The Pomodoro technique is a productivity strategy I started using few years ago, after struggling to get more stuff done for my web design projects (and clients).
When you have a nice project to work on, it’s easy to just ‘dive in‘, but sometimes tedious and yet necessary work can really be a pain. And you keep on avoiding it, while making no progress at all.
I took some time off from this technique after a while (laziness would be the culprit) and I have to say that my productivity dwindled immediately.
Few months ago I decided to try get back on the wagon and was able to do more productive work and get more stuff done in less time (if you followed my stories and read the course, you already know I work for 2 hours/day on average – which is very little for someone who has a web design business and also tries to run some blogs, a course etc.)
For years people thought that the more hours they worked, the better their results.
Which, we already know, is not the case.
Being tied to your desk for hours not only causes imminent health problems, but you are NOT being productive.
Just take a regular day at the ‘office‘ and try to list the stuff you really do and all the procrastination breaks you’re taking. How many of your important tasks really get done?
You’ll be shocked to understand there are (many) days when getting anything done is a huge challenge. You’ll try do some work, but will become easily distracted, tired in few hours etc.
By switching to the Pomodoro technique I was amazed to see how much stuff I do get done on a daily basis. With no additional help or more working hours.
And it stopped feeling daunting anymore.
The Pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. There’s also a book about it, that’s been revised in 2013 (click to find more).
Pomodoro means tomato in Italian, it’s the unit of measurement for the technique – 25 minutes. There are many other variations (you can set up your pomodoro for 15 minutes, 30, 45 etc.), but the default value is 25.
As soon as you have set your time, you just work in ‘bursts’, instead of working for 4 hours straight. By focusing for few minutes and taking 5 minute breaks between pomodoros, you’re more likely to maintain a good focus for more hours than before.
Applying the Pomodoro technique to your work-flow:
Set up your tasks
Ideally you should have FEW things to do in a day.
Stop adding tens of to-do items to your huge lists, this is just gonna eat up your time and you’ll get nowhere.
After years of using huge lists, I’m down to a simple table with 2-3 tasks per day. That’s all.
Some of these tasks with take longer, some will take just few minutes.
The idea is to know EXACTLY what you’re gonna focus on as soon as you start your timer.
Set up your timer and work
I use tomato-timer.com right now, there are multiple tools, apps and browser plugins that can be used. Get something EASY and less distracting, even your own egg-timer from the kitchen will do the job. Or an alarm clock, if you fancy it more.
For 25 minutes straight you do JUST the task you decided to do: I will write this article for 25 minutes. Or create a web design mockup. Or correct my course lessons, promote etc. ONE TASKS at a time.
No Facebook, no gazing at the window, no nothing. Just DO THE WORK.
Take a break
As soon as the timer marks the end of your pomodoro, STOP.
You can now take a 5 minute break or a longer one, after your 4th pomodoro.
I usually just go through another pomodoro, with no break, since working from 9-10 in the evening doesn’t allow me to get too many breaks anymore, I just want to get as much done and go to sleep.
Ideally, you should take small breaks from your work.
Drink a glass of water, relax for a little while, think about how much you accomplished in just 25 minutes (you’ll be shocked to see how much you actually get done by focusing on one tasks only for less than half an hour).
Track your progress
As I am a control-freak, I want to know more each day about the type of work I did and how much money I earned (both on my personal websites and for the client work).
So I just write down how many Pomodoros I did one day and what tasks they were worked on.
Here is an example:
- October 2nd – 8 (pomodoros)
- Mockup design for client x – 3 (I worked 3 pomodoros for a client)
- Content creation for my PF network (I worked 5 pomodoros for my network).
Keeping track of how much you worked is a great incentive to break your own records.
I’m very tired in the evenings and, still, I have to do my work.
So any boost I can get is appreciated. When I really feel like going to sleep (or just passing out on my chair, depending on how exhausted I am), I just look at my list. If I’ve worked 3 pomodoros, I’ll probably get an incentive to try one more and finish my work-day, as scheduled.
Now here it gets more interesting.
I go even deeper in my madness: I keep separate records on the work I do for my clients and the work I do for myself.
By noting down what I’ve worked on each day, I can get a clear image of how many pomodoros I worked for me in a month and how many for clients.
Seeing my hours is pretty simple: no. of pomodoros multiplied with 25 (this allows me to see how many MINUTES I worked in total). Since an hour has 60 minutes, I then divide the number to 60 and know EXACTLY how many hours I really worked during the month.
It’s then easy to just divide the money I earned from my websites (advertising, courses etc.) to the number of hours I worked on my network. This gives me my hourly rate for the projects that earn me a ‘passive‘ income.
More importantly, I then divide how much my clients paid me (web design services, since that’s what I do) to the number of hours I REALLY worked and get my exact client hourly rates.
You could live without so much prep work and maybe just start the timer to make sure you are productive, but for me, all these little details really matter. I’ve made MORE progress in the past months since starting employing these productivity hacks than in 2-3 years.