Improving productivity: The Pomodoro Technique
It’s easy to fall into patterns at work, isn’t it? And there’s some comfort in those patterns– that reviving cup of tea once you get to your desk in the morning; the knowledge that you’ll be tucking into your lunch by 12:30; the afternoon biscuit you look forward to at 3pm.
Yes, familiar routines can keep us together on our busiest days. Mine is to start my working day with that obligatory cup of tea (I like Green Jasmine, in case anybody would like to pop a brew on for me) and then to write my to-do list.
Despite our best efforts, however, productivity can elude us in the workplace. The stats out there are frankly terrifying – $300billion wasted each year in US businesses alone* by office distractions.
Distractions are an inescapable part of office life, as very few of us are immune to the lure of a new email or a Twitter notification (especially when social media management is part of your job description!), but when this infographic from Neoman Studios popped into my inbox, it got us wondering – are there ways to stay focused and improve our productivity levels?
Last month Kirsty trialled the 15 minute break system, with two breaks firmly scheduled in to divide her morning and afternoon. Whilst the breaks helped her to take some much-needed time away from her laptop, she didn’t feel it revolutionised her working day.
So, what would the Pomodoro Technique offer me, I wondered. For those not in the know, the Pomodoro Technique centres on the principle that you split your time into 25 minute intervals – known as a ‘Pomodoro’. After each Pomodoro, you take a five minute break, before starting your next one. Some tasks can be fitted into one Pomodoro, whilst others may need three or four to see them through to completion.
The idea is that you can be thoroughly focused on the task at hand, leaving other distractions to wait until you’re ready to deal with them during an allocated time slot.
As someone who often has a lot of tabs open, jumping from Twitter to LinkedIn and from blogging to emails, I was eager to jump straight into my Pomodoro challenge to see if I could restructure my day and be more productive.
First thing in the morning, I equipped myself with that cup of tea and to-do list and allocated Pomodoros for each of my tasks. It was set to be a busy day and I felt optimistic that I’d structured my time and tasks well. So how did the Pomodoro Technique work in the ‘real’ world?
The first flaw was perhaps down to me, as I underestimated just how quickly 25 minutes can pass by. Tasks such as going through emails should not, to my mind, be a lengthy process but it’s staggering how much time can pass whilst you’re filing, forwarding and composing replies.
I was already a couple of Pomodoros behind by the time I started my next task after actioning emails. Another niggle I experienced with the Pomodoro Technique was the mandatory five minute breaks. This interrupted the natural flow of some tasks and, as those 25 minute sessions really do fly by, I felt I was getting up from my desk more than I needed to.
In a growing, busy team, it’s common to be pulled on to another task at a moment’s notice or asked to pitch in to help with something. The level of structure provided by the Pomodoro Technique would be great for quieter days when I could purely focus on crunching a selection of tasks, but during a busy day it didn’t allow for the flexibility I need to balance the needs of several projects at any one time.
I did, of course, take some positive learnings from the Pomodoro Technique.
Taking such a structured approach to my working day did help me to appreciate the true value of time, and to consider how I can maximise it. I’ve finally taken the advice of every productivity article out there and closed my email inbox whilst I’m trying to complete specific high priority tasks.
I like to feel as connected as I can to my emails and to respond quickly when needed. However, having now experienced the value of a distraction-free 40 minutes or so, I have noticed that it has had an impact on my efficiency and focus.
So, would I recommend the Pomodoro Technique to all of you? I’d advise trying anything once, particularly if it can have a positive effect on your working day. But, unless you have days where you know your attention won’t deviate from your own to-do list, the structure of the Pomodoro Technique isn’t flexible enough to accommodate those real, lively, loud, ‘yes I can help with that!’, busy days.
And can’t those days be the best? 🙂
Turns out, after further research, I should have had a proper Pomodoro Technique tomato-shaped timer to help me ‘confirm my determination to start the task’. Alas, I was relying on a wall clock. Maybe I’ll try it again with the timer in the future!
Find out more:
What are the alternatives to a 9-5 working day?
Discover what leading Millennial blogger sees as the future of work
From productivity to personal development: Why go back to college?