Project time management
Increase your productivity with the Pomodoro Technique
Do you know the feeling of being faced with a long to-do list or a big task and wondering how you are going to finish it in time? Especially at the beginning of a project, the work ahead can seem overwhelming and unfeasible. But even when the deadline of a project is approaching, stress is inevitable. With time management strategies like the Pomodoro Technique, however, you can maximise your productivity, keep track of your projects and tasks, and at the same time work through the long to-do list piece by piece so that all tasks are completed on time.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that involves working in a concentrated manner with frequent, short breaks. This is intended to increase productivity and reduce mental fatigue. Large tasks are divided into smaller subtasks so that they can be completed during the work intervals.
The Pomodoro Technique owes its name to the Italian entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo, who used a kitchen clock in the shape of a tomato (Pomodoro means tomato in Italian) to time work intervals and breaks.
How does the Pomodoro Technique work?
With the Pomodoro Method, you divide your work into 25-minute sections. This is followed by a five-minute break. After four sections, there is a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.
A working day then looks like this:
1. Plan tasks
Plan which tasks you want to do in the morning, write them down in a to-do list and assign the tasks to the 25-minute intervals. To do this, divide complex tasks into individual sub-steps. Smaller tasks that take less than one interval can be grouped together so that they can be done in the same interval. Also, plan a few extra intervals for the day. This way you won’t get stressed if individual tasks take longer than expected. If you do not need these extra intervals, you can use them for optional tasks.
2. Turn off distractions
To stay productive and focused during the intervals, you should turn off all distractions if possible before starting the first work session. So switch your phone to airplane mode, close chat programmes and your email inbox. If possible, you should also ask your team and your supervisor not to disturb you for the duration of the interval. If an interruption does occur during a work session anyway, inform the other person that you are currently busy. Agree on a time to talk and schedule it immediately, for example after the interval. This respectful communication allows you to stay in the flow during your work while meeting the needs of other staff members.
3. Start the first interval
Now activate a stopwatch or a Pomodoro app and work with focus for 25 minutes on the first task. To ensure that you can concentrate fully, you can also put on headphones or, if you have your own office, close the office door and stick up a «do not disturb» sign to your door.
Do you think of other tasks during the interval or do you have an idea for a completely different topic? Then write it all down on a piece of paper and put it away to deal with later.
After the interval, tick off the tasks you have done.
4. Five-minute break
These 25 minutes are followed by a five-minute break during which you should recover. These breaks are intended as pauses in thinking. It is therefore important that you do not do any small stuff or check emails during this time, but that you ideally step away from the workplace. So get a cup of tea or coffee, stretch your legs or eat a snack.
Our tip: Sufficient exercise is important for us, increases our well-being, prevents pain and also increases our ability to concentrate. Especially if you mainly sit at your desk while doing your tasks, you should therefore incorporate some movement during your breaks. A few stretching exercises, an extended walk to the bathroom or some knee bends at your desk will help you get going again after the break. Looking out of the window at the greenery can help your eyes relax from the strenuous screen work.
5. Start the next interval
After the break, start the next interval and concentrate completely on your tasks again. You will see that you work more productively this way and that your to-do list is constantly getting smaller. After a few days of practice, you will hardly be distracted during the work intervals and thus be able to make maximum use of the available working time.
6. Longer break after four intervals
Since even with the Pomodoro Technique concentration will eventually wane, it is advisable to take a longer break after four intervals. Allow yourself a break of 15 to 30 minutes before starting the next work interval.
With an eight-hour working day, this results in up to 16 Pomodoro units per day. Use as many as you need and adapt them to your schedule. The more often you use the Pomodoro Technique, the better you will learn to estimate the duration for individual tasks. This way you can plan the completion of tasks even better.
Using the Pomodoro technique in a team
If you are working on projects with several team members, you can use the Pomodoro Technique to divide your tasks into time blocks. In this way, each team member can be assigned tasks for the day in the morning, which are then worked on in intervals. At the end of the day, this makes it very easy to check the status of the tasks by seeing how many intervals have been worked on. In this way, your team works on the project in a focused and productive way. You can also use the Pomodoro Technique for team meetings by scheduling only 25 minutes. This makes the meetings efficient.
Advantages of the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time management method for many reasons.
- Improves productivity: Since you work very concentrated and without distractions in the 25-minute intervals, your productivity increases.
- Improves quality of work: As you are fully focused on a single task, the Pomodoro Method helps you to break the habit of multitasking. Furthermore, as you consciously reduce distractions, you can produce better quality work in less time.
- Reduces mental fatigue: Studies show that concentration drops sharply after a 90-minute activity. In contrast, the individual intervals of the Pomodoro Technique are much shorter than this and thus help to maintain concentration. The regular breaks allow your brain to rest so that you can concentrate better again afterwards and don’t feel so exhausted. This also means that fewer mistakes happen at work.
- Maintains motivation: The regular breaks provide new energy and give a motivational boost. The fact that you can tick off completed tasks after each interval also has a motivating effect, as you can see how much you have already achieved. This also helps you to look at elapsed time differently: while you normally see the hours ticking away and the to-do list hardly seems to get smaller, your focus changes to the tasks you have already completed in a short time interval.
- Improves (project) planning: Once you have some practice in the Pomodoro Technique, you will be able to plan tasks and also projects better, as you will be able to better estimate the duration for completing a task. This allows you to set reasonable deadlines.
- Counteract procrastination: The Pomodoro technique can also help you to avoid putting off unpleasant tasks, as dividing them into short time intervals makes even large tasks look less overwhelming. This makes it much easier to get started on a task.
- Improves team communication: If you use the Pomodoro Technique in the team, all members know their individual tasks and respect each other’s working hours. This means that fewer agreements are needed in the team and you can reduce the length of meetings.
Criticism and adjustments
- Duration of intervals:
One criticism of the Pomodoro technique is the fixed units with a duration of 25 minutes, because some tasks simply cannot be adapted to such intervals, which means that adhering to an interval leads to an interruption in the workflow. If this is the case for you, you should adapt the times to your needs. It is crucial that the work intervals are not chosen too long, i.e. they should in no case last longer than 90 minutes, and that you take regular breaks.
- Use it when it makes sense:
In reality, it is difficult to maintain such a working rhythm throughout the day, because distractions will always occur and the flow of work will be interrupted by meetings, telephone calls or important requests. But you don’t have to work according to the Pomodoro Technique all day. If, for example, you have an hour before the next meeting, you can squeeze in two intervals during this time and be very productive before the meeting starts. Or use the technique for specific tasks as well as for motivation.
- Combine with other methods:
As the Pomodoro technique is very easy to use, it can also be combined well with other methods. For example, you can prioritise your tasks with the Getting-Things-Done method and then work through them according to your priorities with the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is simple to use, but it can make a big difference. It can help you to complete tasks quickly and on time, increase your motivation and productivity while reducing mental fatigue. Therefore, the Pomodoro Technique is not only useful in your professional life. It can also be put to good use in your private life, for example when the tax return is due or your children have to write a paper.
To get the most out of the Pomodoro Technique in everyday project management, you can combine the method with your project management software: Create to-do lists or Kanban boards for yourself and your team in the software and add deadlines to them. Set up the tasks right away so that they can be processed in 25-minute intervals, or divide large tasks into smaller steps. This facilitates the daily selection and prioritisation of the tasks to be processed and simplifies the coordination of activities in the team. At the same time, you can easily check the status of the tasks and the completed intervals in the software at any time.
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