At a company that focuses on helping to increase personal productivity, I’ve picked up on several different methods that people use to work faster or better. A range of different ideas presents themselves as the premier concept to improve your productivity, but how do you find the right one for you? Clearly, user testimonials will not be definitive, as only you will know how a certain work style fits you. In the hopes of helping you figure it out, I’m going to summarize various productivity methods in a series of blog posts, starting with Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique was created by entrepreneur and innovator Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, intended to help people maximize their time doing work. ‘Pomodoro’ is Italian for tomato, and is this method’s namesake because Cirillo found a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato when he came up with the initial concept.
The way that the Pomodoro technique works is that the time spent working is broken up into 25-minute intervals. Once you complete one 25-minute interval, you take a 5-minute break, and begin another 25 minutes of work. You repeat this process until you complete a set of 4 intervals, and take a longer break. During these 25 minute periods of time, there are no interruptions or breaks. Throughout this process, a plan of what tasks need to be accomplished each interval are checked off, measuring your progress. After the session of work, you evaluate what you have done and how the Pomodoro technique has worked, so that you can make changes to improve your work process.
This method works for many people because of its simplicity. You just work for 25 minutes, stop for 5, and continue. It is easy to implement, and forces you to focus in a structured manner. Those who have a hard time focusing can benefit from the Pomodoro technique because by setting the timer, they know they are committing the next 25 minutes to working.
Recently, I wrote a post about flow state, and how certain things have to occur for you to achieve it. By repetitively setting a timer and working in these short intervals, your mind can begin to associate the timer ticking and quick working style with flow state, therefore achieving flow state more quickly every time you sit down to work. It can give you structure to an otherwise chaotic mess of tasks to do, as well as allow time to reflect on the way you work and improve your work habits.
While the Pomodoro technique has been proven to work, it is not without its flaws. Because of such a rigid structure, it does not work for everyone or every task. Some things just can’t be completed in 25 minutes. It also wouldn’t make sense to set a time limit if you are in the middle of your flow state. For many, flow state can last several hours. By constantly interrupting your work with the 5-minute breaks, you are wasting time that could have been extremely productive. Also, after you take that break, it takes time to get back into flow, which occupies more time at the beginning of the next 25-minute interval.
While it is a useful technique, I would not recommend using it for every task that you do, although I highly recommend experimenting with it. You will have to be the judge of how useful using the Pomodoro technique is for you, by trying it out for a few days and noting how your performance has changed (if at all).