With the simultaneous rise in the need for employee productivity, alongside the desire for better work-life balance, we have been searching for a technique that complements the two. How can we work smarter, rather than harder, and have more time in the day to focus on our personal lives and wellness?
We at Guidewise believe that this sought-after method has already been discovered and goes by the name of “The Pomodoro Technique.” You may have heard this term coined in business journals and other popular publications. Forbes is one of many outlets that has covered the rise of this technique. “Pomodoro” has even become a popular video and live-streaming category, as students and employees record their Pomodoro sessions in an effort to share and encourage the technique with others. But what is the history of this technique, and why should you value adding this process to your own everyday routine?
We have created this guide to the Pomodoro Technique to answer a few different questions: What is Pomodoro exactly, how can you apply it in your life, and why is it so effective for work-life balance? By the end of this article, you should have a firm grasp of the applications of this technique, and be able to implement it into your own work schedule.
The Pomodoro technique is a process dedicated to improving productivity and time management by providing a clear, repetitive structure for periods of work and break time. By implementing this technique, workers and students can look to drastically improve their focus, increasing the amount of work they complete, and decreasing the time necessary to complete it.
This technique was originally created in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, who was still a university student at the time. He struggled to focus and complete his projects, and desired a better system to decrease his work time while improving his focus. His early attempts at the Pomodoro technique involved 10-minute intervals, but this gradually increased to the current 25-minute work-bursts that the technique is now known for. Fun fact, the “Pomodoro” term stemmed from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used when trying out his technique (tomato in Italian is Pomodoro).
Cirillo would find great success with this technique, and went on to write a 130-page book about the practice. Today, he works as a consultant with companies and firms to improve their productivity and utility.Since Cirillo’s early Pomodoro experiments, this technique has now come to enjoy a lot of popularity. You can find students live-streaming their Pomodoro sessions as they encourage others to study with them. But outside of university students, this can very easily be applied in the workplace as well (especially for remote workers!)
The strength of this technique is truly the ability for it to maximize your workflow, by minimizing distractions and simplifying the outlook of your goals. You can also learn more about your working habits and develop better ones as you complete more Pomodoro sessions and become more efficient with organizing your time.
To help better illustrate the approach to the Pomodoro technique, we’ll provide some more detail on how to set up your own sessions and why this structure benefits productivity and work-life balance so well.
The Pomodoro technique can be distilled down to a few key repetitive actions. Below we have found 7-steps that you can follow to establish your own Pomodoro session.
1. Choose a task you would like to get finished
The goal of the Pomodoro technique is to simplify your more complex tasks and make them manageable in simple actionable steps. Ideally, your Pomodoro assignment can be completed in 4 sessions. If it takes anymore, you should look towards simplifying your tasks. Also, remember to combine similar tasks into one session so that you can stay focused and complete them more effectively.
2. Set the timer for 25 minutes
One Pomodoro work session will take 25 minutes. You could alter this time for your particular needs, but this is the standard timeframe for one Pomodoro session.
3. Work on the task uninterrupted until the timer stops
Productivity is ideally maximized by intensely focusing on your work during a shorter session of focus. You should aim to work all the way through your timer, without significant pauses.
4. Make a checkmark on your paper
When you have completed your 25-minute session, you can then make a checkmark on your paper, signifying that you have completed one round of your extended Pomodoro session.
5. Take a short 2 or 3-minute break
After you have completed this session, you can look to take a 2 or 3-minute break. Some people take as much as 5, really the idea here is that you get a moment of clarity, but not too long to become distracted or focused on another task. With a break of under 5 minutes, you can find a brief reprieve without disrupting your productivity.
6. Start another Pomodoro session (reset the timer for 25 minutes)
After your short break period, you are ready to begin another Pomodoro session.
7. After every four Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break (30 minutes, for example)
Ideally, you will have completed one task or at least a major portion of one after 4 Pomodoro sessions. Once this set of Pomodoro’s has been completed, you can then take an extended 30-minute break for more of a chance to relax and then reorient yourself to your next set of tasks. This break can go beyond 30 minutes, but again it is a personal preference. Too long and you may feel a lessened desire to return to your work tasks.
With the finer points of the technique established, you may wonder how this actually maximizes productivity. Well, with many people now making use of Pomodoro sessions, we have some more insight into why exactly this works so well for productivity.
To start, it is great at minimizing distractions. This is especially applicable due to the “shorter” amounts of work time. When we are asked to focus on a task for a shorter amount of time, we are less prone to daydreaming and losing interest. It is very likely that you have experienced a time, whether it was during school or at your job, where you gradually lost interest while working on a task for an extended period of time. Sometimes we just need a moment to pause and refresh, and this is one of the greatest advantages of the Pomodoro technique.
This is also a good segue into the next benefit of the Pomodoro Technique, shorter periods of work mean more intense focus. These short bursts of work time are great for accomplishing more with less. When you’re focused on pushing through a shorter period with the promise of rest soon, your enthusiasm and pace can be greatly improved. Compared to a work session with no clear end in sight, it can be easy to stall and get overwhelmed with your task. Then, when your work period is complete, your brief period of rest will refresh your mind and provide some clarity for your next steps.
On top of the clear benefits you will receive while working, the Pomodoro technique is also a good exercise for recognizing your work habits, and understanding how to improve upon them. With these clearly defined sessions contributing to a larger goal, you can learn how much time it should take you to complete your tasks. Developing further upon this, you can also learn the amount of focus that will be required to successfully achieve this time as well. Overall, through establishing strong habits with Pomodoro, you will recognize how much you need to work to get tasks done and set a new standard for your productivity.
One of the greatest reasons to apply the Pomodoro technique to your life is because of how it can contribute to a healthier, more desirable work-life balance. This is directly related to its increase in productivity, and your resulting free time and sense of accomplishment.
When it comes to work-life balance, what often benchmarks our “life” time, is how our responsibilities at work are completed. We have obligations in our careers, and when we are unable to fulfill these obligations in a timely or effective manner, it can begin to cut into our “life” time. With the use of the Pomodoro technique, anyone can look to improve their efficiency in completing their necessary work tasks in a timely and quality manner. This contributes to a healthier overall work-life balance.
On top of timeliness, it is also important to mention how well Pomodoro contributes to the quality of work produced. Clarity of mind is incredibly important when it comes to organization and the quality of work. With the many responsibilities that life asks of us, it is very easy to become overwhelmed with all the tasks you need to complete. With the clear structure provided by the Pomodoro technique, you afford yourself the opportunity to declutter your mind and have a clear outlook for completing your vital tasks.
Finally, with all these helpful processes in place and functioning well, you can end a day of implementing Pomodoro with a sense of accomplishment. Accomplishing a set of tasks is a great feeling for anyone, no matter how small they may be. While you may have a list of what you need to do in mind, being able to lay it out so clearly and check off your completed tasks is an incredible feeling. By the end of your day, with your Pomodoro sessions completed, you will have made consistent and noticeable progress in your tasks, inspiring good feelings in your “life” time that follows as well.
The Pomodoro Technique was developed out of a need to improve productivity and lessen the time needed for tasks. Since, it has succeeded in its development and has become increasingly popular among university students, and working professionals alike. As workplaces have become more remote and distributed, and variable schedules have expanded across fields, employees need assistance in staying productive and keeping their energy high.
However, recent years have also shown that employees increasingly value work-life balance, and any initiatives that can help achieve this are beneficial. When productivity increases, and the quality of work increases, employees are happy to have more time for their personal lives, and businesses thrive.
No matter what level of work you are currently at, whether you are a student, entry-level, or even a CEO, we all have tasks that we are responsible for in order to keep our lives and workplaces in order. Everyone should consider giving the Pomodoro technique a try — it might just be the difference maker in improving your productivity, and changing your life for the better.