A Simple, Yet Powerfully Effective Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is one of the simplest productivity tools in the market and it has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. If you haven’t heard of it yet, here’s the scoop:
- Select a task
- Set a timer to X minutes (Usually 25 minutes)
- Work for the entire period on nothing but that task
- Don’t allow anyone or anything to interrupt you during your work session
- You have just completed 1 Pomodoro, mark it on your scheduler with an X
- Take a short 5 minute break, you deserve it
- After four Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break
It’s that easy. You might need to string three to four Pomodoros together for larger projects, which is equivalent to 1.5 to 2 hours of highly focused work followed by 15 to 20 minutes of break time. The power of the Pomodoro technique lies in its simplicity and effectiveness.
Many people have reportedly taken their productivity to a whole new level just by using this technique consistently. It really makes you exercise your laser-sharp focus and introduces a truly interruption-free workflow. It also forces you to be more conscious about how you invest and spend your time. Also it’s a very easy system to implement and Pomodoros are easy to track.
Granted, it’s not a one-size-fits-all technique. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the Pomodoro Technique:
“Employing easy-to-use, unobtrusive tools reduces the complexity of applying the Technique while favoring continuity, and allows you to concentrate your efforts on the activities you want to accomplish. Many time-management techniques fail because they subject the people who use them to a higher level of added complexity with respect to the intrinsic complexity of the task at hand.” – Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique
Using the Pomodoro Technique with TaskLabels
Actually running the Pomodoro timer and executing a task is just one side of the coin. The other side is planning and keeping track of your Pomodoros. There’re at least 2 good ways to do that:
Planning your Pomodoros
This method is for those people who want to keep their schedule flexible. It’s a classic approach to planning your Pomodoros and resembles a to-do list (Only with Pomodoro-sized tasks).
First, simply decide how many Pomodoros you need for each task and each project, then write the info down on a spreadsheet or notebook. You’ll be able to easily track your completed Pomodoros and see your progress. You can also note how many Pomodoros it takes to complete each task and this should help you plan future tasks:
Both labels, i.e. projects, and tasks can be converted into Pomodoros, depending on their complexity.
This template is available for download. Keep scrolling down until you see the download button!
Scheduling your Pomodoros
This method is for those people who’d rather have their entire day planned out ahead of time or for those who are running on a busy schedule.
We’ve covered a method called “Time-boxing” before in a previous blog post as well as in The Sprint Method in our free PDF. The mechanism behind it is very simple: you group your tasks into projects and assign time boxes for every one of the projects you’d like to work on each day.
You can do the very same thing, but use Pomodoros instead. Depending on the scale of your tasks, you can either treat single tasks or projects (i.e. labels) as your Pomodoros.
- Using a Google/Outlook/iCal calendar: Going with the software you’re already using makes the whole process of implementing the Pomodoro Technique into your life that much easier. Here’s a snapshot of what the Pomodoro scheduling in your go-to calendar might look like:
Google Calendar – nice if you’re visual (think color-coded time boxes), but limited by 30 minute increments. We recommend MS Outlook Calendar if you like to have more flexibility.
Pomodoros have to be blocked off in 30-minute increments. For longer activities, simply create more than one Pomodoro. For activities that require you to be in the zone for an extended period of time without a break, block off a larger period of time.
One major pain is most of the popular calendar apps only allow users to easily set tasks on the hour and on the half hour. For example, if you’d like to start a task at 1:15, you would have to manually edit the time of the event. You can, however, break hours down to 15 or even 5 minute time increments in Outlook Calendar.
Another disadvantage of using a calendar app is that you cannot check off your Pomodoros when completed or take notes next to them like you would in a spreadsheet. That’s why you might want to consider the following:
- Using an Excel/Google Docs spreadsheet: This one certainly allows for much more freedom and flexibility. You can also directly track Pomodoros and add notes to them, a big advantage over a calendar. Time increments are also no longer an issue, since you can break down every hour into as many chunks as you’d like.
(This spreadsheet uses 15 minute increments, some cells have been merged to represent 30 minute or longer time boxes)
It’s basically like a classic Pomodoro planner, but for those of you who want to schedule out your day more precisely and set 30-minute time boxes.
You could create a daily Pomodoro scheduler template in Excel and go with either 30 or 15 minute increments. But you don’t have to. We’ve done it for you!
We’ve created a set of 3 fully editable spreadsheets:
- Classic Pomodoro Planner template.
- Daily Schedule template based on 15 minute increments.
- Daily Schedule template based on 30 minute increments.
All templates are available as a free download! Just click on the button below:
Choosing the Right Pomodoro Timer Tool
The classic Pomodoro timer resembles a tomato. And there are quite a few choices when it comes to virtual equivalents of a tomato-shaped timer. If you want to break from tradition, here are some more modern options to consider:
- Tomighty (Mac, Windows, free): Definitely our favorite. A simple desktop app that lets you customize your Pomodoro times as well as your break times. You can choose to either display a big timer on your desktop or minimize the timer to your computer’s tray where it’ll still show the remaining time of your Pomodoro or your break. You can also customize it to allow or mute a simulated clock tick.
- It’s Pomodoro Time! (Free for iOS, Android, & PC): If you’re looking for a Pomodoro timer to use on all your devices, this one is reportedly a good choice.
- For more Pomodoro tools, check out this list of 9 free Pomodoro timers for Web browsers and mobile devices.
Now you’ve got the templates, the Pomodoro timer, and you know how to use the technique. You also hopefully already have the TaskLabels app for both mobile and Web. You’re ready to rock-and-roll! What are you waiting for? Give it a try! There’s no cost included and the worst case scenario is that you’ll find out this technique doesn’t suit you very well. Best case scenario: Your productivity, focus, and efficiency will skyrocket.