Using a pomodoro productivity timer helps you get more done by allowing you to focus on important tasks for short periods. Built in breaks take away the overwhelm.
Procrastination and Resistance
Have you ever had to work on a project but felt yourself resistant to even thinking about it? Procrastination is the worst! I used the pomodoro technique to stop procrastination and get more things done.
I’ll never forget how hard it was to work on my dissertation. I was writing an 80+ page paper on a relatively boring topic. It was the last step I had to take in order to graduate with my doctorate and it felt like the Grand Canyon. Prior to discovering the pomodoro productivity timer, I was in real danger of never completing it.
Although I even took a year off to complete it, I had a heck of a time getting myself to work on it.
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I spent a lot of that time becoming a master at Minesweeper rather than working on my dissertation. (Have you ever played that game? It can be pretty addicting!)
I’d sit down at the computer and end up turning on the game. Talk about time loss!
Something had to give.
This is when I learned about the Pomodoro method (developed by Francesco Cirillo). I didn’t know what it was called or any science behind it, but I decided to give it a try because it sounded easy.
So what is pomodoro and how do you use a pomodoro productivity timer? Here’s a short video describing the method:
Pomodoro Productivity Timer
It’s actually pretty simple. The pomodoro technique involves setting a timer for an amount of time in which you plan to do focused work. Most people choose to do four 25 minute sessions with five minute breaks in between them. At the end of the four sessions they then take a half hour break. After the break the process starts over with the four 25 minute sessions.
What kind of timer do you use?
A pomodoro productivity timer is just a timer that counts down a time you select. You could even use your phone or Amazon Echo. (I use the Echo all the time for cooking, so why not this?) Really you can use any type of timer that counts down the time you select and alerts you when it is over. I linked a few below:
How To Use The Pomodoro Technique
Let me break this down:
- Pick a task to work on (you don’t want to spend the whole time making the decision about what to work on).
- Set your pomodoro productivity timer for 25 minutes. Or just say “Alexa, set a timer for 25 minutes!”
- Once the timer is started, work on your task for the 25 minutes. Stay focused and do not allow yourself to be distracted during this time. Turn off your phone! No Facebook! No Minesweeper if that’s still a thing! (Also try to avoid saying “Alexa, how much time is left on the timer”)
- Once your timer goes off, take a five minute break. Get up, walk around, look at Facebook…whatever.
- Restart the timer and do another 25 minute session followed by a five minute break.
- Once you do four sessions, take a longer break: somewhere between fifteen and thirty minutes.
I’ve seen people do 45 minute pomodoro sessions as well with 15 minute breaks. Do whatever works for you. I suggest starting off with the 25 minute sessions and then working your way up if you desire.
(Funny story: when I was using this in grad school, I would have a 25 minute session of productivity followed by crazy long breaks of four hours or so. I didn’t get a ton done, but it was an improvement haha. I didn’t know you were supposed to time your breaks too).
Free Pomodoro Apps Online
There are several pomodoro productivity timers online that you can use for free. Here are a couple I found that look pretty useful:
Tracking Your Progress
It can be helpful to track your sessions to show your progress over time. That is exactly what the Mastery Journal does. I like using this journal for pomodoro sessions, though I find it a little limiting because there are only four sessions in the journal per day. If using 25 minute sessions, this would only be two hours of work.
That said, the Mastery Journal helps you to rate your productivity and discipline over time and focus on one task until completion in a ninety day time frame. I recommend trying it out. It will help you learn how to use the method consistently to reach your goals. You can buy it on Amazon here.
You can also download my free pomodoro technique pdf by signing up for my resource library below.
Do You Have To Take Breaks?
When working on my blog I sometimes have a hard time justifying to myself that I need breaks. I find myself saying that I don’t have much time so must use all of it to focus on getting things done.
I’m sure you’ve thought the same thing! “I don’t need no breaks!!!”
The problem is, most of the time I’m not doing useful things when I am working straight through. I get lost in Facebook groups or spend a ton of time doing busy work rather than writing content or doing things I need to do.
If I were to use this scenario with something else like cleaning the house, something similar would happen. I’d be “cleaning the house” but end up distracted by playing with my dogs or something.
When you schedule in breaks, you’re more likely be be able to maintain your focus for the work time and then do the distractors during the break time.
Benefits of Breaks
The reason you need breaks is because it gives you some fresh perspective. When you leave the task and focus on something else, your brain continues to process what you were working on but you are focused on something else. This can be so freeing because rather than focusing on what is right in front of you, it allows space for your mind to be creative.
According to an article in Psychology Today, breaks have these benefits:
- Reduce decision fatigue
- Decision fatigue comes when we have to make a lot of decisions in our work. When we are constantly thinking about what to do next, it is exhausting.
- Improve emotional and physical health
- A break can help you to restart your motivation for long projects (such as a giant boring paper).
- Breaks increase creativity and productivity. I know this sounds counterintuitive since it feels like if you keep working without breaks it feels like you would get more done, but regular breaks help reduce stress and tiredness.
- Breaks improve the formation of memory. Once the break is over, your brain continues to think about what you’ve done. You then remember more. You also might come up with more creative thoughts on your topic when not hyper focused on it.
There are times when you might want to skip a break. When you are in the flow and working hard, you may want to skip your break!
Dealing With Distractions
The key to success with the pomodoro method is the commitment to focused work. During the 25 minutes, you do not look at your phone or at social media. You limit distractions as much as possible. See my post here on how to limit distractions to get more things done.
Sometimes others’ don’t cooperate. Or maybe something happens that needs your attention. What do you do in those situations?
My recommendation is to stop your timer and restart from the beginning when you are able to have a more focused session. I don’t think it is that useful to stop it at ten minutes to deal with something and then restart for the next fifteen minutes. I think you need the full twenty five minutes on your pomodoro productivity timer to really get some momentum going on your task.
You can certainly try out different time periods because shorter ones may work for you.
When you’re ready to try out this method to increase your productivity, sign up for my resource library where you can download my pomodoro productivity worksheet. Use a pomodoro productivity timer and let me know how you like it.
Did you find this method helped you increase your productivity? Leave me a comment below or come join me in the new Facebook group.
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Marlena is the blogger behind apenandapurpose.com, where she writes about using journaling for self improvement and reaching goals in life and business. Using her experience as a Licensed Psychologist with a Master’s in Business, she teaches people how to break through negative thoughts and fear to do what matters. For more about me read my about page.