The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work
About Francesco Cirillo
Francesco Cirillo is a partner at Cirillo Consulting, a consulting firm out of Berlin. His firm provides tools, consulting, and training to improve the productivity of individuals and organizations in a simple, fast and sustainable way.
Cirillo developed his system for improving productivity as a college student in the late 1980s. His creation of the Pomodoro Technique has helped millions of people and companies around the globe.
Francesco’s passion is to achieve better results without adding more time and effort.
Have you ever tried time management techniques, only to find they take more work than your work? Then, when you used them, you wasted time doing meaningless work instead of doing what is most important.
The same thing happened to Cirillo while he was a student. He used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer and invented the Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato.
Here are the key takeaways from the Pomodoro Technique:
StoryShot #1: Increase Productivity by Turning Time into Your Ally
Originally, Cirillo came up with the Pomodoro Study Technique after noticing he was wasting time studying. He started using a kitchen timer to help him focus and avoid distractions.
This gave him a short goal and a quick win that motivated him to be more productive.
He used the technique more during his studies and decided it could also help others. The discovery of Francesco Cirillo turned into the Pomodoro Technique, which has helped millions worldwide.
The popularity of this technique comes from its approach to time management. It takes a different approach from other time management techniques. For most people, the ticking clock causes anxiety, especially when there is a deadline. This leads to ineffective work, which leads to procrastination.
The Pomodoro Technique flips this anxiety about time. It turns time into your ally. It enables you to do what you want when you want, empowering you to increase your productivity. The technique’s power lies in its simplicity and ability to focus our brains. It is also straightforward and simple to implement. It offers several keys to help in the digital age of continual distractions.
“The ticking becomes a calming sound. “It’s ticking, and I’m working and everything’s fine.” After a while, users don’t even hear the ring because their concentration is so high. In fact, not hearing the Pomodoro ring becomes a real problem in some cases.”— Francesco Cirillo
StoryShot #2: The Pomodoro Technique is Both Simple and Effective
What is the Pomodoro Technique? Is it as simple as everyone says? Yes, it is a simple technique that anyone can learn.
Here is a quick breakdown of how to use the Pomodoro Technique:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on your project doing nothing else for those 25 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break and do something not work-related.
- When that 5-minutes is up, start with another 25-minutes.
- After doing four sessions in a row, take a 30-minute break.
- Then start another four sessions of focused work in a row.
The simplicity of how it works leads some to believe it cannot possibly work as well as it does. Farid Behnia, the founder of StoryShots, is one of these fans. He’s been using this technique for over ten years.
StoryShot #3: Deal With Your Distractions The Right Way
Most time management best practices focus on getting the important things done first. Pomodoro’s strength is its ability to deal with distractions. Many people use distractions to spend hours wasting time and procrastinating.
“The appearance of so many internal interruptions is our mind’s way of sending us a message: We are not at ease with what we are doing. This may be because the prospect of failing worries us—it can be scary. Or maybe our goal seems too complex, or we feel we are running out of time. To protect us, our minds come up with different, more reassuring activities. We end up favoring interruptions wherever we can latch on to them.”— Francesco Cirillo
Use the 25-minutes, a Pomodoro, to ignore everything else. Put your phone on airplane mode and turn off notifications on your computer during your Pomodoro.
“A Pomodoro can’t be interrupted: It marks 25 minutes of pure work. A Pomodoro can’t be split up: There is no such thing as half a Pomodoro”– Francesco Cirillo
If something pops into your head during the Pomodoro, follow these steps:
- Don’t ignore the thought, or it will take energy away from the task
- Write the thought down to get it out of your head
- Move on and keep working
This framework helps you record irrelevant thoughts without letting them distract you from work. As you practice the technique, you will get better at stopping distractions.
StoryShot #4: Reward Yourself with Regular Breaks
Rewarding ourselves with a 5-minute rest gives our brains a break from concentrating. This helps us relax and keeps us from tiring our brains out by overextending them.
Procrastination often happens when people never give their brains a break. When your brain is tired, it’s easy to procrastinate.
Here are a few rules for the break time:
- Try to get away from your desk, so you don’t keep doing work-related items
- Move around to increase your blood flow. You could make a cup of coffee, make yourself a sandwich, or, if you’re working from home, water your plants or do the dishes.
- After four sessions, take a longer break.
- The long break is an excellent time to eat, take a walk, exercise, etc.
The other positive of having breaks is that they are a little reward for your body. These rewards can act like a carrot that you dangle in front of yourself to stay focused on your work.
StoryShot #5: The Pomodoro Technique Requires Three Different Sheets
In the Pomodoro Technique, we use different sheets:
- The Activity Inventory sheet
- The To Do Today sheet
- The Records sheet
Use the Activity Inventory sheet to write out everything you need to do. This sheet comprises:
- A heading with your name.
- Write about various activities as you think of them. Check off the tasks you have completed.
The To Do Today Sheet organizes the tasks you want to focus on for that day. Pick these activities from The Activity Inventory Sheet. Complete this sheet at the start of the day or the night before. Creating a to-do list helps focus the mind. This sheet contains:
- A heading with a place, date, and author.
- A list of tasks to do during the day, in order of priority.
- A section titled Unplanned & Urgent Activities. List the unexpected tasks that are necessary as they come up. These activities might change the day’s plan.
Start each day with a new sheet, so the sheet is focused on that day. An old sheet can distract you from today’s priorities. So, transfer things over to the new sheet.
StoryShot #6: Record the Pomodoros for Each Activity
The other sheet, the record sheet, is used to record your progress. Write what you did during the day and how many Pomodoros you used to achieve your progress. This allows you to understand how long a task takes, which would be helpful for future planning.
One of the biggest problems with time management techniques is that people overestimate how fast they can work. Thus, setting themselves up for disappointment when they don’t make satisfactory progress on their to-do list.
Your Records Sheet teaches you to think about Pomodoro sessions. This will help you plan your day better and see how many projects you can complete.
StoryShot #7: Bundle Your Simple Tasks
Another advantage of creating your 25-minute time limit is your ability to bundle your simple tasks together. You may have some simple tasks that need to be done each day, and combining them helps you stay focused on them.
You can create a game by seeing how many of these simple tasks you can accomplish in 25 minutes. One example is going through your inbox. Set up folders to put your emails in, and spend 25 minutes organizing them and replying.
You can do this twice a day and reduce the size of your inbox faster. Plus, you wouldn’t have the weight of all those emails hanging over you all day.
StoryShot #8: Break Big Projects Down
Some projects take more time to work on and complete.
“If an estimate is greater than five to seven Pomodoros, this means that the activity is too complex. The rule is: If it takes more than five to seven Pomodoros, break it down.”— Francesco Cirillo
An extensive project, like a presentation, may take ten or more Pomodoros. Here is an example of how to break it down into manageable tasks:
- Outline full presentation plan: 2 Pomodoros
- Meet with the graphics team about the project needs: 2 Pomodoros
- Coordinate with the copywriters to write the handouts for the graphics team: 2 Pomodoros
- Coordinate with the sales team on the best way to create the presentation: 3 Pomodoros
- Compile the presentation text: 3 Pomodoros
- Add graphics to the presentation slides: 3 Pomodoros
- Review the presentation slides: 2 Pomodoros
- Practice the presentation and get feedback from others: 3 Pomodoros
As you can see, a big project seems more manageable when you break it down into smaller pieces. This will limit feeling overwhelmed when managing a large project.
The Pomodoro Technique also helps you think through a project and keeps you from missing important details.
StoryShot #9: Implement This Technique in Your Office for Greater Team Productivity
One of the hardest things to do is start using the Pomodoro technique in an office where no one else uses it. One of the biggest ways people procrastinate is by visiting people in the office.
The best way to start in the office is to meet with your manager and let them know what you are doing. Get their support by letting them know your goal is to increase your productivity.
You can start slowly at work by using it in the morning or afternoon. Have a sign to let people know what you are doing. Let others know if it is helping you to be more productive.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you implement it at work:
- Understand that it will take a while for everyone to know you are doing it
- Plan Pomodoro time to reply to emails, return phone calls, and meet people
- Keep track of everything, even interruptions, because it will help you keep better records for future planning
The best way to help others with the Pomodoro Technique is to use it systematically. Results speak louder than words. When they see your results, they will want to know your secret.
StoryShot #10: It Takes Time to Master The Pomodoro Technique.
Implementing the Pomodoro Technique seems simple, but life has a way of making it complicated. Understand that it will take time to master the technique.
Start implementing it slowly in your daily schedule. Rather than trying to jump in and use it for your whole workday, start using it for your most important task. Plan to use the Pomodoro Technique for that task, and see how it goes. This can help you build confidence in using it in the future.
Interruptions happen, so have a plan for them. If you get a call, quickly see if you can call them back.
Let them know you are in the middle of something and ask if you can call them back. Make a note and return to your task.
Final Summary and Review of the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a powerful time management technique that fits the modern digital world. By creating 25-minute time bursts of productivity, time management is possible in a world of distractions.
This productivity system allows you to pick what you want to focus on and how to complete it. It gives you a sense of autonomy and ownership of your time.
You could be a writer, painter, game designer, or engineer. The technique works in all situations because you can tailor it to fit your specific role.
The goal is to implement it today. Don’t wait until you can get your whole day centered on the technique. Start today by using one or two Pomodoro sessions, and see how much more you can accomplish.
Here is a quick review of the main points:
- Increase productivity by turning time into your ally.
- The Pomodoro Technique is both simple and effective.
- Deal with your distractions.
- Reward yourself with regular breaks.
- Compile a daily To Do Sheet.
- Record the Pomodoros for each activity.
- Bundle your simple tasks.
- Break big projects down into manageable tasks.
- Implement this technique in your office for greater team productivity.
- Be patient. It takes time to master this technique.
“The Pomodoro Technique shouldn’t be used for activities you do in your free time. In fact, use of the Pomodoro would make these activities scheduled and goal-oriented. That’s no longer free time.”— Francesco Cirillo
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