• Joumana Elomar

Pomodoro Method: Maximising Your Focus

We live in an age of distraction. Whenever we focus, we not only have to concentrate on the task itself but we have to dodge distractions too. Notifications from texts, emails, slack, teams and social media can interrupt our flow and make it difficult to get back into the swing of work. What if there was an easy way to find our focus, maximise our productivity and take lots of break? Meet the infamous Pomodoro method.

The Pomodoro Method

Coined by Italian developer and entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro method is a productivity technique. It splits longer working hours into shorter sessions where we work for 25mins, and take a break for 5mins. Each of these sessions is called a Pomodoro. Over time some people have adjusted the timer for different types of work but more on that soon.

The Pomodoro method works particularly well if we're overwhelmed, finding it difficult to focus or in an environment full of distractions e.g. Working from home near a fridge full of snacks. The story goes that Cirillo was a university student struggling to effectively manage his time. Using a tomato-shaped timer, he decided to devote his undivided attention to a task for just 10mins. In Italian, Pomodoro means tomato. And that's how the method was born!

How it works

There are six steps in the Pomodoro method:

  1. Decide on the task. If possible, we assign a number of pomodoros to complete it. However, depending on the task, it might not possible.

  2. Set the pomodoro timer. Most people use online timers on their computers or apps to help keep track of the time. When we first start with this method, the timer is essential. Otherwise, we might be tempted to keep working after the 25mins.

  3. Focus on the task. To help dodge distractions, put your phone far away and minimise all tabs that are unrelated to the task you need to complete.

  4. Take a break. When the timer rings, take a break! Now you can make a tea, stretch, walk around, do some squats. Anything you want that involves switching off your focus. If you can, try not to check social media, as it doesn't fully allow your mind to rest.

  5. Repeat Steps 2-4. After three pomodoros, we would typically take a longer break (20-30mins). Once the break is done, go back to step 2!

Why it works

The core idea is that if we put our minds to it we can do anything for 25mins. Whether we like it or not, our brains look for distractions when they need to rest. This is why we might ourselves checking social media without even thinking about it, or staring out the window and thinking about nothing.

By pre-emptively giving our brains a break, it allows us to engage in deeper work for longer periods of time. Imagine the alternative, if we worked for six hours straight we might crash and burn in the long run. And then to recover, we would need to take a significantly longer break. Taking short breaks also promotes diffused thinking which is linked to higher creativity.

Practical tips

Here are some practical tips for using the method:

  • Start small: If you find it hard to focus, then start with 10mins and build your way up to it.

  • Change the timer: Some people find the 25min timer too short for deep work. You can stretch the timer to 55mins (with a 5min break) for work that requires more intense investigation.

  • Don't skip the break: If you're on a roll, you might be tempted to skip the break. Once or twice is okay but if you continually skip it, it defeats the purpose of the pomodoro method. The breaks don't need to be extravagant! They can include anything from standing up, stretching, exercising a little, making a tea, replying to a message or doing a mundane task.

  • Don't fall for Parkinson's law: Sometimes when we allocate time for work, we stretch the work to fill in that time even when we don't need it. This is called Parkinson's law. When using the pomodoro method, you find yourself more efficient than anticipated. So if you finish the task earlier than the timer, stop and move to the next task! Don't keep working just because the timer hasn't gone off.

Using the pomodoro method is an easy way to maximise your productivity. If you find it difficult to focus, it can help you reset your working pattern. Taking short breaks throughout the day increases your focus and your ability to work for longer. After using the method, many people report that it's so successful that they don't need it anymore!

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