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If you just can’t seem to figure out why you’re not productive, you might need to try a different strategy to time management. Your current strategy might not be effective for you. Or, you might not have a strategy in place at all.
To guide you in the right direction, you should first take a look at the psychology of productivity.
If a time management technique pays careful consideration to how the brain handles tasks productively, you can feel confident that that time management technique is worth trying.
This is where The Pomodoro Technique comes in. Research shows that brief breaks vastly improve focus, which is a core component of the Pomodoro Technique. I’ll explain more about how the Pomodoro Technique is a must-try for time management and how it all works!
This post is all about the psychology of productivity.
What Is the Pomodoro Technique?
Put simply, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique in which you work in short bursts (typically, 25 mins) followed by short breaks (typically, 5 mins).
The focus of the Pomodoro Technique is to think of time as a valuable ally to accomplish what we want to do the way we want to do it.
How Can The Pomodoro Technique Help Me? What Is The Psychology of Productivity Behind It?
The design structure of the Pomodoro Technique is meant to break work into more manageable chunks. The overall goal is to make an effective use of our time.
Think about how you feel when you force yourself to sit down and slog through hours of work at a time. Not a very good feeling, is it?
When you work for a long period of time with little to no breaks, you increase your chances of feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. You usually aren’t performing at peak productivity throughout a three-hour study or work session.
We tend to view time as an enemy–always chasing down the clock, wishing we could stop the march of time. Our anxiety is triggered by deadlines, leading to ineffective work and study behavior.
It’s no wonder we feel so inclined to procrastinate!
A mix of short bursts of work and frequent breaks puts our minds at ease. This can help us view our workloads as more manageable.
Thinking about a 25 minute work session probably triggers your fight or flight response less than thinking about a 3 hour work session, right?
How to Structure Your Time When Using The Pomodoro Technique
Keep in mind that you can work on the same activity for more than one 25-minute Pomodoro session.
Say you are working on a task that will require an hour of your time. Just split this time up into 25 minute bursts of work with 5 minute breaks after each 25 minute burst.
The goal of each 5 minute break is to disconnect from your work, allowing you to process what’s been learned in the last 25 minutes.
After four 25-minute Pomodoro sessions, you should take a longer break of 15-30 mins. This will allow you to truly recharge and direct your attention away from the activities you’ve been working on.
However, if you estimate an activity to take more than five to seven 25-minute Pomodoro sessions, break that activity down into smaller segments of tasks.
On the flip side, if an activity takes less than one Pomodoro session, group it with similar activities until it adds up to 25 minutes.
Make sure to avoid the “five more minutes” syndrome. When the 25 minute timer ends, stop working! Respect your breaks and the timetable you’ve created for yourself.
A good guideline summary of this information:
- You can work on an activity for as long as you need to. Just break it up into 25-minute portions, followed by 5-minute breaks
- Each 5 minute break = time to disconnect and process what you’ve done
- After four 25-minute Pomodoro sessions: take a longer break of 15-30 mins
- If an activity will be longer than 5-7 Pomodoro sessions, break it up
- If an activity will be shorter than 1 Pomodoro session, combine it with similar activities to create the length of 1 Pomodoro session.
- Respect your breaks! When the timer stops, you stop!
How to Handle Distractions When Working
The Pomodoro Technique is meant to be strict in that if a Pomodoro session is interrupted by something or someone, you should consider it void and start the timer over.
This is SUPER difficult to stick to! Especially if you work in a social environment or have a lot on your mind. But there’s ways to approach and manage these distractions so that they aren’t so disruptive.
Since we’re focusing on the psychology of productivity, let’s break these interruptions down into two types: internal interruptions and external interruptions.
An internal interruption is essentially a distracting thought. The urge to order pizza, update your social media status, or clean your desk are all internal interruptions.
Don’t ignore these, but also don’t give into them immediately. Instead, write these down in your phone or in a notebook as they come up and tend to them once a Pomodoro session is over.
But be careful! If you’re experiencing too many internal interruptions, that may be a sign that you need to stop and take a longer break.
Too many internal interruptions are our brain’s way of telling us that we’re not at ease with what we’re doing.
In an effort to protect us from fear of failure or the stress of a task at hand, our brains like to come up with more reassuring and pleasant activities.
External interruptions are anything from your social environment, such as a coworker asking you a question or your phone ringing.
These are a little harder to shut down because they involve other people or things. It can be awkward to shut down someone speaking to you while you’re in the middle of a task.
For dealing with external interruptions, your goal is to “inform, negotiate, and call back.”
For example, let your coworker politely know that you’re busy. Then, negotiate on a later time where you can assist them and give them your undivided attention. Or, with a phone call, let the caller know you’ll give them a call back at __ o’clock.
You’ll follow a method similar to internal interruptions: write down each external interruption as it pops up to get back to it later.
If something comes up that is truly urgent and can’t be put off, void the current Pomodoro session and return to it when you can.
How to Adjust to Using the Pomodoro Technique
If the Pomodoro Technique sounds difficult to adjust to, take it in baby steps.
When starting out, simply “work, track, observe, and change to improve if you need to.”
Don’t worry about how “fast” or “efficient” you are right away. That will come in time. Allow yourself time to adapt to this new time management strategy. The more you practice, the more the psychology of productivity will come into play.
The Pomodoro Technique book by Francesco Cirillo (founder of the Pomodoro Technique) states that 20-45 minute time intervals have been proved to maximize a person’s attention span and mental activity if followed by a short break.
So if 25 minutes feels too rushed for you, you can try working in bursts of 45 minutes instead and still see the same effectiveness.
If you want more information on the Pomodoro Technique and the psychology of productivity, definitely check out the founder’s book!
When Not to Use the Pomodoro Technique
This technique is not designed to be used in your free time.
Leisure activities that you do in your free time are not meant to be scheduled and goal-oriented in such a procedural way.
The Pomodoro Technique is meant to improve your productivity, but productivity isn’t something you should be worrying about when you’re having fun!
However, if you have difficulty making TIME for activities you enjoy, you can take a simplistic and casual approach to time blocking for leisure activities. Check out my ways you can optimize your free time (and stop the habit of Instagram scrolling!)
Highly Recommended Productivity Resources
In addition to the book on The Pomodoro Technique, here are some great picks to add to help increase your productivity and time management skills!
Pomofocus is a free customizable timer built specifically for the Pomodoro Technique. With three different timers: a 25-minute Pomodoro session, a short break, and a long break, everything is right there for you.
In the settings, you can alter these time periods. So if you’d rather work in Pomodoro sessions of 45 minutes instead of 25 minutes, you can make this timer do that for you!
The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran
This book is all about creating a 12-week plan for improving productivity in just about any area of your life! This is meant to help you achieve growth in your career, personal life, school, etc. with a message of getting more done in less time.
Daily To-Do List Notepad
I just started using one of these as a quicker alternative to a planner and they really help me! This is PERFECT for documenting those internal and external interruptions to get back to later.
Hopefully this blog post gave you more insight to the psychology of productivity! The Pomodoro Technique fits right into this topic, as it was designed with the operations of our mental activity in mind.
This truly is a great technique for skyrocketing your time management and productivity.
Do you think you’ll try out the Pomodoro Technique? Have you heard of it before? Let me know your thoughts!