Most of us want to be more productive and focused. We want to get more done in less time, and work smarter, as opposed to harder. But we also live in the real world, where we have responsibilities, to-do’s piling up, people relying on us, and a laundry list of tasks that we want to get to.

overwhelmed_with_workProductivity isn’t one size fits all, and it is not a bull’s eye that we can always reach. Productivity lives alongside us every day and we are constantly tweaking it and changing it and paying attention to it and reassessing it. I know that sounds exhausting but it’s really not. Look at it as a constant companion that’s helping you get more done, but that also recognizes you are human and that you need a break.

So how do you stay productive and focused, while also giving yourself a break now and then? Enter the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo (yes, an Italian, hence the name, which means tomato in Italian) in the late 1980s. The premise behind the Pomodoro Technique is that taking short, scheduled breaks while working eliminates burn out and distractions, and improves focus.

So how does it work?

pomodoro_techniqueEach Pomodoro lasts for 25 minutes, and is a highly focused work session, followed by a 5 minute break. After 4 Pomodoro intervals, you take a longer break of 20-30 minutes.

You may be thinking… “25 minutes? That’s it. How easy!” Not so fast. The Pomodoro is a highly focused work session, which means no interruptions or distractions are allowed. By other people for sure. But also, not even by ourselves. We tend to task-switch every 3 minutes according to David Meyer, a researcher at the University of Michigan who studies multi-tasking and task switching. That means that we interrupt ourselves constantly throughout the day. We may be in the middle of a task, and think of something else and move to another task (“Oh wait, I forgot to send that email earlier today. Let me just do that now.”) With Pomodoro, you focus on the task at hand only. When you complete your 25 minute Pomodoro interval, then you allow interruptions, self imposed or otherwise.

The beauty of the Pomodoro Technique is its simplicity. You use a timer to break down work into manageable intervals, separated by short breaks. You know there is a light at the end of the tunnel in 25 minutes, so you dive in with full mental acuity and give your work intervals your all. You tend to be more focused and productive, and during your breaks, you give yourself a real break.

What do you do during your breaks? Grab snacks, drink some water, stretch your legs and body, pet your dog, say hello to someone, use the restroom, check social media or email, etc.

The Pomodoro Technique can work well for anyone… students, professionals in an office environment, self employed folks who work from home in an unstructured environment, etc. Indeed, the structure of the Pomodoro Technique is often what makes it work so well.

If you have ADD, the Pomodoro Technique can be very powerful. It helps you focus on the task at hand, knowing that you get a built in break after 25 minutes. You may need to shorten your Pomodoros at first to work up to 25 minutes. Likewise, if you can last longer than 25 minutes and still be highly focused, then stretch your Pomodoros a bit. But not too long, as studies show that too long, and you start to lose focus.

For more information about the Pomodoro Technique, visit http://pomodorotechnique.com, where you will find videos, books, a timer, etc. You can also download the app to help guide you through your work intervals and breaks. Ready to take a bite out of that tomato? Try the Pomodoro Technique and see if it helps you be more productive.

About Lisa Montanaro

Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and enjoy productive and profitable businesses. To receive her free Toolkit, Achieve Powerhouse Success with Purpose, Passion & Productivity, visit www.LisaMontanaro.com/toolkit. Lisa is the author of "The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life" published by Peter Pauper Press. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help you be purposeful, passionate and productive, contact Lisa at (530) 302-5306 or by e-mail at Lisa@LisaMontanaro.com.

4 Responses to “Want to Be More Focused & Productive? Take a Bite Out of a Tomato… Introducing The Pomodoro Technique”

  1. Janet Barclay

    This is really interesting. I wonder how it would work when you’re working on something but you can’t continue until someone gets back to you with some needed information. Not wanting to waste time, especially if they don’t get back to me the same day, I usually move on to a new task. Theoretically I should focus on just that task until it’s done or it’s time for a break, but what if the first one is urgent, and they call me with the answer?

    Reply
  2. Sabrina Quairoli

    I’ve heard of this method before. I have noticed that especially working in front of the computer for hours, this process helps keep me focused longer because of the breaks in between. It’s definitely worth a try.

    Reply
  3. Lisa Montanaro

    Janet – That’s a great question! I think if it were me, I would focus as long as possible on the project or task until I either got to the 25 minutes, the person gets back to me that I am waiting for, OR I hit a wall and cannot move forward until I hear back from the person with pending info. Or I may choose to do a different task altogether until I hear back from the person with missing info and then focus on this task for a full Pomodoro.

    Reply
  4. Lisa Montanaro

    Sabrina – Yes, I think Pomodoro especially works for sitting at a desk or staring at a computer. Maybe for some, it would work well for reading or studying also. But you can expand or shorten each Pomodoro if you notice that you need more or less time for each timed segment. Hope it works well for you when you try it!

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