Here’s what Distraction does to you
Here are some common scenarios. May be you are a writer; struggling to get a long pending article completed today. May be you are a Software Engineer; battling to get your deliverable — that you have been procrastinating. May be you are a Home Maker; striving to get your house in order.
You may play any role, but the essence of the problem remains the same. You are distracted and overwhelmed, unable to complete your project. Some of these tasks’ or Projects’ completion may mean a lot to you. Your brute force attempts to power through your lists, have failed for whatever reasons.
Let us remember, that the most difficult part of staying Productive today isn’t just about doing the work. It is in doing Quality and Timely Work — amidst ceaseless distractions and decreasing attention span. WhatsApp Notifications, email alerts, personal reminders, Instant messages, Phone calls and Social networks all vying for your attention. You need a method, that will let you consistently work and create value.
Here’s what Research says about breaks
Research shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity — and that skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion. Of course, overdoing breaks will lead to total loss of Productivity. John P. Trougakos an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough says:
Mental concentration is similar to a muscle, It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover, he explains — much as a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym.
The Pomodoro Technique
Francesco Cirillo invented The Pomodoro Technique in the early 90s. It comprehensively solves the above issues based on the research findings.
Cirillo named the system “Pomodoro” after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student. The methodology is simple: When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly-refilling inboxes.
Pomodoro is a cyclical system; it alternates between work and breaks. You work in short sprints , which makes sure you’re consistently productive. You also get to take regular breaks that bolster your motivation and keep you creative.
How the Pomodoro Technique Works
It is very simple. All you need is a timer. It can be a physical timer or a program on the web or an App. Nothing more.
- Choose a task to be accomplished.
- Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
- After every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
The longer break can be 15-30 minutes; whatever that makes you feel recharged and ready to start another 25-minute work session. Repeat that process a few times over the course of a workday, and you can get a lot accomplished—and take plenty of breaks to grab a cup of coffee, or have a water-cooler conversation.
What if you get Distracted, while you are in Pomodoro?
Pomodoro is an indivisible unit of work—that means if you’re distracted part-way by a coworker, meeting, or emergency, you have 2 options:
(A) End the Pomodoro there (saving your work and starting a new one later) (B) Postpone the distraction until the Pomodoro is complete.
If you choose (B), Cirillo suggests the “inform, negotiate, and call back” strategy:
- Inform the interrupter that you’re working on something right now.
- Negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue in a timely manner.
- Schedule that follow-up.
- Call back the other party when your Pomodoro is complete
For most distractions, it is possible to negotiate with the interrupters to postpone the distraction till the end of the Pomodoro. Doing so not only keeps you in the groove, but also gives you control over your workday.
With modern instant messaging applications, you can eliminate the above steps by setting your status to “Don’t Disturb”. You can also set your mobile phone to Airplane Mode (during a Pomodoro).
How do I get started with the Pomodoro Technique
Since a timer is the only essential Pomodoro tool, you can get started with any phone with a timer app, a countdown clock, or even a plain old egg timer. Here are a few free Pomodoro apps to consider that offer more features than a simple timer offers:
- Simple Pomodoro (Android) is a free, open-source timer with a minimal aesthetic. Tap to start the timer and get to work, and take your breaks when your phone’s alarm goes off. You can’t do a lot of tweaking to the work and break periods, but you get notifications when to take your breaks and when to go back to work, and you can go back over your day to see how many Pomodoros you’ve accomplished over the day. It even integrates with Google Tasks.
- Focus Timer (iOS) is a feature-rich timer for iPhone and iPad. You can customize work and break duration, review your work history to see how your focus is improving, easily see how much time is left in your work session, and the app even offers a star-based rating system to keep you motivated. You can even customize the sounds, and hear the clock ticking when you lock your phone so you stay on task.
- Marinara Timer (Web) is a webapp that you can keep open in a pinned tab. You can select your timer alerts so you know when to take a break, or reconfigure the work times and break times to suit you. It’s remarkably flexible, and you don’t have to install anything.
- Tomighty (Win/Mac/Linux) is a cross-platform desktop Pomodoro timer that you can fire and forget, following the traditional Pomodoro rules, or use to customize your own work and break periods.
- Pomodorable (OS X) is a combination Pomodoro timer and to-do app. It offers more visual cues when your tasks are complete and what you have coming up next, and it integrates nicely with OS X’s Reminders app. Plus, you can estimate how many Pomodoros you’ll need to complete a task, and then track your progress.
- Pomello includes a Pomodoro timer which integrates with Trello tasks (if you happen to use Trello for your task management).
- PomoDone is the easiest way to track your workflow using Pomodoro technique, on top of your current task management service. A Pomodoro timer for your favorite productivity tool.
Remember the focus of the Pomodoro Technique is on the work, not the timer you use.
Who the Pomodoro Technique Works Best For
The Pomodoro Technique is useful to anyone who have to produce some creative work to be reviewed by others. Developers, Designers, Writers, Artists, Editors, Engineers and just about anyone who chooses to use it.
However, it’s also useful for people who work with an “inbox” or queue they have to work through. If you’re a system’s engineer with tickets to work, you can set a timer and start working through them until your timer goes off. Then take a break, after which you come back and pick up where you left off, or start a new batch of tickets.
If you build things or work with your hands, the frequent breaks give you the opportunity to step back and review what you’re doing, think about your next steps, and make sure you don’t get exhausted. The system is remarkably adaptable to various kinds of work.
Finally, it’s important to remember that Pomodoro is a Productivity System—not a set of shackles. If you’re making headway and the timer goes off, it’s okay to pause the timer, finish what you’re doing, and then take a break. The goal is to help you get into the zone and focus—but it’s also to remind you to come up for air.
On a personal note, I love Pomodoro. It took me 5 Pomodoros to write this article.
How to make Pomodoro work for you
Keep in mind that Pomodoro is just one method; it may or may not work for you. It’s flexible, but don’t try to shoehorn your work into it, if it doesn’t fit. Productivity isn’t everything—it’s a means to an end, and a way to spend less time on what you have to do so you can put time to the things you want to do. If this method helps, go for it.
Also, when you start the technique start small. Don’t worry if you don’t complete five or ten Pomodoros in a day: You may only get one or two in, before something unavoidable distracts you. With those one or two Pomodoros you may be more productive, than anything else you do all day.
Additional Reading and Reference
There’s more to the picture here. Cirillo’s book can offer more guidance and specific examples if you need them.If you are interested in a copy of the book, you can get it here :
You may find this video interesting:
Beyond that, here’s a short list of additional resources worth reading: