Due to the pandemic and with most of us having experienced work-from-home during lockdown; many aspects of work-life have radically changed.
– Now, the morning commute consists of rolling out of bed and falling into a comfy seat, with your laptop in hand.
– Instead of hot-desking with a friendly co-worker; you’re now in a custody battle with your pet, over the PC chair.
– Lastly and most frustratingly, trying to plan your zoom-office meetings around your online food shop; because your favorite supermarket can’t give you a time-allocation any smaller than three hours!
No matter the environment you find yourself in, whether working from home or working double shifts as a frontline worker; most of us have suddenly found ourselves needing to learn how to self-motivate and time manage.
Why is Time Management Important?
Time management is an important, essential skill to have because it is beneficial for both personal and professional productivity; strong time-management skills lead to more free time. Here are some more reasons why you should practice excellent time management:
- With practice, controlling the time at your disposal will improve your ability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand
- Increased concentration and control, comes efficiency; meaning you’ll get through errands more and more quickly.
- Without the imminent pressure to make a quick decision that comes with a time-crunch; you’ll be able to make time to consider every option, feel in control, and make an educated choice.
- Time management is the key to career success. While it does sound like a cliché, having control of your time and making your own decisions does create an environment best to nurture inspiration and success.
- While tiny amounts of stress may help productivity in the short term, stress can quickly become out of control. Running against the clock can increase stress exponentially and be detrimental to mental health.
- However, with time management, you’re not feeling frantic before a deadline anymore and able to keep a clear picture of completing the task before you.
History of the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the late ‘80s and further developed early ‘90s by Francesco Cirillo. The method was named after the tomato (“Pomodoro” in Italian) shaped kitchen timer he used to manage his schoolwork as a university student.
In the 2018 edition ebook of “The Pomodoro Technique”, Cirillo goes on to discuss how he initially thought of the method while on holiday with family in a village outside Rome. Inspiration struck when Cirillo found himself with the daunting prospect of finishing a sociology assignment and decided to use a tomato timer to help him stay focused.
After the first time, he used the timer; Cirillo felt a massive wave of relief and calm came over him. Before this, his mind felt like a “small boat in a storm”, pulled in every which way.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro (po-mo-dor-o) Method is a time-management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo. The method is based upon the idea of increasing productivity: Dividing your time into units of 25 minutes, with short 5-minute breaks in-between.
Each of these 25-minute chunks is called a “Pomodoro“. It stems from a simple idea that when an individual is given an in-depth task; break it down into bite-size chunks. The participant will set a timer to 25 minutes, then try to hyper-focus on the task at hand and not get distracted by their phone or social media.
This simple method of repeating short periods of “productivity and reward” allow the brain to have a better level of attention and concentration on the task at hand. While giving you – the user – enough downtime so that you don’t become overwhelmed by the task at hand.
How Does the Pomodoro Technique Work?
There are several versions of the Pomodoro Technique but the basic format, is the following:
- Choose a task you need to complete
- Write out a checklist of activities needed to complete the task.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and work through the activities until the timer rings
- Once the timer rings, check off the activities you’ve completed. Or if you’re partway through the first activity; measure how far you are through the task and predict how many “Pomodoros” it would take to do it and each of the following actions.
- After each “Pomodoro” block of time; take a 5-minute break and after 4 “Pomodoros”, take a longer 20 to 30-minute break.
- Then rinse and repeat; until you have completed the task.
How is the Pomodoro Technique Different from other Time Management Techniques?
The Pomodoro Technique is different from other time management techniques because in its purest form all you need is a 25-minute timer.
Other types of time-management techniques include “Do it Now”, “168 hours” and “SMART Goals”.
The Do it Now Method
The “Do it Now” technique is based on psychological motivation. Getting the participant to use the phrase “do it now” as a mantra.
The concept is like the Pomodoro Technique; in the way that the format is simple and easy to follow. With the “Do it Now” method, the idea is to psychologically pressure yourself into being proactive.
In comparison, a “Pomodoro” encourages the user to be naturally dynamic by short bursts of activity followed by a reward at the end of each session.
Aside from sounding like a rip-off of a thriller movie; “168 Hours” takes its name from the number of hours available in a week. The notion of the technique is that the user should divide their commitments into indivisible one-hour chunks and organize the predicted tasks by priority. That when the elected time for a specific job is over, the user should move onto the next activity.
If you’re like me, math isn’t exactly the most reliable string of your bow, and trying to organize my entire life for the week ahead by hourly increments seems as implausible as seeing a unicorn walk down my cul-de-sac!
Whereas with the “Pomodoro”, all I have to worry about is initially finding a decent timer app. I can then pop on some thumping songs and plod through my work till the job is done.
Out of the three alternative time-management methods; this one is my personal favorite because it can be used alongside the Pomodoro technique.
SMART is an anagram for:
Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time-Bound
Smart Goals works well with the Pomodoro Technique because it doesn’t need a strict schedule, nor do you need to psych yourself up into being productive. You, as the user, can consider the aspects of SMART Goals, when writing out the Pomodoro checklist, for example:
(S) Are the tasks in your checklist specific to the main objective?
(M) Using Pomodoro as a unit of time, measure out how many Pomodoros each task will take to complete.
(A) Ensure each of the tasks in the checklist is small enough to be manageable and achievable.
(R) Keep all items in the checklist relevant to the task in hand.
(T) Although you may not need to keep a strict schedule, keep an eye on how many Pomodoros it may take to complete the overall goal.
Which Form of the Pomodoro Technique is Best for You?
Depending on your personal and professional needs, you may need bigger or smaller time-bocks than 25 minutes. While that might be the original formula by Cirillo; there are many variants to choose from when looking to use “Pomodoro” as your foundation of time management.
Small Goals through Forward15
For small or short tasks, consider quick exercise methods such as Forward15.
The Forward15 plan is less focused on the time-management itself and more on what you do during the time. Forward15 focuses on the sense of achievement; through completing small doable tasks by the end of the day.
The method involves using a timer to focus on the activity for a full 15 minutes, in a place where you can concentrate and not become distracted by your surroundings. These small “jobs” could involve, for example; scheduling a zoom coffee morning with colleagues or taking the time to answer non-priority emails in your inbox.
Short Deadline Goals through the Power Hour Technique
The Power Hour technique is useful for those with a busy work-life who finds themselves with different priority assignments due. While this method also uses a timer; the idea is not managing the time you have ahead of you but more on how to catch up on an overdue commitment.
While it may be difficult with most of us working from home currently; find a quiet spot in your home where you can work on the task nonstop during that hour.
Treat this time like precious treasure and protect the Power Hour from interruptions and disruptions: Plan lunch, coffee breaks, and any scheduled calls around this hour.
Longer Assignments with the 90 Minute Rule
The 90 Minute Rule is a hybrid between long-term time management and minor day-to-day errands/responsibilities. H.L. Taylor initially proposed this strategy in their book “Time Management for an ADHD World”. Taylor suggested that the user should divide their day into 90-minute increments. These blocks should be organized by priority and grouped with other similar tasks.
The majority of people are their most productive in the mornings and if you’re one of these people; you should spend your first 90 minutes on the most critical task in your schedule, followed by the second most pressing item in your list of priorities.
However, if you’re like me and more of a night-owl, take half the morning to wake up: Use the first block of the morning, review your work from yesterday, and list your responsibilities for the day ahead. Then after a short 10-minute break, use your second block to carry out your most important task of the day.
As with all the methods above, set a timer to work by; not only does it indicate how productive you are during that session but also allows anticipation to grow towards the next break!
Does Seniority Level Affect the Pomodoro Technique Used?
The type of time-management method you choose to use is different from one person to another. However, it can be influenced by a person’s level of work ethic and the employer’s internal seniority structure.
For instance, methods may vary depending on if you’re a freelancer, an employee, or a manager. If you’re a freelancer, where you are entirely independent to make appointments, networking, and conference calls; you may choose to work by the 90-Minute Rule with a short break every half-hour.
Whereas, if you’re working as part of a team: Where a team leader may set your tasks to do that working day; you might work by the original Pomodoro timer and use a “Power Hour” to catch up with a lagging assignment later on in the day.
Lastly, if you’re a manager, you might use the 90-minute Rule to divide the working day into smaller chunks; then set tasks to your employees by Pomodoro time, so that everyone has regular breaks throughout the day.
What was my Experience with the Pomodoro Technique?
As a person who thrives on routine but struggles when the method is changed or wholly remade, I really benefit from the basic version of the Pomodoro Technique. From a day-to-day perspective, the Pomodoro Technique allows me to write out the day’s list of errands on one of the many whiteboards that cover the walls of my home office.
– Also known as the tiny desk and chair squeezed into the corner of my bedroom! –
Once this initial checklist is made; I find a decent online timer that can send notifications to my desktop and set it to beep at me from the background every 25-minutes.
However, I’ve been trying to work this last week using the Pomodoro Method, and while it’s suitable for short-term goals; the plan does not consider long-term time management or schedule planning.
I may have taken the concept too literally, but, because I was doing my assignments by 25-minute blocks: A lot of other chores that would other be readily remembered; were forgotten because they were not items on the Pomodoro checklist.
For example; while I put a great deal of time aside to research the Pomodoro Technique and similar time-management methods, I forgot simple tasks such as the time-allotted food shop.
In conclusion, when considering using the Pomodoro Technique to organize your work assignments; keep more than one Pomodoro checklist. A little like the 90 Minute Rule, instead of one master list, keep several smaller ones organized by relevance and priority.
Lastly, make sure how these schedules fit in with your life because changing time management techniques can be exhausting.