Have you ever tried to get a major project done in one sitting? You decide to plan the entire family vacation from start to finish including hotel, transportation, activities, emergency contacts, packing list, etc. all in one shot.
You decide to devote 3 hours in the afternoon to the project. Inevitably, your mind wanders, you decide to check social media, a call comes in that you just have to take, and at the end of 3 hours, very little got done.
The problem is that when you set aside such a large chunk of time, it seems like you have so much time that you can afford to waste a few minutes on Facebook. You also have a hard time focusing on a single task for that long. Lastly, when interruption come up, you don't want to defer them for a whole three hours, so you figure you'll just get the other thing done really quick and then get back to business.
The odds of setting such a large chunk of time aside for a project and then actually using that entire time to complete the project are slim. Instead, it is better to chunk your time out even if the chunks added together end up being the total time you would have other wise set aside. A great way of doing this is the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 80s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.
The benefit of breaking down your three hour block into 25 minute chunks of time with 5 minute breaks, is that these are much more digestible amounts of time. It also gives you little prizes to work for. Dedicated work for 25 minutes gets rewarded with 5 minute walk around the house, or 5 minutes of scrolling through Insta.
It is also easier to defer interruptions for 25 minutes than it is to delay them for 3 hours. It's easier to rationalize ignoring a call when you know you will call them back in 25 minutes or less, than to try to defer it for a whole 3 hours.
It's hard for our brain to focus for long periods of time. Telling your brain to focus for multiple hours will just seem exhausting. It also makes the project much more intimidating than it has to be. Using the pomodoro technique, you can still get your project done in an afternoon, but your brain will be a lot happier.
In order to prep for your pomodoro session, breakdown your project into tasks. For our vacation example you might have booking the hotel as one task, booking travel as another task, researching activities as a third task, and so on. Then it's time to implement the technique.
Here are the steps of the actual technique:
- Decide on the task you are going to do.
- Set the pomodoro timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on the task.
- End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on your list of tasks.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
This method gives you just the right amount of time that you can really focus on a task and avoid distractions. It will help you get more things done than you otherwise would by having planned breaks instead of letting our urges to do something else get us off track.
What tasks can you use the pomodoro technique for? Let me know in the comments.