less mental fatigue.

The process is simple:

For every project throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically.

You work for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break.

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Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro,” named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal pomodoro timer, and thus the method’s name.

After four “pomodoro” work sessions have passed (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of short breaks), you then take a longer break of 15-30 minutes[1].

The Pomodoro Technique – Why It Works & How To Do It

    Every time you finish a pomodoro, you mark your progress with an “X” and note the number of times you had the impulse to procrastinate or switch gears to work on another task for each 25-minute chunk of time.

    How the Pomodoro Technique Boosts Your Productivity

    Frequent breaks keep your mind fresh and focused. According to the official Pomodoro website, the system is easy to use, and you will see results very quickly:

    “You will probably begin to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two. True mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.”[2]

    If you have a large and varied to-do list, using the Pomodoro Technique can help you crank through projects faster by forcing you to adhere to strict timing.

    Watching the timer wind down can spur you to wrap up your current task more quickly, and spreading a task over two or three pomodoros can keep you from getting frustrated.

    The constant timing of your activities makes you more accountable for your tasks and minimizes the time you spend procrastinating.

    You’ll grow to “respect the tomato,” and that can help you to better handle your workload.

    More Benefits of the Pomodoro Method

    1. Set Time for Distractions

    Throughout our work days, we often get distracted every few minutes. This usually happens because we don’t plan in time for breaks when we would actually be allowed to get distracted. The Pomodoro Technique allows breaks throughout your day, so you know when you’ll get to disconnect and be distracted with something else for a moment.

    2. Limits Open-Ended Work

    Open-ended work like studying, research, or even writing can drag on for hours if you’re not careful. By fitting these kinds of activities into pomodoros, you put a time limit on them, which will help you “complete” them in a certain amount of time and break down work into manageable chunks.

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    3. Turns Work Into a Game

    If you’re a fan of games, the Pomodoro Method can be a lot of fun for you. The timer acts as a countdown for the task at hand, and you’ll feel like you’re working against the clock, trying to “finish a level” or “win the game.” Gamifying important tasks can really help boost your productivity as it offers entertainment, breaking up boring moments with a challenge.

    4. Helps You Move Away From Procrastination

    For those who struggle with procrastination, the Pomodoro Method can keep you motivated. With this technique, you know when and how long you have to work, so you don’t have to talk yourself into working as it’s already laid out for you.

    If you tend to struggle with procrastination, you can also check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination

    Downsides of the Pomodoro Technique

    Despite the number of Pomodoro-heads out there, the system isn’t without its critics. Colin T. Miller, a Yahoo! employee and blogger, tried using the Pomodoro Technique and had some issues:[3]

    “Pomodoros are an all or nothing affair. Either you work for 25 minutes straight to mark your X or you don’t complete a pomodoro. Since marking that X is the measurable sign of progress, you start to shy away from engaging in an activity if it won’t result in an X. For instance…meetings get in the way of pomodoros. Say I have a meeting set for 4:30pm. It is currently 4:10pm, meaning I only have 20 minutes between now and the meeting…In these instances I tend to not start a pomodoro because I won’t have enough time to complete it anyway.”

    Another critic is Mario Fusco, who argues that the Pomodoro Technique is…well…sort of ridiculous:[4]

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    “Aren’t we really able to keep ourselves concentrated without a timer ticking on our desk?… Have you ever seen a civil engineer using a timer to keep his concentration while working on his projects?… I think that, like any other serious professional, I can stay concentrated on what I am doing for hours… Bring back your timer to your kitchen and start working in a more professional and effective way.”

    Final Thoughts

    One of the best things about the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s free. Yeah, you can fork over some bills to get a tomato-shaped timer if you want, or you can use a custom timer, or any timer program on your computer or phone. Even if you try it and hate it, you haven’t lost any cash.

    The process isn’t ideal for every person, or in any line of work, but if you need a systematic way to tackle your daily to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique may fit your needs.

    More Productivity Tips

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Todoist: The Pomodoro Technique
    [2] Francesco Cirillo: The Pomodoro Technique
    [3] Aspirations of a Software Developer: A Month of the Pomodoro Technique
    [4] InfoQ: A Critique of the Pomodoro Technique

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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