I recently read a magazine article on something called the Pomodoro Method, a technique that helps with focusing on single tasks for shorter periods of time, resulting in improved productivity. It is a very simple technique that utilizes a timer and 25 minutes of focus, followed by a short break.
A little back story: Recently I was coaching my son through some end-of-semester challenges. He was feeling stressed by the demands of a heavy course load and a perceived inability to keep up with his work and stay focused. In a word, he was feeling overwhelmed. And because I was feeling a bit stressed myself with the demands of my current workload, community involvement, and family commitments, I thought we would both be able to benefit from experimenting with this technique.
I shared the technique with my son and explained that I was thinking of trying it out. I did not push him to embrace the idea; however, I did ask him what he thought of the technique as a focusing tool. He said it sounded interesting, but added that it almost sounded too simple to be effective. I shared that I understood his perspective and concern, but I also knew that he was in enough pain that he might just be open enough to give it a go.
We both committed to experimenting with the technique for a few days, starting the process with the purchase of two mechanical timers from a kitchen supply store. While I can’t say that he seemed overjoyed or overly optimistic about the prospects, I was mildly encouraged by our forward movement. But now the proof was in the pudding – what impact would this technique have on us feeling less overwhelmed and more productive?
The technique itself is fairly simple and begins with selecting a single task that you would like to focus on for 25 minutes. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses the timer to break work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. The basic idea is to keep the length short enough that you are able to provide laser focus to whatever task or activity that has been selected. The short breaks/rewards at the end of each 25-minute segment serve to re-energize you and reset your focus for the next 25-minute segment. The theory behind it is that each large project can be broken down into such segments.
- Choose your task.
- Set your timer for 25 minutes.
- Work uninterrupted for 25 minutes.
- Get up and take a short 5-minute break.
- After four Pomodoro cycles, take a longer break.
I started with the task of cleaning the kitchen and family room. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to get done in 25 minutes, while focused. I actually tidied up the two rooms in less than 25 minutes, and for a moment, thought that my timer wasn’t working properly. It was surprising how much ground can be covered when 25 minutes intersects with single focus.
After taking a short break, I went onto write two blog posts in less than 25 minutes. By the end of the weekend my son, the reluctant yet overwhelmed student, was able to write a three-page paper in 25 minutes.
So if you are interested in becoming more focused and driving the productivity of yourself, your teams, and your organization, give the Emergent team a call.