Sometimes one of the most difficult problems people face is actually putting aside the time to work. People often attempt to multi-task multiple projects at one time while simultaneously juggling email, Twitter, etc. Frankly, it’s an incredibly ineffective method in which to conduct your work. We aren’t computers. We’re not good at phase switching. We need the opportunity for deep work. How to do this? How to schedule, really make time for deep work?
There are a number of complex time management systems out there, but I’ve long preferred a system of time management known as the Pomodoro Technique.
- Choose a task to be accomplished
- Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
The method’s brilliance is in its simplicity. Instead of some complex system of time management, you merely choose one task, turn off email / Twitter / other distractions around you, and work on it non-stop for 25 minutes. Take a short break, rinse & repeat. The name Pomodoro comes from the Italian word for tomato. The creator of the method, Francesco Cirillo, had an egg timer in the shape of a tomato and came up with the concept while studying as a student in Rome. Hence, the Pomodoro Technique. If you want to learn more, the entire theory behind the method is available for free (PDF link).
Since you probably don’t have an egg timer sitting around the office, you can just click here for a web-based 25/5 countdown timer.
Give it a try, I bet you’ll be surprised by the amount of work you are able to accomplish with it!
Note: This post originally appeared in May 2011. It has since been updated.