I often talk about the benefits of using kanban and time blocking to get through your work efficiently, but today we are going to explore a specific form of prioritized time blocking called the Pomodoro Technique.
What’s “Pomodoro” All About?
Pomodoro is Italian for “tomato” – so, you probably want to know… what the hell does this technique have to do with vegetables?
Well, the Pomodoro Technique was developed in the 80s by productivity consultant Francesco Cirillo, and during that decade, tomato-shaped kitchen timers were in vogue. So the technique is named after those little kitchen timers. But don’t worry – no need to go find a vintage tomato timer. Your smart phone or any other timer will work just fine.
Here’s how the technique works.
1. Set your priorities ahead of time
In order to be successful with this technique, you need to know your priorities and be able to place them in order. So if you aren’t sure WHAT to focus on, you might need to review another blog entry on priority setting, such as my post on the Eisenhower Matrix.
Find a task or tasks that you want to work on, and place these in order. I think you could easily combine this with a kanban board, and organize your to-do column by priority, top to bottom.
2. Get focused and hunker down
Set the timer for a short amount of time. Typically 15-20 minutes. Work on ONLY the task at hand. No breaks. No social media. No checking email. No phone calls. Dedicate yourself to 15-20 minutes of only working on this one task.
3. Take short breaks
When the timer goes off, put a check mark on a post it – if you are using a physical kanban, you might put the checkmark on the task itself (I’ll explain why in a moment). Take a 2-3 minute break. Stretch, have a quick dance party, go to the bathroom, whatever you need to do.
4. Rinse and Repeat, x4
Set the timer again for another 15-20 minutes. Repeat 2 and 3 until you have 4 check marks. If you finish a task during this, move to the next one on the list.
5. Time to refresh
After four pomodoro blocks, you’ve worked for approximately an hour. It’s time to take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. Either move on to other forms of work after this break, or, if desired, complete another four rounds with the pomodoro technique.
That’s it. It’s so straightforward, but it can really help you stay focused. If you’ve struggled with time blocking by full hours, I encourage you to try this technique out this week!
Side Benefits of Using Pomodoro
Another benefit to using pomodoro is that if you keep you checkmarks on your tasks or Kanban cards, this serves as a way of learning more about how much time typical tasks take you, so that you can more effectively plan in the future. I am a huge fan of any kind of work that gives us actionable information that we can reflect on and utilize to make our future workflows even better.
If this felt overwhelming to you because you are totally unsure where to focus, I lead a workshop on how to set priorities, time block, and set the stage so you can optimize your productivity. I don’t teach pomodoro in this workshop, but you will gain the essential groundwork on how to prioritize and focus – things you need to get clear on before applying more nuanced skills like this. Sign up today and get instant access!
What are your thoughts on the Pomodoro Technique? What tasks in your creative work would this technique be good for?