The pandemic changed the way the world worked. People who’d only ever worked in an office were told to work from home. And for many the biggest issues with working remotely were managing their own working hours, and remaining productive when there were so many distractions at home.
In a recent study by the Becker Friedman Institute, it was noted that working hours increased by 18% during the pandemic, but employee productivity fell up to 19%. The 18% was largely put down to the fact that individuals had to work longer during the day to compensate for missed hours, because they were distracted by kids. And, the decline in productivity was put down to individuals being distracted, so much so that they couldn’t focus on the tasks at hand.
Of course, productivity levels can also decline when working from the office too, especially now. So, it’s important to recognise when you need a little bit of guidance and support.
Luckily, the web offers a variety of tools that can help people who are working from home to manage their time better. In addition to this, better time management can improve productivity, and it can help people to organize their time, so they don’t confuse work and home life.
If you search for time management tools to help you remain productive when working, the Pomodoro technique is always one of the top results that comes back, because it’s so good at keeping people productive. It also wins the hearts of so many because it's so simple.
With the figures above in mind, and the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, let’s look at the time management tool Pomodoro in more detail, so that we can overcome the struggles that working at home/in the office may bring.
What is the Pomodoro technique?
This simple but effective approach was invented almost 40 years ago by Francesco Cirillo. Like any student, he wasn’t keen on long studying hours, so decided to optimize these tedious tasks.
A shiny red tomato-timer caught his eye and that’s when he decided to track his working time. He believed that you should pick a task to focus on, work on this task for 25 minutes, then stop to take a 5-minute break, and then repeat this process.
In time he named his technique after this kitchen gadget. The Italian word ‘pomodoro’ stands for ‘tomato’ in English.
Francesco Cirillo is the CEO of Cirillo Consulting specializing in work optimization today.
Basic Principles Of the Pomodoro Technique
- Keep track of your tasks
The Pomodoro approach was created to handle difficult tasks. It highlights priorities and you can see the end goal.
- Turn your working hours into tomatoes
If you practice the technique for a whole day, you can see how many ‘Pomodoro rounds’ you’ve achieved. If you work for eight hours, you’ll achieve approximately fourteen spans a day.
- Vary the Pomodoro span duration
Keep experimenting. Split intense activities into shorter sessions. Don’t forget to change break and work time proportionally.
- Don’t skip breaks
There’ll be times when you don’t feel like you need a rest, but it’s important that you still take a break and distract yourself for a bit. You can make a cup of coffee or do some exercise. Don’t do any mental jobs for the 5 minutes of relaxation time.
- Distracted? Stop the timer
Pause your timer or start the session again if you get distracted.
- Don’t switch off the timer beforehand
Keep yourself focused until the timer goes off. It’s quite tempting to shut off the timer the moment you finish a task, but don’t do it. Keep the timer running and start a new task.
How Does the Pomodoro Approach Work?
It’s very simple to use the Pomodoro technique, and it’ll take very little effort on your part. Here’s what you need to do:
- Choose a task you need to complete as soon as possible. If you have a few, pick one!
- Promise yourself that you will devote the next 25 minutes to this task.
- Set the timer.
- After 25 minutes has passed the time will ring, stop what you're doing.
- Take a 5-minute break.
- Repeat the steps above.
It’s recommended that you take a longer break of about 15-20 minutes after completing 4 “Pomodoro rounds” in a row. If you finish your task before the alarm goes off, don’t stop, keep yourself busy and move onto the next task or focus on further planning.
It’s also a good idea to cross out all of your completed tasks and to note down the start/end time of start of each task. It can help you to estimate how long you will take to complete similar tasks in the future. Plus, if you have a bigger project, you’ll be able to analyze how long you took to complete each step.
If you practice the Pomodoro Technique in your company, you can make a list of tasks that you need to complete. After you’ve prioritized them, you can work through them from the most important to the least important one.
What Are the Advantages Of Using the Pomodoro Approach?
Here are some of the major benefits of using this technique:
- You can focus on a defined task. Therefore there is no multitasking, or mixing up tasks - you just focus on the task at hand and complete it. The time span is limited, so you know exactly when you’ll have a break.
- More work in less time. Gradually, you’ll stop multitasking and distracting yourself, therefore, your brain will become immersed in the task at hand and you’ll be able to complete it in time.
- Opportunity to adapt the technique to your needs. You can personalize the Pomodoro Technique to suit your needs. For example, if you want to reduce the ‘round time’ from 25 minutes to 20, then you can do so - the same principles apply regardless. You can also use the technique whenever you need it, for example, at lunchtime.
- You can track your productivity. You can see the results of your work at the end of every working day by looking back and seeing all of your finished tasks. Seeing a checklist of completed tasks will make you feel very good about yourself and your work, and it will boost your productivity levels. Plus, you can clearly see what tasks are left, so there’s no ambiguity about what jobs you have left to do.
As you can see the Pomodoro Technique has lots of great benefits, not only will this tool teach you to plan your work better, but it can help you to split up tasks into smaller blocks. And the most important part is… this handy tool helps you to concentrate on your work.
Does Pomodoro suit me?
Of course, there are always going to be exceptions and the Pomodoro Technique will not suit everybody. Why? The technique relies not only on the personality of an individual, but on the type of work that needs to be completed as well.
The Pomodoro Technique is definitely worth trying if:
- You get tired of repetitive tasks.
- It’s not a problem to focus on a new task.
- You mostly work on your own and don’t depend much on your team.
- You do a lot of monotonous work, like writing long descriptions or studying documentation.
The approach is not for you if you:
- Are involved in the management side of your organization and it’s difficult to define the starting/finishing point.
- Do creative work (e.g. artist).
- Collaboration with your team is vital.
- Must collaborate with somebody else, whose productivity speed differs from yours.
Time management has always been a discussion point in businesses around the world. And it’s important to note that there isn’t one solution for everyone, you must consider time management from each and every individual’s perspective.
How To Track Your Productivity Level By Using the Pomodoro Technique?
While doing your tasks keep marking all the distractions that you’re bothered by, and note down the time you started and finished a task. It’s also a good idea to take 5 minutes at the beginning of your working day to get up to speed with the day's tasks, and it’s worth taking 5 minutes at the end of the day to reflect on your working day and to analyze your performance.
By looking back over your day you’ll be able to see where there were issues, and what you can do differently the next day.
Does It Really Work?
The Pomodoro Technique has received a huge amount of feedback from people around the world over the years. With many individuals claiming that it has helped them to focus better on what they needed to do. In addition to this, some people who’ve already used the technique have noted that they would definitely try the Pomodoro Technique again.
Further to this, the fact that the technique is still being used around the globe today means that it must hold some significant value.
However, there are some people who don’t think that this technique holds much weight and that there are better ways to manage time.
Of course, it’s up to each individual to decide if this approach is/isn’t for them. If you haven’t checked out the Pomodoro Technique yet, you should give it a go, but do keep in mind that it may not be the best approach for you. There are many other time management techniques you can try today!
In the end, it's about developing a routine that helps you to live and to use your precious time on this earth in the best way possible. Whether that’s by spending time at work, by yourself, with your family or by doing what you want to do in life.