Learn how this simple mindfulness technique can help to improve focus and productivity to create more time to do the things you really love, says Simone Scott
The Pomodoro Technique is a way of working in time-bound chunks. It was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s when, as a college student, he used a pomodoro (Italian for tomato)-shaped kitchen timer to help focus on his studies, with great results.
I came across this mindfulness technique when working on a corporate project many years ago and immediately found it really helped to focus my easily-distracted mind on the task at hand. Since then, I’ve applied it to everything from digesting brain-busting reports to clearing overflowing cupboards.
How does the Pomodoro Technique work?
In its simplest form, Pomodoro breaks a task down in to four intervals – ‘pomodoros’ – each separated by a break. The general rule is to give the task your full attention for the entire pomodoro and to do something completely different during the break.
A longer break follows a set of four pomodoros, and should ideally be used for an enjoyable interlude – an opportunity to refresh and recharge.
The amount of time you dedicate to your chosen activity will depend on how much time you have, and how big the task is. Maybe one set of pomodoros is all you need, or perhaps you’ll commit to spending a full day – or longer – on this.
How does the Pomodoro Technique help?
The beauty of the technique lies in its simplicity. Knowing you only need to focus for a short and defined period of time helps to make this manageable for even the most easily-distracted of minds.
Also, the average human brain can only work effectively when engaged in intense activity for a relatively short period of time, so setting a limit can help to ensure you’re in control of this, giving your mind the time it needs to recuperate and refocus, which can help to reduce stress.
Simply changing position can also help in avoiding physical issues like posture-related pains and eye strain, which often occur as a result of being stuck in one position or looking at a screen for a prolonged period.
Give it a try and see how it works for you; maybe try a slightly shorter or longer pomodoro if 25 minutes doesn’t feel quite right for you.
Perhaps even the most mundane or challenging of tasks will be transformed in to something you grow to enjoy. All this and by working more efficiently you’ll create more time to do more of the things you love in life.
Give this mindfulness technique a try…
- Task and tool
Choose the task you’d like to work on – perhaps try it out on something simple to get a feel for it and see how it works for you. Secondly, have a timer to hand – I use a kitchen timer as I find my phone quite distracting.
- Set your timer
Set your timer for 25 minutes and get ready to go. Remove anything that’s likely to distract you during this time. This might mean placing your phone out of sight (or popping it on to silent mode), closing down your email or social media apps if you’re using a computer, or simply letting your colleagues or those around you know that you’re otherwise engaged.
- Get cracking
Work on your task, giving it your full attention until the timer sounds. It’s likely you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quickly the time passes. However, don’t be tempted to continue past the 25 minutes; if there’s something you feel you really have to finish then jot yourself a quick note as a reminder for when you restart.
- Take a break
Take five minutes to do something completely different, ideally away from the spot where you’re working on your task. You might choose to listen to a short guided meditation, stretch your body or to make a cup of tea.
- Start again
Once your five minutes are up, get back to the task for your next 25-minute chunk, following the same principles as before. Repeat until you’ve completed four pomodoros.
- Take a longer break
Aim for 20 to 30 minutes and do something really enjoyable. This could be stepping outside to connect with nature, taking a mindful stroll, or having a chat – ideally something that will help you to get back for round two feeling relaxed, restored and ready to go again.
Again, avoid continuing with the task – even if you feel you’re really in to your flow – this all-important break will help you to concentrate and focus for longer periods overall, by ensuring you’re working more efficiently and effectively during the short chunks of time on the task.
This article first appeared in issue 15 of Planet Mindful magazine.
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