If you’re self-employed, freelancing, and/or working from home, I probably don’t need to remind you how hard it can be to manage time efficiently and stay productive. When you’re juggling multiple clients and projects all while sitting just a few feet away from a dishwasher that needs to be unloaded and a pile of laundry that needs to be folded (not to mention a sofa and a Netflix connection) it can sometimes seem impossible to get everything done. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gotten to the end of a work day and asked myself where on earth all that time went.
But no more!
A fellow creative recently told me about the Pomodoro Method and it almost immediately became my ultimate time management and productivity hack. I’ve tried a lot of different tricks for staying focused and productive over the years but this one is by far the best!
What Is the Pomodoro Method?
The Pomodoro Method is a really simple and easy to use time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo whose website quotes one of my favourite work mantras: “Work Smarter. Not Harder.” Here’s how it works in a nutshell:
Choose a task
Set a timer for 25 minutes. Commit to working on that task and nothing else with no interruptions for the full 25 minutes.
Work until the timer rings.
Put a checkmark on a piece of paper and congratulate yourself; you’ve just completed one pomodoro!
Take a 5 minute break.
Start again with another task.
After 4 completed pomodoros, take a 15-20 minute break.
This may seem deceptively simple, but trust me, it works! Somehow, the very first day I tried this system, I found myself more focused and crossing more things off my list. Here’s why I think it works so well.
Why It Works
Twenty-five minutes is a really short period of time. When I don’t feel motivated to work and the sofa is calling my name, I can really easily tell myself “I’ll just do one Pomodoro”. Inevitably, I get in the groove and the twenty-five minutes goes by so fast that I actually want to keep working because I’m now on a roll. By breaking down my workday into manageable chunks of time, I don’t get overwhelmed by everything I have to do and I’m more motivated to tackle work in small chunks with the promise of little breaks to make a fresh cup of tea.
It Manages Breaks
That naturally brings me to the second reason why this system works so well for me. It manages my breaks so that I get enough time away from my computer without accidentally turning a quick snack break into an hour with Netflix. The short breaks are enough to keep me motivated to work through the pomodoro and they remind me to stretch, get a glass of water, and rest my eyes from the computer glare. At the same time, they are so short that I don’t lose my work momentum or get demotivated and I find it really easy to sit back down at my desk one I’ve had a little stretch and refreshed my mug of tea.
It Promotes Single-Tasking
One of the big principles of the Pomodoro Method is that, when your timer is on, you focus on a single task and avoid all interruptions. One of the major struggles with the modern workplace, whether you work from home or not, is that email, phone calls, social media notifications, and more are constantly popping up to grab our attention and disrupt our workflow. Single-tasking is key to productivity and it’s also easier on the brain which makes your workday feel less scattered and less stressful. When I’m “on the clock” with a pomodoro, I leave my phone in a separate room and I close my email. I usually set aside separate time at regular intervals throughout the day to check my messages so that I stay on top of any client or work-related notifications and don’t fall behind.
The one small caveat that I’ll add about the Pomodoro Method is that I actually do 30 minute work intervals instead of 25 minutes. I don’t think this is enough of a time change to alter the effectiveness of the method, but I find it easier to break my day into half-hour chunks. I guess I just like round numbers, but I also find it easier when it comes to totalling my work hours at the end of the day and invoicing clients. I add this caveat just to give you the idea that you can adapt this method to suit your needs while still staying true to the essence and effectiveness of the technique.
Whether you’re looking for the motivation to need to get started or have been searching for a way to stay focused, give the Pomodoro Method a try and drop me a line on social media to let me know what you think!