Unless you’re a robot, you’ve had trouble keeping focused at one time or another. It may have to do with a lack of sleep, something weighing on your mind, or something bigger like a tendency toward procrastination, or a lack of organization in general.
Working for hours on end on a single task can seem impossible, and can actually reduce your productivity. One way to counteract these effects is the Pomodoro Technique, a simple way to get yourself organized and maintain focus while working.
“Pomodoro” means “tomato”, like the tomato shaped timers originally used for this technique.
how it works
It’s super simple, and you’ll be amazed at how effective it is. The Pomodoro Technique revolves around focusing on a task and taking frequent small breaks to keep yourself fresh, so get yourself some kind of timer, and try this –
- Pick a task that needs to get done.
- Work on it for 25 minutes.
- Take a short break (and a slightly longer one every fourth time).
Sound simple? That’s because it is. Basically you spend 100 minutes working, and 35-45 minutes on break. It may seem like a lot, but if you’re used to working for hours straight, but only sort of focused on the task at hand, it’s pretty unbelievable how much not working can help increase your productivity.
It may seem crazy at first, but carving out time specific to NOT working can really increase productivity. It gives you a much greater ability to focus on the task at hand, and a fresher outlook on problems that need to get solved.
Recently the Draugiem Group performed a study on their employees to see if there were any common patterns amongst their best performers. They found that there was a clear link showing that their best employees were the ones who took frequent breaks, completely away from work and their computer.
The reason the most productive 10% of our users are able to get the most done during the comparatively short periods of working time is that their working times are treated as sprints. – Julia Gifford
Employees were highly efficient in the times they were working, enough to more than offset the additional time they weren’t.
The breaks enforced in the Pomodoro Technique provide the perfect opportunity to improve your health. If you’re working from home/have a flexible schedule, the amount of options you have is nearly endless, but here’s some ideas to get you started
on short breaks:
- Take a walk around the block
- Make a quick (healthy) snack, to stave off junk food cravings
- Do some pullups, body weight squats, and sit-ups
- Shift between a sitting/standing/walking desk
- Move around the house and do some quick stretches
on longer breaks (every fourth):
- Get a healthy lunch/dinner started (crockpots are perfect for this)
- Go soak up some sun and get your daily vitamin D
- Take a walk around the neighborhood
- Get in a quick workout
- Take a 20 minute power nap
Do you find yourself frustrated, overwhelmed, burned out, or depressed with your work? Taking frequent breaks can be a huge help in all of these cases. Getting completely away from your work can make you realize why you loved doing it in the first place.
If you’re feeling stressed, try working in some meditation to your breaks. There’s many kinds of meditation, and it’s not all sitting with your legs crossed humming. It can be as simple as taking a walk in the sunshine without any distractions (music playing, email checking, etc.), and being mindful and grateful of being alive and in the present. Clear your head of your problems for a few minutes – work can wait.
The Pomodoro Technique is a great place to start, and can be an effective solution, so keep with it if it works well for you. If you’re a constant experimenter, there’s a number of things you can fiddle with to see what works best for you (how long you focus on a task, how long your breaks are, how often you take short vs long breaks, etc.).
While something as structured as the Pomodoro Technique may not work for everyone, taking frequent breaks from your work is important. Trying the technique for a few days can hit that point home, and there’s a lot to learn here.