Take it From Someone Who Hates Productivity Hacks—the Pomodoro Technique Actually Works
Admittedly, I’ve never been big on productivity hacks and tricks. Instead, I keep things pretty simple. I take a look at my planner (yes, a real paper planner—not my phone), jot down a list of things I want to get done that day, and then start hustling.
But, after hearing so much chatter about the Pomodoro Technique, I figured I should at least do my due diligence and give it a try. I listened to so many different people rant and rave about how it helped them greatly improve their focus and increase their productivity. So, I thought testing it out couldn’t hurt—and, if all went well, maybe I’d even identify a new tactic for tackling my never-ending to-do list.
Needless to say, testing it out is exactly what I did. In fact, I utilized this time management method for an entire week in order to share my findings. And, like any good journalist would, I kicked things back old school and used the scientific method to share my results. If my sixth grade science teacher could see me now.
What Is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have—rather than against it. Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. These intervals are referred to as pomodoros. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes.
The idea behind the technique is that the timer instills a sense of urgency. Rather than feeling like you have endless time in the workday to get things done and then ultimately squandering those precious work hours on distractions, you know you only have 25 minutes to make as much progress on a task as possible.
Additionally, the forced breaks help to cure that frazzled, burnt-out feeling most of us experience toward the end of the day. It’s impossible to spend hours in front of your computer without even realizing it, as that ticking timer reminds you to get up and take a breather.
The concept of keeping such detailed track of my workday seemed a little cumbersome to me. So, I downloaded the Pomodoro Timer on my phone. It made things much easier, and I highly recommend it if you’re planning on trying this yourself. It’s well worth the $1.99. (Or, if you’re an Android user, check out ClearFocus.)
If I’m being perfectly honest, I anticipated not liking this technique at all. I’m the type of person who tends to sit in front of her computer and hammer out four hours of work without so much as a bathroom break.
Because I was so used to working in those long chunks of time (during which I thought I was being productive), the idea of splitting up my workday and—gasp!—wasting time on breaks seemed totally counterintuitive. How could working less actually help me accomplish more?
The premise didn’t seem like it would mesh well with me. But, I went for it anyway.
Let’s just get right to the heart of the matter: My hypothesis was wrong. I actually ended up really liking this method—and it’s probably something I’ll continue to implement when I want to kick my productivity up a notch.
At first, working in such small increments felt unnatural. There were quite a few times—especially in the beginning—when I was tempted to ignore the timer and continue working. But, I forced myself to stick to the format.
After some time, the technique started to really gel with me. I was focused and insanely productive during my work time, as I was eager to get as much completed during that 25-minute interval as I could. I didn’t find myself mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or getting sucked in by those pesky clickbait articles. And, as a notorious multi-tasker, I noticed that I was totally zoned in on the one project at hand.
Despite the fact that I thought I’d hate filling my workday with short breaks, they actually became my favorite element of this time management technique. Since I work from home, I was able to use those short pauses to start a load of laundry, wipe down the kitchen counters, and even take the dog out for a little fresh air.
Because I was forced to get up and give myself a rest from staring at my laptop screen, I found that I actually did feel better at the end of each day. Not only did I feel like I had put in an honest day’s work, but I also felt less stressed, blurry-eyed, and cramped up. Go figure—actually standing up a couple of times throughout the day really does help.
However, I wouldn’t be an honest journalist if I didn’t outline at least one drawback of the method I experienced. While it worked great on the days when all of my time was my own, it became quite complicated when I had scheduled phone calls and meetings. I didn’t think my clients or colleagues would react too favorably to me yelling, “Be back in five! My timer just went off!” in the middle of a conversation.
So, I ended up just completely deactivating my timer during these meetings—whether they were 15 minutes or an hour—and picking back up with the technique when those appointments were finished. Perhaps that means I bent the rules a bit, but I couldn’t figure out a better way to handle that situation.
All in all, I was surprised to find that I actually really liked the Pomodoro Technique, and I think it lived up to its promises of making me more focused and productive. I’m planning on using it on those days when there’s nothing in my calendar. However, I’m curious to see how well it works for someone who regularly has a lot of meetings, phone calls, and appointments.
Have you given this time management method a try? What did you think? Let me know your thoughts on Twitter!
Photo of timer courtesy of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author