Earlier I wrote a blog about the Unschedule – the best method to get started on your work without procrastinating. But what do you once you start working?
Is there a tried-and-true method of using your time most efficiently?
During my junior year in college, I discovered the Pomodoro Technique. It totally revolutionized my life. To this very day, I use Pomodoro whenever I have a big project to work on. Francesco Cirillo, the brains behind this productivity hack, decided to name his invention after the Italian word for tomato. When he first starting testing out his theory, the only tool he used was a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. And that’s all you’ll need too! Here’s how to get started.
1. Measure your task(s)
This first step is simple, but crucial. Before you start working, estimate how many 30-minute “pomodoros” you will need to finish your tasks for the day. So let’s say you have an essay about “Lord of the Flies” that will take four hours and a bunch of emails that will take an hour. If you’re counting along, that’s 10 pomodoros for the day.
This step is important for two reasons. First, it will allow you to be realistic with your time. If you start working without considering how long you need, you’ll end up getting overwhelmed. Second, you’ll gain extra motivation as you tally all the pomodoros you finish during your work period!
2. Avoid interruptions
In each 30-minute pomodoro, you work for the first 25 minutes and then you take a five minute break. The key to the Pomodoro Technique is this: During your 25 minutes of work, avoid interruptions at all costs! Don’t go looking for a snack to munch on. Don’t reply to your best friend’s texts. Don’t even go to the bathroom. Your goal is to do absolutely nothing except work for 25 full minutes. Are you up to the challenge?
This is what makes pomodoro powerful. You start noticing how much time you waste when you normally study. The more you stick with the pomodoro timing, the more you will get used to good old hard work. No more distractions. No more multi-tasking. Just focused work.
Sometimes, you will remember other things that you have to do. You have to send an email to your teacher. You have to walk your pet ferret. Whatever else. The temptation will be to go and do those things before you forget. Instead, write down these things so you won’t forget, and keep working! Don’t interrupt your work.
3. Take a break!
After 25 minutes of hard work, you’ve earned a five-minute break! Some of you will not want to take a break. You might feel like the five minute breaks are a waste of time. However, you need to be disciplined with your breaks. Otherwise, you’ll end up interrupting your work later on. Trust me, the breaks go by really quickly. Five minutes is barely enough time to eat an apple. For these five-minute breaks, try to avoid things like Facebook or watching TV because you won’t want to get right back to work after your time is up.
Don’t worry, though. There is time built into each pomodoro for such brain-rotting leisure activities! After each four that you complete (that’s two hours of work), you get a 20-minute break before your next cycle of four. This 20-minute break is more flexible. Maybe you want to keep working for another pomodoro! Or maybe you are done for the day! It’s really up to you. However, taking a 20-minute break after each set will help you stay productive for long periods of time without getting burnt out.
4. Some last tips
For this to work, you really have to stick to the schedule. To help you with this, consider going out to get a kitchen timer or a stopwatch. After all, the whole technique is named after a timer in the shape of a tomato! Cirillo argues that even the sound of the timer ticking away is extra motivation. You can check out his website for books and merchandise. There’s also some pretty cool websites that set up the Pomodoro Technique timings for you. Check out moosti.com and tomato-timer.com.
Make sure that as you finish each pomodoro, you tally it off. This helps you stay motivated; you can visually see your progress as you close in on your goal.
Finally, getting used to the Pomodoro Technique takes time! Don’t give up if you break the rules. Just keep practicing to improve your focus and stamina. It’ll pay off huge dividends in college and beyond.