Ever amaze yourself with just how much you can accomplish when the clock is ticking and the adrenaline is pumping? The only productivity technique any of us will ever really need is one that simply summons up that level of output and sets neurons on fire when it counts. All of this can be done using just a timer, and maybe a little motivational prodding in the form of a good app and a good buddy.
It's called Pomodoro, and it's a time management technique that pushes you, at intervals, to capture each second and hyper-caffeinate your productivity. In this method, you allow for frequent breaks in the midst of tightly focused work times, so as to increase mental agility and supercharge productivity.
The work intervals are known as "Pomodori". Pomodoro (plural Pomodori), the Italian word for tomato. The method was invented by an Italian developer, entrepreneur and author Francesco Cirrillo, who used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer as his personal stopwatch. The technique is simple: Work for about 25 minutes, then take a short break.
The Pomodoro technique has five basic principles:
- Decide on the task to be done and then set your Pomodoro timer to a number of minutes.
- Start the timer, and work on the task until the timer rings; this is when you take a short break of three to five minutes and then resume work. After four Pomodori, you take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.
- You do this until the task is completed.
- Each time you complete a Pomodoro, you mark a timesheet with an 'X'.
- Within a few days, you should be able to analyze your Pomodori and assess how to stop procrastination and work faster. The ticking timer forces you to finish tasks on schedule.
Enter the Digital Timer!
"That's too simple", you might be thinking. There ought to be an app right? Well, good news: tools built upon the Pomodoro technique now span all platforms and devices, spurring your productivity relentlessly whether you're doing hunt-and-peck from an iPhone or composing from your Windows desktop.
Focus Booster, for example, is a free cross-platform and lightweight time management app that simplifies time management and helps you achieve more in your day. Unlike a physical timer, the app is customizable, giving you audio and visual cues and allowing you to track all your completed sessions to get insights into your own productivity patterns.
Marinara Timer is a flexible online app offering three modes of timing. First, there's the traditional Pomodoro style of 25 minutes working time with a five minute break (with fifteen minutes to rest after the fourth Pomodoro). The second, the Marinara, allows complete flexibility in timing yourself. And, for those who want both flexibility and structure, Kitchen Timer mode allows you to set your intervals to suit your own work time preferences; but then locks them in to keep you focused.
If you search on Pomodoro apps, you'll find plenty out there and they all work pretty much the same. With the Pomodoro, it is all about your work, not fussing and fiddling around with a timing gadget.
Successful Entrepreneurs Who Pomodoro
Pomodoro is popular among writers, designers and software developers. It's where the chocolate of imagination meets the sheer peanut-butter sticking power of structure. Here are a few entrepreneurial outliers who've been successful focusing their tasks and time with Pomodoro:
Steven Sande, of The Unofficial Apple Weblog, is one of the most famous fans of Pomodoro. His website has a great list of Pomodoro apps and tools for iPhones, Windows and Mac. Sande blogged about the struggle that led him to seek better productivity methods: "I found that sometimes I couldn't figure out how to organize a single day in my calendar, simply because I would jump around to all sorts of projects and never get even one of them accomplished." Enter Pomodoro. Now Sande powers through daily tasks with unflagging focus.
Related Article: 12 Productivity Hacks for Entrepreneurs
Natalie Sisson, of the Suitcase Entrepreneur fame, has been "traveling the world and living out of my suitcase, while running my online business that reached multiple 6 figures in 2014 and allows me massive freedom." She recommends Chrometa. Built on the Pomodoro idea, Chrometa lets you track time without wasting time; you will not need to start or stop timers. This time tracking software automatically captures and categorizes all the time you spend working on your PC, Mac or smartphone. With this time manager, you can forget about creating new entries whenever you change tasks.
Hayden Miyamoto, the founder of NoHat Digital, has one more critical piece of advice to add. And there's no app required for this one, just an equally ambitious buddy. Miyamoto and his colleagues act as accountability partners and look forward to taking breaks together. "On my own I get 3-4 Pomodoro's completed per day," he says, "but with a partner I get twice as many done."
Wondering about the time all those breaks will eat up? The entrepreneur Tom Rath shared his own experience with Pomodoro intervals: "Contrary to what I might have guessed, taking regular breaks from mental tasks actually improves your creativity and productivity. Skipping breaks, on the other hand, leads to stress and fatigue."
The workflow that centers on carefully scheduled breaks takes most people a few days to master. But, similar to the concept of intervals in between bursts of physical activity, big pushes punctuated by well timed breaks build mental strength and stamina. And for entrepreneurs and innovators, that strength kicks in where it counts the most: putting brand-new ideas and ventures into action.