How Pomodoro Changed My Life
Structuring your time is more important than you think
Some native Italian speakers may be a bit puzzled and ask how exactly tomatoes changed my life.
While I can think of a few impacts the red fruit (yes, fruit) has on me, I’m talking about the time management technique of the same name. Personally, I know what it’s like to struggle with staying on task. For years, I would try to keep my brain on the path to productivity but to no avail. I continued to bounce from project to project, let the dishes stack up, and extend client deadlines. I was getting desperate, other methods that seemed to work for others but didn’t yield the same level of success for me. Then on a curiously quiet Monday I saw the words — Pomodoro Timer.
At first, it felt like a waste of time. An all too familiar failed tactic like the others but after the first few rounds I had accomplished what felt like the impossible. I boomed out an entire days worth of work in a few hours. The feat itself was shocking but what baffled me was that I didn’t even realize it until my list was almost empty. I had experienced flow for what felt like the first time in my life.
What is Pomodoro?
The truly elegant part about this method is its simplicity. Pomodoro is a productivity hack that suggests doing a task for a set interval of time (usually 25 min) and taking a break in-between (5–15min). Sounds easy, right? Just pop on a timer and the rest will take care of itself. Like most things, it’s easy to talk about but implementation is a different story. After a full four rounds of work and three short breaks it is encouraged to take a slightly longer break before resuming another set of work and shorts. This on/off method helps keep your attention fresh on the subject while also letting your brain rest and recharge.
Pomodoro in 5 Steps
- Choose a task from your todo list
- Set timer for (x) and work on the one task
- Once the timer stops take a short break for about (5) minutes
- Repeat steps 2 three more times and 3 two more times
- Once the timer stops take a long break for about (30) minutes
This is essentially the basic format to follow but it helps to add some structure to further enhance your workflow. We’ll get into pro tips in just a little bit.
Recently, I’ve been utilizing my breaks to handle other things on my todo list aside from the main task I decide to focus on. Since I work from home I tend to do house work to maximize my productivity like walking my dog, doing dishes, vacuuming, even a quick set of pull ups and push ups. It’s crazy how much you can really get done in five minutes.
One day during my breaks I cleaned my entire bathroom. I simply broke the bathroom tasks down into subtasks and did one thing per five minute break. Clean counters and sink, clean toilet, clean shower, change out towels and mats, remove trash.
Over the course of 3 hours of work I’d cleaned my entire bathroom without it feeling like a separate overwhelming task.
Stress is at the backbone of the majority of problems we face on a daily basis. What’s worse is its ability to compound —where current stress can lead to a pressurized situation that leads to new stress and so on and so on. Not only has Pomodoro helped reduce my stress in regards to deadlines and the overwhelming feelings that accompany them. I’ve also developed a better understanding of limits; not just my own personal ones but how much attention I put on a task. I am able to better gauge if I am spending too much or too little time working on something and that is truly where the change happened for me. It opened my eyes to the importance of time how I use mine.
We are all born with two finite resources — time and attention. Be very thoughtful about how and where you utilize yours.
Success in Small Packages:
Small wins make the world go round. Making tasks bitesized and actually accomplishable will do wonders for your attitude towards the work you’re doing and increase your productivity momentum. Slightly gamifying things can really take the pressure off of some larger projects. In programming and other professions, this is called the divide and conquer approach to work. An author does not simply open a blank page and write a perfectly crafted novel from start to finish. They plan, process, write, revise, write more, revise more, etc.
An example workflow for a large goal could look like this:
Main task — Write book
Sub tasks — plot, characters, chapters, edit, proofread
Plot > brainstorm plot > research genre > research common tropes > explore plot twist ideas
Characters > brainstorm characters > research moods/traits > create main and side characters > identify antagonist > explore character relationships
Chapters > outline number of chapters > set chapter lengths > align story with chapter > write chapter
Editing > edit character backgrounds > check for holes in the plot > revisit climax > edit chapter # > edit chapter ## > etc.
Proofread > compile manuscript > full read through > get second opinion > professional proofread
Very simplified example but I hope you get the jist of what I’m trying to convey.
- Breakdown larger goals/project
- Utilize those breaks for physical activity or minor tasks
- Make sure you can hear the timer chime
- Choose intervals that work for you
- Don’t give up
Advice is intrinsically biased. What works for others may not work for you. I’m happy to share what worked for me in the hopes it can benefit you as well. Pomo is not for everyone but I feel like its worth a shot next time you sit down to study, code, create, or change the world.