The Pomodoro Technique is an effective time-management tool for productivity

Effective time management: the Pomodoro Technique

Time is inarguably our most precious resource. It cannot be created – once it’s gone, it is gone forever. As employees, we trade in our time (and skills, of course) for compensation – this is the basis of employment. How we manage our time, however, has a huge bearing on productivity and ultimately career success.

Cyril Parkinson's Law is used in the Pomodoro Technique
Cyril Parkinson’s Law is used in the Pomodoro Technique.

This is where effective time-management comes into play. The Pomodoro Technique, invented by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, is a variant of timeblocking which integrates Parkinson’s Law to produce more in less time.

For the uninitiated, Parkinson’s Law asserts that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, by giving yourself a finite time-limit to complete a task, you dedicate more effort into the actual completion of the task.

Have you ever procrastinated until the 11th hour to do something important, and yet were somehow still able to complete it on time? If you answered yes, then you’ve experienced Parkinson’s Law first hand.

How it works.

The classic Pomodoro Technique is as follows:

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes, then get to work on a single task. Each 25-minute block is called a pomodoro.
  • Once the timer is up, take a 5 minute break during which you can do any activity which relaxes you. Read a magazine, drink some water, or step outside and smell the roses – whatever you choose to do, make sure that it gives your brain a much needed rest.
  • Complete a total of four pomodoros, which is equivalent to 100 minutes of work and 15 minutes of break. After the fourth block, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

If you complete a task before a pomodoro block is over, then the remaining time should be dedicated to overlearning. In essence, you would keep working on that same task, with the goal of refining or consolidating what you have learned.

It’s important to track each completed pomodoro (pen and paper will suffice). At the end of the day, the number of successful pomodoros will help reinforce the conditioning effect of this technique and will also help you gauge progress over time.

Why is the Pomodoro Technique effective.

Regardless of individual intelligence, our brainpower wanes as it fatigues with use. What can result is lower-quality work due to a decrease in available mental capacity. The Pomodoro Technique allows for our brains to recuperate from the fatigue accumulated during each block, and also provides an opportunity for our brains to consolidate anything learned during that time.

Another benefit of the Pomodoro Technique is that it creates a sense of urgency for the user. Through being cognizant of limited time periods to accomplish a task, we make a conscious effort to use our allotted time wisely.

The Pomodoro Technique is a variant of classical conditioning by which it ‘rewards’ breaks after strenuous sprints of work. With long term application of the technique, our brains are conditioned to work hard in order to receive the reward of the break.

How to get started.

If you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, then a kitchen timer will suffice – bonus points if it’s actually shaped like a tomato. For those who are more technologically inclined, there are numerous apps and extensions available. I personally recommend Pomotodo, which is free with additional paid options.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • The technique may seem redundant at first – after all, do you really need a timer to get you to work? However, it typically takes about 2-3 weeks until the conditioning benefits become clear.
  • Rigidity does not have to be absolute. It’s okay to be off by a minute or two.
  • Avoid multitasking. Society puts a premium on the ability to multitask, but the truth is that marginal quality will decrease as we take on more concurrent tasks. Stick to one single task for each pomodoro.
  • Tracking is absolutely key, and it’s also rewarding to see your progression over the long-run.

In the end, the Pomodoro Technique will not only condition you to work harder, but it will also teach you to work smarter by making better use of the time that you’re given.

There you have it folks – the next steps are all you. Let us know how the Pomodoro Technique worked for you in the comments section below.


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