Everyone’s plate is full. I doubt that anyone reading this right now does not have a list of tasks to accomplish today, be it mental, digital, or on paper. Distractions are the worst killers of productivity, and finding a way to eliminate distractions–or at least keep them at bay for a time–will add hours of effectiveness to your day.
One technique that has done wonders for me in the past is called The Pomodoro Technique, named after the tomato-shaped timer used by Francesco Cirillo that started it all. (The word pomodoro means tomato in Italian.) It is a basic time management system based on focus and mental rewards. Here’s how the pomodoro works:
- Choose a task.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on that task alone (no email, no text, no news, no conversation, etc.) until the timer rings.
- When the timer rings, put a checkmark on paper. (These checkmarks will serve as a gauge later.)
- Take a short 5 minute break and do something not work-related.
- Repeat. Every fourth pomodoro, take a 15-30 minute break.
Beside the obvious benefits of eliminating distractions, this technique will allow you to better estimate and evaluate your tasks. Does preparing a purchase order normally take three pomodoros? Should it take that long? What can be done to make it faster? Once you have a handle on what you can do in one pomodoro, then you can better evaluate the use of your time.
You could use almost anything to keep track of time. The technique was based on what Francesco Cirillo had lying around. There are several specific apps available, each with unique features. No matter the tool, the idea is the same. Don’t work harder, work smarter.
iPhone & iPad
- Pomodoro Timer: Focus on your productivity and beat procrastination using the Pomodoro Technique – $1.99
- Pomodoro – Timer – Free
- Focus Booster – Free (with web app, too)
- 30/30 – Not strictly the Pomodoro technique, but well-rated.