There are lots of strategies and tools you can use to master time management today. But some are more effective than others. The Pomodoro Technique is a simple productivity strategy that’s been popular and effective for decades. Here’s how to harness it to improve productivity as an entrepreneur in 2019.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Italian entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s. He created the strategy for his own purposes, as he had a difficult time staying focused on individual tasks without distraction. The technique consists of a simple 6-step process to help you avoid procrastination and get more done with your time.
Here’s an overview of how the Pomodoro technique works:
Step 1: Select the task you want to work on.
First select a task that requires your complete attention. It can be a huge task that takes weeks to finish. Or it can be something you’d be done with in a few hours. Either way, Pomodoro can help you improve time management and get it done faster. Write the task down on a piece of paper next to your work area.
Step 2: Set a timer for 25 minutes.
Next you’re going to set a timer for 25 minutes. During this time, you will commit 100% of your attention to the task at hand. When Francesco Cirillo first developed the technique, he used a tomato kitchen timer. That’s why it’s usually associated with the technique:
Using a traditional timer is recommended. If you use a timer on your phone, you might get distracted checking the time or seeing messages that pop up. Whatever device you use, just make sure you set it aside and don’t pay attention to it while you work.
Step 3: Work on that task until the timer rings.
Research has shown that 25 minutes is an optimal time period where someone can focus on a single task without getting distracted. So try to work on your chosen task without interruption. If you remember something else you need to work on, just take a second to write it down. Then get back to the task at hand.
Step 4: Take a 5-minute break.
Once the timer rings, stop working and put a check mark on a piece of paper next to the task. During your break, you can get up and move around. Relax. Check your text messages. Try not to think about work. Instead give your mind a rest.
Step 5: Repeat the Pomodoro cycle.
After your break, reset the timer for 25 minutes. A Pomodoro cycle is one iteration of 25 minutes of work + 5 minutes of rest. Mark each cycle with a checkmark on your paper. If you have multiple important tasks to work on, you could change tasks with each Pomodoro cycle. But it’s better to focus on one thing to avoid multitasking.
Step 6: After four Pomodoro, take a longer break.
Try to achieve four cycles of 25 minutes working and 5 minute breaks, then take a longer break. There’s some flexibility in how long this break needs to be. Twenty or thirty minutes is good. Just take this time to rest. Definitely leave the room to refresh your mind.
After you take this longer break, you’re ready to start a new round of Pomodoros. Start over at step 1. Create a new row of checkmarks to keep track.
The process of four Pomodoro cycles results in 2 hours of concentrated, uninterrupted work. Here’s what it looks like on paper:
For a productivity strategy, the Pomodoro Technique seems to involve a lot of breaks. But the idea is to refresh your mind so you can do a better job concentrating during work cycles. It results in more overall productivity than if you tried to work straight through without resting.
Benefits of Using Pomodoro in Entrepreneurship
Time management techniques are helpful for just about everyone, whether you’re a student, employee or freelancer. But the Pomodoro Technique is particularly valuable in entrepreneurship. Here’s 7 ways it can help you become a more productive and successful entrepreneur:
1. Improve focus and manage distractions
The Pomodoro Technique challenges you to prioritize and select important tasks to focus on. This prevents you from jumping around from project to project or getting distracted. Research has shown that multitasking has a significant negative impact on your ability to focus. The Pomodoro Technique doesn’t give room for distractions to disrupt your work.
2. Make better use of your time
Parkinson’s Law is a philosophical principle that’s responsible for a lot of success and failure in entrepreneurship today. It goes like this:
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Any project you work on could reasonably take a lot of your time or a little of it. A huge factor affecting this is how much time you allow to complete it. For example, if you tell yourself it will take you 3 days to complete a task, it will likely take 3 days. But if you allow yourself a week to complete a task, it will likely take that whole week.
The Pomodoro Technique is a solution designed to directly combat Parkinson’s Law. When you work in short cycles of complete concentration, there’s no need to spend unnecessary extra time a project.
3. Accomplish more
As an entrepreneur, you’re self-employed. So all your motivation to accomplish tasks needs to come from within. There’s no boss breathing down your neck. Creating a sense of urgency to get things done is a challenge. But when you apply the Pomodoro Technique, it provides the control and expectations you need to succeed. Having a consistent sense of urgency when you work allows you to avoid procrastination and accomplish more.
4. Combat perfectionism
A common problem that plagues entrepreneurs today is perfectionism. They always want to take the time to fine-tune a project. But they end up spending too much unnecessary time trying to fix something that’s already complete.
Using a time management strategy like this can combat perfectionism. You won’t allow yourself to spend four Pomodoro cycles reviewing small issues when you could easily finish the project in one cycle.
5. Decrease stress
Entrepreneurs today constantly worry if they’re getting enough done. This causes them to focus on several projects at once in an effort to accomplish more. But psychological research has shown that multi-tasking can cause unnecessary stress. Stress, in turn, can negatively impact the quality of your work.
The Pomodoro Technique can help entrepreneurs decrease stress by forcing them to focus on one task at a time. The cycles and check marks also offer a sense of accomplishment. This helps entrepreneurs feel like they’re making progress, reducing stress in the process.
6. Improve the quality of your work
Improving focus and decreasing stress provides the mindset you need to be better at your job. Maintaining complete focus helps ensure your work is quality and uninterrupted. The more you practice complete focus, the easier it is to succeed at. So as you use the Pomodoro Technique long-term, you can improve the quality and quantity of your work even more.
This is especially true if you work in a creative field. Lots of research has shown that taking short breaks can improve creativity immensely. Just look at the difference in these brain scans before and after a 20-minute walk:
7. Improve self control
Distractions are everywhere in the digital age. It’s so easy to click away from your work to check social media, or read the latest news. If your computer isn’t distracting you from work, your phone probably is. Lots of people check their notifications compulsively without even realizing they stopped working.
The Pomodoro Technique challenges entrepreneurs to ignore distractions through sheer willpower. Practicing this can help you improve your self control overall.
7 Helpful Pomodoro Tools and Resources
The Pomodoro Technique requires nothing more than a traditional kitchen timer to implement. But there are lots of great tools out there that can help you with strategy and execution. Here are a few of the many options out there:
First on the list needs to be the personal website of Francesco Cocirillo, the entrepreneur who developed the Pomodoro Technique. Since the strategy became popular, he wrote several books on productivity and how to use Pomodoro. His website has lots of helpful resources, as well as mentoring services for individuals, teams, and companies.
Mariana Timer is a web app tool that you can use without downloading anything to your computer or phone. All you have to do is keep it open as a pinned tab in your web browser. You can use it to easily set up timer alerts so you know when to take a break during your Pomodoro cycle. You can also customize the length of your work and break times to better suit your needs.
Eggcellent is an OS X app that helps you with time management and keeping track of tasks. It also helps you estimate how many Pomodoros you will need to complete a task. It integrates with OS X’s Reminders app, and provides visual cues for tracking progress.
Engross is a Pomodoro app for Android. It also allows you to create customizable Pomodoro cycles and manage your to-do lists. Engross also has some unique features to help you track when you’re most productive throughout the day. Whenever you get distracted during a Pomodoro, just tap a distraction button. This creates a report showing when throughout the day you’re easily distracted. Then it helps you build a customized productivity schedule, ensuring you work during the times of day you’re least distracted.
Pomello App is a timer tool to help you track your Pomodoro cycles. It goes for a minimalist design, so it’s easy to use and avoid distractions. Pomello app is a favorite option among Trello users. Pomello App integrates with Trello, allowing you to create a Pomodoro task from each of your Trello cards.
- Focus Booster
Focus Booster offers a basic Pomodoro timer that syncs across web, mobile and desktop. But you can also adjust the length of your focus and break sessions. It also serves as a time tracking app, making it valuable for freelancers and entrepreneurs that deal with clients. Probably the most unique feature of Focus Booster is productivity reporting. It offers details of how productive you are on different days of the week. It also directly connects your productivity to revenue from clients.
PomoDoneApp is another basic Pomodoro timer that doubles as a time tracking app. Probably the best thing about it is integrations. The app works with task management tools across the web, including Wunderlist, Trello, iCal, Basecamp, Slack, and more. It also has a browser plugin, so you can easily start/stop Pomodoro cycles while you work online.
There are lots of techniques and tools out there that entrepreneurs can use to master time management. The Pomodoro Technique is one time-tested option used by thousands around the world. It’s proven to help people get more done using the same amount of time as always. There are also a number of valuable tools you can use to implement and optimize your Pomodoros. So if you’re looking to try out a new time management strategy, the Pomodoro Technique is a worthwhile option for success.