Productivity is the holy grail of an office environment. Work life is a fairly dynamic affair. Most of you will discover that you will have to learn daily, lookout for unique problems to solve, use your creativity to come up with effective solutions and be as productive as possible in order to maintain the work-life balance. In such a dynamic environment, it is a challenge to focus on the tasks that matter during the day. The brain tends to assimilate as much information as possible even though it might not be a practical thing. This gives rise to distractions and loss in productivity. It takes quite a bit of effort to achieve singular focus in a multi-tasking prone world and yet that is what is required when it comes to doing something well.
There are many productivity techniques which have been designed to combat distractions and thus help you to achieve the focus required for your tasks. Today, we will be looking at the most popular among them all – The Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro means tomato in Italian. The technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 80’s in order to get more studying done for himself. Over the years he has modified the method in order for it to have universal application. It is currently applicable to many different types of focus related activities and lends itself particularly well to the iterative and improvement driven model of working.
The technique is actually pretty simple. All you need is to have a timer ready and a piece of paper or note taking app to record your stats. There are many software solutions too for those who get a lot of work done through their computer. We will be giving details about them at the end of this post.
Here is how you can get started.
1. Divide your tasks logically and make a todo for that particular day.
2. Set your timer for 25 minutes (recommended) and make sure that for those 25 minutes only you and that particular task exist. So no phones, social media or any other distraction!
3. Start the timer and get down to the task at hand. Work on that particular task till the timer rings signifying a break. This 25 minute run is called a Pomodoro.
4. Take a break for 5 minutes. During this time, you can rest and do whatever you want. Probably, get a nice cup of coffee or juice.
5. Once your 5 minutes are up, get back to the work at hand. There are two possibilities here. Either your previous task is not complete or you have finished it. If the previous task is still not completed, devote the next 25 minutes to finishing it. If it is completed in the first run, then get onto your next task.
6. After 4 such Pomodorii (plural of Pomodoro) are completed, you can take a longer break, say around 30 minutes.
7. Log everything in your notepad. Some Pomodoro software also allows you to add notes and then prepare visualizations. Some interesting observations could be how many Pomodorii you took to complete a particular task, how much work you got done in one pomodoro or during the whole day. All this data and the visualizations will help you to quantify your productivity and thus learn more about yourself and your habits.
Once this process becomes a habit, the data you record will be more meaningful and your productivity will increase by bounds. This technique forces your otherwise wandering, procrastination prone brain to focus completely on the task. I realized that I got a lot of work done without any issues whenever I followed this technique. The time required for tasks also got dramatically reduced, thus giving me more time to pursue other activities and hobbies.
However, targeted focus like this can also lead to mental exhaustion by the end of the day. So it is advisable that you take breaks religiously and also let your mind relax and wander during that time.
Tools/software suggestions for following this technique:
1. Simple timer and notepad.
2. Focus Booster (Free/Cross platform)
3. Pomodori (Free / MAC)
4. Keep Focused (Free/Windows)
5. TeamViz (Free/Paid/Windows/MAC/iPhone/Android)
Give this technique a try and let us know about your experiences.