“Where do you find the time?”
“How do you get it all done?”
—Along with the occasional snarky “You must be superwoman” (Insert dramatic eye roll)
These are things I hear time and time again.
Usually, these questions or statements come in passing from an exhausted, sleep deprived mom as we both are trying to wrangle our children and somehow tackle our ever-growing to-do list.
We don’t have enough time for an actual conversation where I can sit her down and explain to her that there IS a better way.
Instead, I smile understandingly, shrug my shoulder, blush and say “I just do what I have to do.”
The thing is though… that isn’t the truth. I have a secret.
A secret technique I use to dramatically increase my productivity and GET THINGS DONE.
My secret though isn’t really a secret at all! It’s something anyone can do— and I’m going to tell you how!
A few years back I stumbled upon a technique called the Pomodoros.
Pomodoros are basically a type of block planning. You decide what you want to get done, do it for a predetermined amount of time, take a short break & repeat 4 times. After the 4th time take a longer break (15-30 minutes).
Pomodoros are the OPPOSITE of multitasking. You give 100% to the task at hand and in return, you increase your productivity dramatically.
You can get started using Pomodoros today!
Here is what you need:
Timer – kitchen timer or your smartphone will do
Pen & paper – to mark your progress
A List of tasks to complete
Keep reading to learn how I use Pomodoros in my everyday routine (and how you can to!)
What needs to be done?
Before you can use Pomodoros to increase your productivity. You need to decide what needs your attention. I use my Pomodoros pretty much solely on work or blog related tasks. However, several people plan their entire day based on these productivity time slots! You do you. Decide what you want to use the technique on beforehand.
Write It Out
I suggest taking a few minutes at the beginning of the week to write out your weekly to do list. Then spend a few minutes before bed deciding which tasks you will need to do the next day. When you start your day already aware of how you will spend your time— you have less chance to waste the day away.
Look at your to do list and give yourself a rough estimate of how many Pomodoros it will take you to complete. By default, most Pomodoros are 25 minutes in length (but again- you do you).
If your to do list includes checking and responding to emails, writing 3 blog posts, and cleaning the kitchen— you then need to decide which tasks you will complete first and how long they will take you.
You may be able to check and respond to emails in one Pomodoro so you simply grab your paper, write “check and respond to emails”, and draw a small square (or circle). (As you complete a Pomodoro, place an x or a checkmark in the box/or fill in the circle).
If you want to take it a step further, next you will write down. “Break” and decide what you want to do during your first break.
What can you fit into 5-10 minutes?
Yoga? A load of laundry started, switched or folded? Unload your dishwasher? Sweep the kitchen? Make a phone call? Maybe even “5 minutes of meditation or quiet relaxation.
Whatever you decide… write it down! Knowing what you will do on your break lets you use more of your minutes productively. If you wait until the timer goes off- you may spend the majority of the time just deciding what to do.
Repeat this step with your remaining four Pomodoros.
Turn Off All Distractions
This is probably the most important part. In order for the Pomodoros to be effective, you MUST block out all distractions. If you stop ½ way through and scroll your Facebook, answer a text, or take a phone call, you lose all productivity. You take the chance of being sucked into a time waster, and before you know it an hour has passed— with nothing to show for it.
Make sure to cancel notifications or set your phone to airplane mode.
Turn off the television.
Use a distraction-free web browser.
If possible, use a pair of noise canceling headphones to help you block out additional noisy distractions.
For 25 minutes. Focus on NOTHING but the task at hand.
Set a timer
Easy peasy. Use your phone’s clock. A stopwatch, kitchen timer, or an app specifically designed for Pomodoros. Whatever you do— set the time, and immediately begin your task. Until the timer rings, focus SOLELY on this task. By focusing on one task at a time, you increase your productivity. You are able to work on a single task until it is complete. Instead of starting (and not completing) several tasks at a time. I am always pleasantly surprised how much I can actually get done in 25 minutes when I set my mind to it!
Take a 5-10 minute break
Once your timer goes off— stop. Seems like a simple step, but it’s very important. There are several times that I will be working and I am tempted to work past the timer. Don’t. The breaks between Pomodoros are as important as the tasks themselves. By taking a break, you give your brain a chance to relax and you are able to come back refreshed and ready to tackle your next 25 minutes. Before using Pomodoros I had a bad habit of planting myself down and working for HOURS straight. It’s amazing how much better you feel by just taking the time to rest your mind, stretch, and revive.
Repeat the steps above four times. Then, take a longer break (15-30 minutes will suffice). If you have completed your to-do list… congrats(!) use the rest of the day to do whatever you like! If however, you need another “set” of Pomodoros. Repeat the entire process over until you have worked through your to-do list.
Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
To wrap it up
I swear by this technique! It allows me to get what I need done and feel super productive. But the bottom line is you have to do something that works for YOU. You may find you need to tweak the system a bit to fit your lifestyle… and that’s ok!
I’ve heard of people doing longer and shorter Pomodoros. Some do longer or shorter breaks.
Some use timers, while others like to rock out to a carefully planned out playlist.
When I do my Pomodoros I use my 5-minute breaks to be even more productive. Because that’s what works for ME. But it’s perfectly acceptable (and probably healthy!) to use that time to just relax!
However you choose to do it— give the Pomodoro Technique a shot, and enjoy the benefits of feeling productive and accomplished every day!
I challenge you to try the Pomodoro Technique for ONE WEEK! Let me know how it goes!
Jenna is a former Early Childhood Educator who now spends her days chasing after her four rambunctious children all while pursuing a freelance writing career, guest posting, writing for the website Mommyish, and running her own blog. As a writer, she is passionate about bringing charisma and color to everything she writes. You can find out more about Jenna by visiting her website or by clicking the social media buttons below.