Constant connectivity is both a blessing and a curse for productivity.
On the one hand, the ability to carry out tasks and answer work-related emails on the move, wherever and whenever, is incredibly powerful. Your 30-minute train ride to the office no longer has to be 30 minutes of staring out the window, and instead you can make headway into the day's work before you've even set foot in the office.
On the other hand, the constant pinging of emails arriving on your laptop, tablet, mobile phone, and even your wristwatch can be a distraction when you're trying to make your way through specific tasks.
If, as a recent U.K. study suggests, most aspiring company founders are initially driven by flexibility, then there's no understating the value of getting more done in every single minute you work.
One small change for improved productivity.
The Pomodoro technique is nothing new, having been first developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It's a time-management method that works on the principle that you focus on a task for 25 minutes and then take a break for five minutes. You repeat this as needed. The approach to this technique is:
- determining what task you need to complete (write it down if necessary).
- setting a timer for 25 minutes (this can be varied if you find it better to focus in shorter or longer stints).
- working solely on the task you set out to complete over that time. If something pops into your mind about another task, make a note of it and ignore it until after the time set. Emails should be switched off, and your phone should be silenced.
At the end of each 25-minute stint, take a break of five minutes. After four stints, a longer break is recommended.
What makes it effective?
Studies prove that attempting to multitask slows down progress on all of the tasks we are trying to complete.
The Pomodoro technique forces you to focus on a single task, eradicating the negative effects of attempted multitasking. This focus has an immediate positive impact on your productivity.
But there's a second benefit, too. By focusing in short stints with a break, you do the work equivalent of a sprint rather than a cross-country run. And when you sprint, you aim for speed. The short time stints with brief refreshers in between appear to enhance your work speed.
Personally, I use this technique for three key things:
- writing marketing reports (tasks that should be relatively quick but that with distractions can be drawn out far longer than necessary);
- writing marketing-strategy documentation;
The third use case in that list is where I've seen the greatest increase in output over these half-hour periods.
For the seven months that I've carried out copywriting tasks in Pomodoro stints, I've been able to cut the time it takes me to produce a typical page of web copy in half. I write a lot, so this has been huge. Where I formerly set aside 16 hours of my week to write, I'm now setting aside eight and actually delivering more content than I was before.
More than double your output.
I'm not the only one getting results. This case study suggests that the technique can cut 40 hours of work to just 16.7 hours.
But the only way to know how it can affect your productivity is to try it out. If you're going to do so, I'd recommend you:
- don't use your phone timer. It gives you an excuse to check your phone because you have it in hand. Use a stopwatch or timer separate from your phone;
- turn desktop notifications off on the computer you're working on and close your email;
- make sure you're working in a room where you can close the door and not be disturbed.
So put down your phone, grab your timer, and make the next 30 minutes the most productive of your working week.