Workplace Productivity: The Pomodoro Technique
Maintaining concentration and avoiding procrastination is something we all encounter, whether that is with work or study.
You might have a deadline fast approaching or an examination where you know you have not covered all of the bases.
In response, you try to sit down and cram in as much as possible with no time structure or strategy.
After 45 minutes, you realize that your mind has become saturated, and you cannot stand to look at a screen or a textbook any longer.
In an attempt to relax, you take a break, but this break becomes two hours, and you are still left with the unfinished workload.
If this situation sounds familiar, then one strategy you can utilize to combat these procrastination problems is the Pomodoro Technique.
Without knowing what the technique is, it may sound complicated, but it is one of the simplest ways to manage your time and energy.
The technique works around using 30-minute intervals, with 25 minutes of these being directed towards work and the remaining five used for productive breaks.
Pomodoro is derived from the Italian word for tomato was coined by the now renowned author Francesco Cirillo.
At University, Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to break up his workload and develop the strategy that is now used at some point by all fellow procrastinators.
If you have never used the technique before, it is understandable that you may be skeptical about how the use of such a narrow timeframe can improve your productivity.
However, it is the limitation of the Pomodoro technique that makes it so beneficial for studying, revision, and deadlines.
Without these restrictions, we may try and plan our workload around a much longer timeframe.
Let’s take five hours as an example. In these five, you will start off well, but at some point, you will inevitably become distracted, bored, or simply tired of the task.
Because you have set yourself a five-hour timeframe to work within, your break will likely be very long.
You will also likely stretch the workout as you will reason with yourself that you have lots of time, so there is no need to rush.
With no restriction or pressure, the task at hand is naturally stretched out over the totality of the time you originally set, in this example, five hours.
Consequently, you will only complete one or two tasks within the set timeframe, meaning your productivity is very inefficient.
This is known as Parkinson's Law, and in a nutshell, it means that the workload you have will naturally fill the time you have allotted.
The Pomodoro technique is a counter tactic to these problems. Once you begin to use the Pomodoro technique to combat the limitations with other working strategies, the benefits are numerous:
- You will develop better time management skills. With forced working habits you will have more time to relax
- It can help with stress issues and anxieties that surround work. There will be less time spent thinking about the work and more time doing the work
- The technique will create a sense of order that will help control your procrastination problems
- You give yourself accountability in smaller chunks, making the tasks less daunting
- With more manageable work intervals, your motivation will be higher to do them, and you lessen the risk of burnout
As mentioned, the Pomodoro technique is designed to help those who struggle with procrastination issues.
In addition to this, the Pomodoro technique can be used to help with an array of problems.
If you struggle with performance anxiety, then the Pomodoro technique may be a viable solution.
A mass workload can be overwhelming, and breaking this up into dedicated intervals will make it more digestible.
The Pomodoro technique can help people who have more than one workloads to address. You may be a student either in University or college, and you may have a job to fund your course.
Even with two workloads (a relatively common amount), the stress of deadlines and management can sometimes derail someone to the point where they cannot address either of them.
Using a Pomodoro style to approach your work will help channel your energies towards one task at a time. Doing so will allow you to structure your days better, ultimately leading to you getting more work done in the long run.
At work, you may be part of a team working towards a unified goal of some sort. This could be the organization of a presentation or a portfolio for another corporation.
If this is the case, the workloads of each respective member of the team may be scattered and unorganized.
Without a structure dedicated to productivity, some members of the team may produce much more than others.
Organizing the team's working productivity on a Pomodoro structure ensures that everybody works for the same amount of time with an equally dedicated focus.
There are two parts to the Pomodoro: the 25 minutes for work and the remaining five for a productive break.
When working within that 25 minutes, you must dedicate all of your focus. This means stepping away from any potential distractions such as television, social media and other mobile phone applications.
What to do with the five-minute break is discussed below, but it is important to stress that it must be productive in some sense.
It is a good idea to plan what to do with a Pomodoro beforehand. For example, if you want to dedicate a good deal of time to work through a deadline, then allocate a set amount of Pomodoro's to this task.
One of the benefits of the Pomodoro is it breaks up the workload, making it seem less stressful. With this in mind, allocate a realistic amount of work.
You will not read a full book or complete all your administrative tasks within one Pomodoro, so do not attempt to do so.
Instead, think about what can be realistically achieved within 25 minutes of work. Once you become comfortable with the structure, you will be surprised by how much you can complete in that time.
As you become more comfortable, you can move towards working through four Pomodoro's a day, then potentially five, and so on.
The structure allows for progression quickly. Depending on how you cope with the standard structure, you may change it to fit your needs.
Over time you might find yourself complete two or even three Pomodoro's without the need for the five-minute breaks.
However, bending the structure is not to be advised at first. It is best to become familiar with how much you can do within 25 minutes and what a five-minute break feels like.
After a stint of work, you may find yourself yearning for a break. However, this break becomes longer than the work period itself.
Breaks before your introduction to the Pomodoro technique were unlikely productive or structure.
For example, after getting halfway through a deadline, you may have found yourself playing a videogame or shopping for clothes online.
These types of breaks are passive, meaning they take your concentration away from work.
For a Pomodoro to be successful, the five minutes must be actively used.
As well as planning out what you intend to do over the 25 minutes of work, it is also recommended to plan out what you intend to do over the five-minute break.
The intention of the break is to keep your mind engaged with a working task, so it is therefore important that the task of the break is also relatively engaging.
It must be stressed that the five-minute break should be used for something else other than the working task.
Here are some good suggestions for a productive five-minute break:
- Filing or organizing a folder
- Washing up or cleaning up a working space
- Taking a pet out quickly if at home
- Talking and informing a colleague of something while making a drink
- Packing a bag for a gym session planned later in the day
- Replying to an email from a friend or colleague
- Filling up any water bottles
These examples all take the person out of the imminent working environment; however, they do not serve as endless distractions.
The five-minute breaks are designed to often make a person move, or at least they require a person to shift location from their current working environment.
They are also designed to aid you throughout the rest of the day.
The packing of a bag or the filling up of a water bottle encourages further productivity.
If you have your own ideas for what you would like to do with the five-minute breaks, ask yourself if they can be done within the five minutes and if they do contribute to work in some way.
A negative to both of these means the break is not suitable.
The Pomodoro technique has become a renowned way of working and studying. Quite simply, this is because it works.
There is nothing too complicated about the technique, meaning it is adaptable for most situations and most people.
With it being such a simple technique, it is easy to explain and easy to follow.
Further, any changes you want to personally make to the Pomodoro are easy to integrate.
As long as it sticks within the pattern of a solid period of work and a short productive break.
The work periods in the standard Pomodoro blocks are also designed to accommodate the average attention span of someone.
It may be surprising, but the attention span of the average working person is much lower than what is often estimated.
With this in mind, the 25-minute block of work is not too much of a commitment.
You can set realistic goals and deadlines in these timeframes and not have to worry about burnout.
It is also worth mentioning that the 25-minute working blocks help alleviate stress.
The focus on one task for a short stint generally helps avoid someone jumping between multiple tasks.
Pressure and anxiety around work usually arise when one feels they have too much to do in a limited amount of time.
The Pomodoro technique is arguably the most viable solution to this very common problem.
The Pomodoro technique is also schedule-friendly.
For example, you may have a two-hour slot in the morning where you have to focus on one deadline.
To break this down, you may decide to integrate the work for the deadline into four Pomodoros.
Whatever you are working or studying situation may be, it is more than likely that the Pomodoro technique can be used to maximize your productivity.
Like all studying techniques and workplace solutions used to help with productivity, there are always potential problems.
The Pomodoro technique is no different, and despite its proven record of improving productivity, it can sometimes be less effective than other techniques.
The timeframe itself may not work for how you work or study. In other words, if you prefer to work on multiple tasks at once, such as writing and responding to emails, then the Pomodoro may reduce your efficiency.
Likewise, it can be relatively problematic in team-based situations.
Everybody works in a different way and at a different pace. Attempting to enforce the use of the Pomodoro technique on everybody may reduce levels of productivity.
Moreover, it is not guaranteed to work. You may struggle with other issues that are not related to the Pomodoro at all.
An example would be your work environment or your ability to remain within one work environment.
Addressing these issues may be worth considering rather than integrating the Pomodoro into your schedule.
Depending on your role in the workplace, the Pomodoro may not be of use at all.
If you are a colleague in a Public Relations position or in a role that deals with socializing, then the Pomodoro may not suit that work style.
All in all, the Pomodoro is one of many techniques that should be at least considered if you have frustrations surrounding your workplace productivity.
If you want to use the Pomodoro to improve your work rate, keep these tips and questions in mind:
Plan out your work accordingly before using the Pomodoro technique. Once you plan what needs to be done over a certain amount of time, the Pomodoro strategy is much more effective.
The Pomodoro is designed to help you break up stressful tasks. If you have no problem replying to emails for three hours straight, then the Pomodoro is not to be used.
However, if you cannot stand a certain task for more than one hour, then it is here that the Pomodoro is at its best. We all have those tasks in mind that we avoid.
Highlight these and use the technique to overcome the anxiety surrounding these specific tasks.
If you are at work in a noisy and social environment, then consider other strategies.
However, if you can take yourself away to a quiet working spot where you need to prioritize one or two tasks, then it is worth considering the Pomodoro.
Depending on your previous working patterns, the 25 minute period of work may seem either too much or too little.
If this is the case, then do not hesitate despite your inclinations. Remember that the Pomodoro can be changed as long as it obeys the same work and productive break principles.
As long as you maintain these two facets of the Pomodoro technique, then it ultimately works.
However, you should become comfortable with the orthodox structure before manipulating it too far.
Cirillo used a cooking tomato timer to organize his work at University, and today he and thousands of others are still using the same basic technique to maximize their productivity.
It may not be for every situation and workplace scenario; however, no technique fits all circumstances.
If you have fallen upon this article in a desperate search for motivation and help, then you should be coming away getting ready to set that timer for 25-minutes.
This could be the productive breakthrough that you have needed.