Despite being a fully-functioning adult, I have the attention span of a gnat. I get distracted even when I’m doing something I enjoy, I constantly think about what is next, and I frequently have to remind myself to BE. HERE. Sometimes I wonder if I have an actual concentration disorder, but truthfully, I probably just suffer from smartphone addiction. (More on that in a later post.) There are so many avenues for distraction that it’s no wonder anyone has difficulty focusing these days.
But focus I must, especially because I work mostly from home at a job where I’m fortunate enough to set my own hours. The distractions run rampant here – ads that pop up on Pandora, text messages from friends and family, my cats, laundry (alright…that last one I’m pretty good at ignoring.) A few weeks ago, I got fed up with my own perceived low level of productivity. I remembered reading about a work technique that sounded useful. It promised to help the user focus on tasks and send productivity levels through the roof. I figured it was worth a shot. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
For those of you who don’t speak Italian (me), Pomodoro means “tomato”. The creator named it for the little tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used to implement his technique. The steps are:
- choose the task you want to accomplish
- set a timer – 25 minutes is recommended
- work until the timer goes off
- make a check mark on a piece of paper
- if you have less than four check marks, take a short break (3-5 minutes)
- go back to the timer step and repeat
- when you have accumulated four check marks, take a longer break (15-30 minutes), reset your check marks and start over
Simple, right? So easy to modify based on your own needs. For me, I do the 25 minute increments with 5 minute breaks. My longer breaks I base on what I want to do with the break. For example, if I only need a few minutes to step away, I may only break for 15 minutes. If I’m going to get lunch, I might break for longer than the recommended 30 minutes.
Yeah, but does it work?
Using Pomodoro, I can say with absolute certainty that my productivity has gone up. I find focusing a lot easier, since I know that a break is coming where I can stop and check emails, use the bathroom, or respond to a text. I try to make a point of actually getting up from my computer when I get a five minute break to give my eyes a respite from screen time.
There are even more involved steps you can use if you want, such as creating a to-do list, and what to do with interruptions (if it’s a legit interruption, I don’t really worry about it). Though there are a ton of apps that can help you use the technique, I just use the timer on my phone, putting it to good use instead of letting it divert my attention, and mentally keep track of my check marks. So far, that’s worked fine for me.
The most important part is that after I used this technique for a day or two, I went back to the old way of working and noticed a significant difference. I felt more scattered and as though I wasn’t able to accomplish as much as I had when using the Pomodoro Technique. Give it a try for a week and see if it helps you!