Having Trouble Focusing? Try the Pomodoro Technique

Have you been having trouble focusing recently? Whether your mind has been on the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fighting to save their families and their country, or you have been thinking about the complications, concerns, and possibilities of lifting Covid restrictions, it can be hard to stay on task these days. If you’re finding this to be true, you might be helped by the popular time management method known as the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo while he was a university student. Cirillo was struggling to focus on his studies and complete assignments, and asked himself to commit to just ten minutes of focused study time. Encouraged by the challenge, he found a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) shaped kitchen timer, resulting in the name of the Pomodoro technique was born.

This week’s tip:

Try the Pomodoro Technique any time you feel unable to focus. The technique itself is simple:

  1. Get a to-do list and a timer.
  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes, and focus on a single task until the timer rings. If you’re using a timer on your phone, turn on airplane or “focus” mode so the tool that’s timing you doesn’t also provide other distractions.
  3. When your session ends, mark off one pomodoro on your list and record what you completed.
  4. After each pomodoro, enjoy a five-minute break.
  5. After four pomodoros, take a longer, more restorative 15-30 minute break. Some fresh air is ideal. Or, if needed, a nap!

The practice also includes three rules to help you get the most out of each interval:

  1. Break down complex projects. If a task requires more than four pomodoros, divide it into smaller, actionable steps.
  2. Small tasks go together. Any tasks that will take less than one Pomodoro should be combined with other simple tasks.
  3. Once a pomodoro is set, it must ring. The pomodoro is an indivisible unit of time and should not be broken – especially not to check incoming emails, team chats, or text messages. Ideas, tasks, or requests that come up should be taken note of to come back to later.

You may notice some similarities to the 60-minute WriteSprints we talked about two years ago, and the “kaizen” idea of taking 10 minutes per day to work on something. Whichever section of time works best for you, use it!

Try this out this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group! We’d love to hear from you.

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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