Don’t we all know that feeling? You’re sitting at home with a particular task which you need complete. Or perhaps you don’t necessarily need to, but you should? You can’t really concentrate and stare across your room in the entirely unintentional, but also massively subconscious search for something more trivial and more gratifying to do? All of a sudden cleaning up your room becomes the most important thing in world, checking your E-Mail or Facebook for the 13th time within 30 minutes seems entirely reasonable, or you carry out the garbage simply because it seems convenient at the time?
Distraction is the number one productivity killer and will keep you from reaching your objectives more than anything else. But luckily there are some very effective techniques which will help you discipline yourself, become more productive and reach higher levels of motivation than ever before.
Discipline is Difficult
Trust me, you’re not the only one who feels that way. You’d actually be surprised how few people actually CAN resist those small and simple urges or elements of distraction. And you could probably go as far as saying it’s the human thing to do. But then again, is that really what distinguishes us humans from the rest of the world? Aren’t we meant to be the most intelligent beings on the planet. Shouldn’t we have ourselves more under control?
So how do you fight it? It’s one thing to acknowledge the fact that you are easily distracted or have a short attention span. But the real question is, how do you learn to focus as much as possible in order to achieve the highest possible output with as little input as possible and without burning yourself out? Well, one particular proven technique which has helped many people around the world get things under control, is the famous Pomodoro Technique.
How the Pomodoro Technique Got Me Hooked!
A few years ago, when I first started building some of the T-Shirt related business I own and run today, a lot of the work I was doing was somewhat lengthy and repetitive. Imagine producing hundreds and hundreds of T-Shirt designs and having to publish them on an online platform for sale. Building a T-Shirt business was hard work and the myth of the quick buck quickly evaporated. I learned that the hard way. But bear in mind, I was investing in my muse, a passive income source which still generates great income for me on a monthly recurring basis. So the effort was definitely worth it.
But even though I was investing my time and energy in the right projects, repetitive tasks put strain on the mind and soul. Even though I knew I should continue being productive, “boredom” was taking over and I was becoming increasingly unproductive. It would suddenly take me a week to get something done, which I actually wanted to finish on a Tuesday night after work (I was doing all these things on the side). I simply wasn’t focusing.
And then one day I stumbled upon an article which talked about a great method which could help you boost your productivity and help you enjoy your free time more than ever before. Reading about the Pomodoro Technique (derived from the Italian word for “Tomato”) was actually quite entertaining and nostalgic because I distinctly remember that my mother had the exact same “tomato alarm” in her kitchen when I was boy. Not that it bore any particular significance to me back then but I still thought it was funny.
When I first tested the Pomodoro Technique, I set myself a ridiculously low goal. I would apply the technique for 1 full “pomodoro”, which meant 25 minutes of focused, uninterrupted work. And while that may seem very easy at first, I challenge you to do the same without being even slightly distracted. Trust me, temptation is a bitch! The next day after returning home from work, I challenged myself to 2 “pomodoros” – 50 minutes of uninterrupted work. Again, I was successful and I even had loads of spare time afterwards. On the third day I decided I was going to go for 4 “pomodoros” and while that still doesn’t sound like much, please bear in mind that I had already spent 9 hours at the office that day. Therefore the idea of actually working another 2 extra hours is more challenging than you think. But guess what: Time flew by in the blink of an eye and afterwards I knew I had effectively been productive for nearly 2 hours straight. Within only 3 days I had boosted my productivity by more than 300% and it eventually did wonders for my business.
6 Easy Steps to Boosting Your Productivity
I will give you a brief summary of the 6 simple steps to boosting your productivity using the Pomodoro Technique but I highly recommend heading over to the official website and check out both the video as well as the very detailed PDF document that is available on the website. It explains the whole process from start to finish and gives great examples on how to get started.
The basic concept of the Pomodoro Technique is super simple. You take a defined amount of work which you plan to get done within a certain time and you then start breaking it up into smaller segments, which are called “pomodoros”. By splitting your tasks up into smaller pieces you are eliminating or at least reducing the psychological barriers to taking on bigger tasks. The overly simplified process has the following steps:
- What are the tasks? Is there anything new that needs to be done?
- Start by picking out the task you want to finish today and ideally split them into “pomodoros” of 25 minutes.
- Work through your 25-minute pomodoros and take a 5 minute break after each one.
- Take longer break (15-30 minutes) after every 3-4 pomodoros and recharge your batteries.
- Make sure you are not interrupted. If you didn’t plan it, it can wait.
- Track your progress and interruptions. This is key to keeping your motivation high and ensuring longer term success.
Tools to Help You Along the Way
Unless you’re overly nostalgic or look forward to answering the strange questions from your coworkers, you don’t really need to get a kitchen alarm that looks like a tomato. Technically any sort of timer with an alarm will do and I tend to just use my iPhone’s built-in timer. However, there are a range of different apps both for the iPhone as well as Mac (and I would assume for Windows as well) which will essentially do exactly the same thing. It just might make you a bit “cooler” 😉 I haven’t tested any of these but feel free to have a look:
- Pomodoro Time Management Lite
- Pomodoro Timer