I’ve noticed something about the way that I work. If I can concentrate on what I’m doing, I can get a whole day’s worth of work done in about an hour. Millions of items (well, three or four) can be ticked off the ‘to do’ list when I’m in the zone. But if I’m not focussed, my productivity drops dramatically, and my day disappears.
So I’ve been trying a new time management technique – the pomodoro technique. You can see the full version here but I’ve just been doing the basics, and in a moment I’ll explain why I’m going on about Italian tomatoes.
What’s a pomodoro?
This system was invented by an Italian chap, Francesco Cirillo, and it uses a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato, or a pomodoro, as the Italians more romantically call them.
What you do is decide on what you want to do today and make your list (just for today, not the big to do list) just the same as in any other timemanagement system. And then when you’ve picked the first thing to do, you set your tomato timer to 25 minutes and work just on that thing for 25 minutes. You only do that thing; you don’t look at Twitter, book your holiday, have a cup of tea or check your email. When the timer goes off, you stop what you’re doing and have a five-minute break, preferably involving getting away from the computer and walking around. You do not carry on for another 10 minutes, you have to have that break.
The idea is that our brains can only concentrate for a short period of time, then we need to do something else. But in that short period of time, we can accomplish wonders.
So, I do 25 minutes of work, then what?
You do one pomodoro, have a five-minute break, and then you do another one. This might be to finish off what you started in the first one, or if you’ve done that, you can start a new task. After you’ve done three or four pomodoros, have a longer break, preferably involving chocolate or other mind improving substances.
Does it work?
It sounds really simple, and I’m only doing the simple version, but it’s not easy. The temptation to do other things is quite extreme. But I’ve been telling myself that I can do those things when the timer goes off, and if they’re serious things to do, like phone a client, I put them on the to do list. It’s rare that something comes up that can’t wait for 25 minutes.
But the more I do it, the more I can get done, and I’m really enjoying the breaks to look at the sunset, or read interesting things online, or go outside, because I feel justified in taking a break.
This article took one pomodoro to write – how many pomodoros are yougoing to do today?
Julia Chanteray is a serial entrepreneur who now supports, advises and mentors growing businesses, as well as speaking regularly on the issues affecting small businesses. You can read more of her thoughts on business at the Joy of Business www.thejoyofbusiness.co.uk