Get More Done by Doing Less - The Pomodoro Technique

A simple yet effective strategy that will take your productivity to the next level

“Today is the day that I am going to be productive and get so much done. I’m going to go for a run in the morning. I’m going to finish writing that article. I’m going to finish studying that chapter. I’m going to finish editing that video. I’m going to…”

As embarrassing as it is, I have lost count of how many times those “going to” have ended up being nothing more than browsing social media all day, looking for snacks to eat, lazing around in bed, you name it.

Sound familiar? Just admit it, we have all been there. As human beings, we resist pain and avoid discomfort. Our bodies just don’t like them. It’s the same reason we struggle to get out of bed early in the morning. It’s the same reason we don’t feel like exercising. It’s the same reason we don’t want to study hard. And the same goes for the other thousand things that we so desperately dread but know deep down that we should do them.

But how does this relate to productivity and focus?

Think of it this way, for the most part of our lives, we have responsibilities, commitments and self-established goals that we want to achieve. In order to produce any kind of meaningful results, those things will require time, discipline and a great deal of effort, both mentally and physically. In the process, we will face problems, setbacks, failures and the list goes on. Our mind resists doing those things because they are difficult and because they lie outside of our comfort zone. Hence why we feel tired and demotivated when we are doing them. If managed properly, however, we can use our mind to our advantage to propel us forward. But just like any other thing, we need to learn to control it, train it and most importantly force it out of its default state of constantly succumbing to comfort and relaxation.

“Your body can withstand almost anything, it’s your mind you need to convince.”

This is where the Pomodoro technique comes in. If you haven’t heard of this technique, you’re in for a treat and I highly recommend that you continue reading. Personally, I have been using this technique fairly extensively over the past few weeks and have noticed a substantial increase in my attention span and longevity as I study for my upcoming actuarial exams.

The Pomodoro technique goes as follows:

1. Decide on the task to be done

The task here can be just about anything that you wish to complete that day. Anything that would require you to sit down at a desk to work on for a long period of time whether that is studying, working on a project or creating a creative piece. Pomodoro aims to break down this task into smaller intervals and forces your mind to focus on that one task and one task only.

2. Set the timer (typically 25 minutes but subject to personal preference)

This is the more flexible part of the technique. I personally have my timer at 25 minutes. That’s what I work best at but if you ever feel you could go longer before you need a break, feel free to change this to suit your needs or preference. Remember, this will be the amount of time you dedicate to working on your task non-stop without a break.

3. Work on the task

Complete and undivided attention. Forget everything and focus solely on doing that one task until the timer is up (unless there is an emergency, of course). That means no checking your phone, no daydreaming, no deciding which pen to use, no anything except the task at hand. As tempting as it is, refrain yourself from checking the timer.

4. End work when the timer rings and take a 5-minute break

Time for a quick break. Use this time to get away from your workstation to relax and refresh. Go use the bathroom, fill up your water bottle or even a light body workout or stretch. Congratulations, you have completed one Pomodoro! Once 5 minutes is up, start your next Pomodoro.

5. After doing this for four times, take a longer break (15–30 minutes) and start over

After completing four Pomodoro’s, reward yourself with a longer break. Watch a YouTube video, make a quick lunch or go out for a walk. You deserve it. Once the break time is up, the cycle repeats.

I try to get in at least two cycles per day which translates to approximately 3.5 hours of intense work each day. To my surprise, I have been able to get the same amount of work done in those hours as I would have in an entire day but not focused and sometimes even more. Not only this technique freed up more time for me to do other things but I have also experienced improvements in my ability to retain information.

To wrap up this article, I am aware that this technique might not work for everyone because not everyone operates the same way but after seeing how well it worked for me, I felt compelled to share it to the world. Feel free to implement this technique into your daily life and see if it helps you in any way.

Next time when somebody tells you how many hours they spent working last week, ask them how many Pomodoro’s they actually completed because at the end of the day, that is all that matters. An 80-hour workweek suddenly doesn’t seem all that impressive if more than half of them are spent browsing Instagram. Food for thought!

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Actuarial Science Student & Aspiring Data Scientist

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