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Becoming more efficient, one Pomodoro at a time

Managing your time in a more efficient way, inspired by Dr. Debora Dragseth.

Are distractions, interruptions, ticking clock anxiety, the lack of ability to concentrate, and procrastination your productivity enemy?

Let me offer you a micro-challenge:

Find a time management technique that works for you and stick with it for at least one month. I recommend trying the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. He wrote, “I discovered a method by which you can learn how to improve your effectiveness and be better able to estimate how long a task will take to complete by recording how you utilize your time.”

The Pomodoro Technique has three appealing attributes: it is easy to learn, portable, and works for almost any task. There are four basic steps:

  1. Pick one task you want to focus on.

  2. Set a timer for 25-30 minutes, and intentionally focus on and begin your task.

  3. When the alarm sounds, take a three-minute break.

  4. Repeat.

Cirillo recommends that after four sessions, it is helpful to take a longer break. When Cirillo developed the technique as a college student, he used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato to time his study sessions. Each session is called a “Pomodoro,” the Italian word for tomato.

This method has some hard and fast rules. Never multi-task, break large projects down into chunks if necessary. Combine small tasks that take less than one Pomodoro. Finally, a Pomodoro cannot be divided. If you are interrupted during the 25-minute block, the Pomodoro is considered void and must be restarted.

One aspect that can be changed is the 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off rule. New research completed post-pandemic suggests that for some of us, the on/off cycle may be effectively extended to 52 minutes on and 17 minutes off.

To implement the Pomodoro Technique, you need the following:

  1. A kitchen timer or another device that will allow you to clearly see the remaining time left in each session. There are dozens of Pomodoro specific apps that work well for the countdown.

  2. A “To Do Today” list in order of priority. Cirillo suggests including a section labelled “Unplanned and Urgent Activities” where any unexpected tasks that have to be handled can be listed as they come up.

The Pomodoro Technique is especially useful if you get distracted while working on a project and/or want to understand how long a task takes. Cirillo notes that the technique is ideal for many types of work including writing, studying, or wading through a bulging inbox.

You can find more detail on the Pomodoro Technique and additional best practice tips at the link below, a Creative Commons document.

By: Dr. Debora Dragseth Baker Boy Professor of Leadership | School of Business and Entrepreneurship

Dickinson State University

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