The pomodoro technique, a strange name for a time management tool. A technique that has helped me focus and not procrastinate.
Over the last decade the average attention span has diminished from 12 to 5 minutes with over 50’s more able to concentrate than young people. Why? Distractions are everywhere now. Social media is at your fingertips with notifications being thrown at you from every angle. People just can’t focus anymore and being able to focus is one of the top skills needed if you want to be successful.
This technique is interval training for the mind. These are the main steps of it.
- Choose a task to be accomplished.
- Set a timer for a certain length of time e.g. 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the timer rings. This is one pomodoro.
- Take a short break e.g. 5 minutes. Cycle these steps as many times as you wish.
- Every few pomodori take a longer break.
During the pomodoro time slot you spend all your attention on that activity and nothing else. No checking your phone, no switching from task to task, no talking to your mother 🙂 just pure undivided attention.
The timer alleviates the need to keep checking whether your done so your brain can fully focus on what’s at hand. Not knowing when an activity is going to end creates distraction for your brain and you start wanting to do something else. With this you know its going to come to an end. Just do your allotted time and you can have your break. It’s also a challenge in terms of how long can you last without getting distracted. You’ll feel accomplished after each pomodoro.
I am someone that gets easily distracted but I used this to train my brain to concentrate for longer periods of time. It gets me in the ‘zone’ / flow state which is where you are fully immersed in a task with a high degree of concentration. This is where you’re the most productive. You can start with a low amount of time for your pomodoro even just 5 or 10 minutes and work up to a greater amount of time. Increasing it weekly or monthly depending on how you feel. I used to work in slots of 20 minutes, now I work in slots of 40 minutes and I want to continue to increase my ability to focus as it is an invaluable skill. As you increase your level you’ll spend more time in the zone / flow state. Don’t however increase the length of time too rapidly, being able to fully concentrate for a specific period of time can take a while to adapt to.
I use a pretty handy little app called pomodairo to aid me which you can download for Mac or Windows. It allows you to set pomodoro timings and break times while also allocating tasks to each one so you know exactly what you need to do.
One downfall is dependence on the technique, you may become rigid about completing your pomodoro time slot or thinking you can’t work for longer then the time you allocated. It should be used flexibly as a tool to get you working and focused so if you’re in the zone and your timer goes off keep working! There’s no need to stop.
The technique is free and easy to implement (all you need is a timer). So if your finding it difficult to concentrate and beat those distractions give it a try. It has certainly been useful for me. In fact I am using it right now :).