Blast Away Procrastination with the Pomodoro Technique

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You make little bargains with yourself …

  • You’ll get started on that report right after you watch this video — the one where the cat keeps putting its head under the kitchen faucet.
  • You’ll catch up on email in a few, but what are the words to that Miranda Lambert song?
  • You’ll update the marketing plan by COB… just gotta check your online dating matches first.

… and time just crumbles away. It’s a wonder you get anything done.

Time was, you could just go into an empty room, do your work, and emerge victorious. But now when you enter that room, the whole world comes with you.

Work’s hard enough, but now it’s even easier to procrastinate and lose motivation.

This is where the Pomodoro Technique comes in. At its heart, the Pomodoro Technique is a work/reward system. You do a set amount of work; you get a set reward.

This can help you to do more deep thinking that you were able to in the past.

But first you have to stop multitasking.

Multitasking is Your Enemy

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People love to brag about how well they can multitask and how busy they stay throughout the day.

But they’re merely confusing motion with action.

It’s easy to have constant motion while multitasking, but nearly impossible to have constant action.

Think of it this way: Emailing your team asking for ideas is just motion. Motion will only take you down your current path of work. When you get those ideas and start building one of them, that’s action.

What you need is more action and less motion. The Pomodoro technique forces you to take action in 25-minute intervals.

Why a Tomato?

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The Pomodoro Technique was originally developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s as a time-management system. He started by using a tool that he had close at hand — a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato.

Using to-do lists and the timer, Cirillo created the Pomodoro Technique to train the brain to focus on one item at a time.

How Pomodoro Works

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The Pomodoro Technique starts with a 25-minute interval of single-task work. You write down the task you are working on in a to-do list, start the timer, and work solely on that task for 25 minutes, only stopping for major interruptions. If you do have to stop, you start the 25-minute interval over.

Once the 25 minutes is up, you take a 5-minute break. The break is meant to be away from the work entirely. Get a refill of coffee or water, or just stand up, stretch, and rest your brain.

The breaks in the Pomodoro Technique are just as important as the work. They give your brain time to process what you just did and aid in retention and creativity.

Once the break is over, you start another 25-minute work session. Each work/rest period is called a “pomodori.” After four pomodori, you take a 15-30 minute break, as these should line up nicely with lunches and other schedule breaks nicely.

Why It Works

The human brain loves rewards. It’s the promise of reward that makes us work hard and get things done. Rewards are why we take time cooking elaborate meals and spend those meals with people we like and love.
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The Pomodoro Technique promises your brain that if it can only work without interruption for 25 minutes, it’ll get to do whatever it wants for 5.

Scheduling time for slacking off is a pretty big reward.

When you’re taking a break, you won’t need to feel guilty when you check out the video of the cat putting its head under the faucet. In fact, watching that video is essential to your productivity.

As long as you’re doing it in the allotted time, you’re actually following the rules. If you feel a distraction coming up, like an email notification or a new Twitter message, handle it after your pomodori is complete.

The Pomodoro Technique also helps eliminate burnout. When your brain starts to slow down and lose focus, it’s time for a break. Even if you start running low on focus halfway through a pomodori, you know you only have ten or so minutes until you can break. Having that finish line in sight is a huge motivator.

Most importantly, the Pomodoro Technique stops you from living in the dream world known as multitasking. Instead of juggling three issues and not finishing any of them, you can focus on one and get it nailed down before hitting the next.

We procrastinate because we believe that a project or task is too big to finish. But when you break that huge task into 25-minute pieces, it becomes achievable. And you begin to blast past procrastination.

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