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How to Increase Your Productivity With The Pomodoro Technique

Many readers have reached out to me wanting to hear more about how I manage to juggle everything that I do, and how they can increase their productivity. Shen approached me recently and introduced the Pomodoro Technique to increase your productivity.

Although I am a big productivity junky and pride myself in being able to accomplish a lot more than the average person in the same amount of time, this is the first time I’ve heard of the Pomodoro Technique (Note: No one is born ultra efficient. There are several methods and habits I deliberately practice to increase my productivity).

And although part of my working routine involves variations of this method, and thus I feel I am incorporating a lot of it in my day to day already, I did not know what it was called. Here is Shen to introduce what it is and how it can increase your productivity…

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m guessing that you’re somewhat like me – You’re a busy person with a fairly packed schedule trying to squeeze every last ounce of effectiveness out of your day.

The fact is that most successful people in business, work and life also tend to be the best ‘productivity-hackers’. Find me a successful businessperson who spends most of his time twiddling on Facebook in a disorganized environment and I’ll show you a liar, and a pretty bad one at that.

Now, there have already been a few excellent posts about productivity on this blog, such as Sunil’s article on Mind Hack Strategies, but I’d like to introduce you guys to a simple productivity technique that’s nearly doubled my work rate over the past few months.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to The Pomodoro Technique.

So What’s The Pomodoro System All About Anyway?

Are you easily distracted when you’re trying to focus on a particular task at hand? Maybe you’re trying to write a blog post and yet you’re juggling between twitter replies, instant messages and email notifications.

The human mind wasn’t made to process so many actions simultaneously, and the result of trying to synthesize all of these things at the same time tends to lead to a lack of focus over the actual task at hand.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy that focuses on focusing. Think of it as a punch clock for your brain, only niftier.

In a nutshell, this is how the technique works:

The Pomodoro system arranges each work cycle or ‘Pomodoro’ into 25 minute sessions.

After every Pomodoro, you take a short break of 5 minutes to recharge your brain batteries before you start a new Pomodoro. After 4 Pomodoro sessions, you take a slightly longer break of around 15 – 20 minutes.

At the end of the day, you tabulate how many Pomodoros you completed to get a sense of how productive you were.

It’s not particularly complicated but the best things in life rarely are.

So How Does This Help Me?

Scientists have discovered that the optimal time span that most people can concentrate for is about 25 minutes. Having constant short breaks helps to keep your mind sharp and fresh, which maintains your focus for the next Pomodoro at hand.

The very commitment to timing your tasks adds a sense of urgency to whatever you’re doing. As you become more accustomed to using the system, you’ll develop a rough idea about the number of sessions you’ll need to complete certain tasks.

You’re constantly aware of how long you’re taking, and each mini-deadline within each cycle provides you with a motivation to beat the clock.

Does The Pomodoro Technique Actually Work?

Well, I can only speak from personal experience but I’ve been using this system for the past few months and I’ve never felt more productive.

While the Pomodoro System is meant to help you achieve maximum focus, it’s not going to work out very well if you’re still going to continually be distracted during the 25 minute time block.

Phasing out silly distractions is crucial to completing more Pomodoros per day. It took a little getting used to, and I had to modify some bad habits I used to have in order to really take advantage of this technique.

For example, when I first started blogging on my website, Beginning iOS Development,  each post started off taking about 5-6 Pomodoros to complete.

Whatsapp conversations, email notifications and little pet cats demanding to be stroked were sidetracking my progress. It’s only after I slowly filtered out these distractions that I was able to truly make full use of the system. Now each blog post takes me about 2-4 Pomodoros to complete.

The essence of the Pomodoro Technique is in maintaining full concentration during each 25 minute time block and seeing how many cycles you can finish. You’ll soon gain a good measure of your own productivity by the number of Pomodoros you finish each day.

I started out finishing about 4-5 Pomodoros per day and after a month or so, I was completing about 10 – 12 daily.

Now you might possibly be thinking that doing 10-12 Pomodoros in a day is child’s play. After all, that works out to be about 6 to 7 hours tops.

Let me just warn you that part of what makes this system so amazing is also what makes so tough to master. You may think I’m a scatter-brained fool, and that you won’t fall prey to distractions of any sort but I felt exactly the same way before I started trying this technique. (That I wouldn’t fall prey to distractions of any sort, not that I was a scatter-brained fool)

If you’re an entrepreneur, or an aspiring one, you’re probably used to having to multitask and having to wear many different hats simultaneously. There’s a constant struggle for most of us to want to do EVERYTHING at the same time. Dealing with this within the confines of the Pomodoro technique takes some getting used to.

Here are some tips on how to manage distractions:

  • Put your phone on silent mode, turn off email notifications, and shut down any social networking sites you have on your browser. If you have to, you can check them during your 5-minute downtime after every session.
  • After an intense Pomodoro session, close your eyes and massage them during the 5-minute rest period. It gives your eyes a nice break from the computer and recharges you for the next one. Sometimes, I just take a slow stroll around the house just to get away from the computer.
  • A disorganized mind is probably the biggest distraction you can have. I usually make it a point to plan out what I want to achieve during the day, and the Pomodoros required for the tasks at hand. This gives a sense of urgency to every session and I always know whether I’m on schedule or lagging behind.
  • Try and minimize distractions from other people. I work in a home office, and my wife and I have an understanding regarding Pomodoros. I usually keep my headphones on during a session and it signifies that I’m in the middle of a session.Speak to the significant people in your life about what you’re trying to achieve with this time management system. They can be your bosses, colleagues or spouses – it doesn’t really matter. You’ll find that most of the time, they’ll respect you more for trying to improve your daily productivity.

I’m Sold! What’s the Best Way to Implement the Pomodoro Technique?

There’re a few schools of thought regarding the best way to implement this system. The creator of this method, Francesco Cirillo recommended a low-tech approach as opposed to software, using a mechanical timer such as a kitchen timer.

Apparently, the physical act of setting the timer yourself triggers a psychological incentive to start the task while listening to the timer ticking down heightens the desire to complete it.

However, I’ve been using a Pomodoro app on my Mac, and I feel that its been more than effective enough for me.

I suggest you try both ways out for a few days or a week and see what works better for you.

Wrapping Things Up

The best way to see if The Pomodoro Technique works for you is to give it a shot yourself. The system may not be ideal for everyone but you’ll never know unless you try it out.

All you need is one week’s commitment, and a timer.

Shen is the owner of Beginning iOS Development, a website that revolves around interviews with iPhone App developers and App Marketing. He uses the Pomodoro Technique daily for work and business.

Have you used The Pomodoro Technique before? Have you tried other methods that you feel are better?

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12 Responses to “How to Increase Your Productivity With The Pomodoro Technique”

  1. Theodore.N says:

    Thanks for this wonderful revelation Shen, i haven’t heard of pomodoro before but from this review of yours, i think its wort giving a shot.
    However, i normally encounter some distractions whenever I’m trying to write a blog post but i recently learned to be turning off my mobile phone and social media sites whenever I’m working and I’ve been seen some tremendous results ever since.

    @ Sunil, thanks for sharing.

  2. To be honest I have not heard of this technique. I am perhaps the exact opposite to this technique. For example if I am reading and commenting on this post, I will be thinking about what I need to do next and will have about 10 other browsers on at the same time. My mobile will be on and if I get a message, I will read it. Perhaps pomodoro is the way to get that productivity. I will give it a try.

  3. There are health benefits to Pomodoro too! Like you, I use the 5 minute break to stand up, walk around, and stretch my legs and back. Before, I used to spend multiple hours sitting, which was killing my back.

    I use Is that what you use? I like it, but it could be better.

  4. Shen says:

    Haha, I do the same. I also make use of the longer break after 3-4 sessions to exercise a bit more.

    I’m using Pomodoro for Mac…what you’re using looks fine though, and best of all, it’s free!

  5. Denise says:

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who was doing a little research on this.

    And he in fact bought me breakfast due to the fact that I found it for him.

    .. lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for
    the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this subject here
    on your internet site.

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