Hack the Pomodoro Technique to Boost Your Productivity
You know the feeling––you’ve been hard at work, hour after hour, but you haven’t gotten anything done.
Maybe you’re a blogger with a bad case of writer’s block. Perhaps you’re a web designer who surfs Reddit too much. Whatever the case, we all know how it feels to finish up for the day without having done much.
And not getting work done comes at a cost. Every year, companies lose millions of dollars due to lost productivity. By being unproductive and unfocused, workers cost themselves and their company more than they can imagine.
As a freelance content marketer, I’ve experienced this problem firsthand. I have often been distracted or unmotivated and stayed in that funk. Thankfully, I discovered the Pomodoro Technique.
A Primer on the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the late eighties as a way to better manage time and get more tasks done. It’s named after pomodoro kitchen timers (the fake tomato ones). These timers usually have an interval of 25 minutes, and that’s what the Pomodoro Technique is based on.
Basically, you work for 25 minutes, take a 5-10 minute break, and repeat until you get the task done. Practitioners have to remain completely focused during the 25-minute work period. There should be no interruptions or distractions. This is part of why the technique works so well. The small breaks after each pomodoro (1 pomodoro = 25 minutes) refresh the brain and give you a little boost to finish the task at hand.
As a freelancer, I loved the idea of the Pomodoro Technique, but it didn’t meet all of my needs at first. The official video on the Pomodoro Technique homepage implies that it’s best for completing large tasks. I have a lot of smaller tasks throughout the day, so I would have to micromanage myself if I calculated pomodoros for each task.
I also work at odd times of the day, since I’m a full-time university student, as well. Also, daily schedules have never been my strong point. I wanted a more flexible technique, so I hacked the Pomodoro Technique.
Here’s what I did and how you can do it, too.
1) Use pomodoros to fence in work time, not objective time.
I don’t focus on completing certain objectives. Instead, I see what I have to do and choose a task or two. I work on these during the pomodoro. If the 25 minutes is up and I haven’t finished, I still take my break.
This way, I don’t have to make sure I’m completing certain pre-designated objectives. And I won’t feel like a failure when I inevitably don’t reach those goals. Instead, I work task by task until I’m done for the day.
2) Take longer breaks if you want.
The Pomodoro Technique recommends 5 to 10 minute breaks after each pomodoro. Then, after four pomodoros, you take a longer break, maybe 15 to 20 minutes.
I personally take a bit longer than 5 to 10 minutes to refresh myself, though. If I take a short break, I don’t feel like I’ve taken a break at all. So I take breaks of at least 10 minutes, sometimes 20 or more, whatever it takes to clear my head and prepare myself for the next pomodoro.
The key here is to find the break length that works for you. After your break, you want to feel motivated and ready to tackle whatever tasks you have to do. As long as you stay completely focused during the pomodoro, you’ll succeed.
3) Use a to-do list in conjunction with the Pomodoro Technique.
This has improved my productivity more than I can measure. By using a to-do list with the Pomodoro Technique, you can visually track your productivity and get more done.
I use Todoist, but you can use any to-do list or app. At the beginning of each pomodoro, I look at my to-do list and choose a task to work on. After I finish it, I mark it done and choose another task. When the pomodoro ends, I take my break and leave whatever I’m working on.
By breaking up my day into smaller tasks and using pomodoros, I accomplish lots of small tasks and remain completely focused. At the end of the day, I feel productive because I actually have been productive.
The best part is that you can hack the Pomodoro Technique for yourself. If you need shorter breaks, try 3 to 5 minutes. If you like working in smaller chunks, try working for 15 minutes, taking a 5 minute break, and then working for 10 minutes. This splits up the pomodoro, which goes against the original technique, but if it work for you, do it.