If you are working for hours at a time, distractions will come easily. If you are not careful, you may find that the five hours you put into job hunting was mostly spent checking emails and browsing social media. You need a tool to keep you on track for long periods of time.
Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique was designed for just this occasion. The Pomodoro Technique works by creating an environment where your mind can fully focus on one task at a time.
In this article, we will be dipping our toe into the Pomodoro Technique. The goal of this article is to introduce you without overwhelming you with details, so we will be presenting a bare-bones version of the technique.
What you will need
1) A Timer
The technique was named after the pomodoro timer that Cirillo originally used. Any timer will do, however. I recommend using something relatively quiet or completely silent. Just make sure a tone sounds when your time is up.
Most smartphones have timer apps installed. A search for pomodoro timer in the iTunes App Store will come up with more specialized for this technique. Whatever you chose, turn off notifications from apps that may distract you.
2) To-do list
Create a list of things you want done by the end of your day. Sort your items so that you can work down the list, one task at a time. Remain on a task until it is done, then cross it off and move on. Stick to the order on the list so you are not constantly switching tasks.
3) A Workstation
Hopefully, you already have a dedicated workstation in your home. While a home office is ideal, you may only have room for a single desk. Whatever it is, make sure it is dedicated exclusively to work. This will help you by creating a distraction-free environment. When the timer dings, you can leave this area and focus on other things.
While setting up in your living room may be more comfortable in the short term, you will always be in a state of distraction, and may end up with less free time by the end of the day.
First, write out your to-do list for the day. Do not overload your list with items. Make sure what you put there can realistically be done in a workday.
Make sure each task you put on your list is broken down to manageable chunks. Writing a CV from scratch is going to take longer than reading a job posting. If a task is likely to take several hours, break it down into smaller tasks.
Set the timer for 25 minutes and start on your first task. After the 25 minutes are up, take a five-minute break, then go back to the task for another 25 minutes.
If you complete a task before the timer runs out, spend the remainder of the time reviewing your work. Do not switch tasks in the middle of the session or end a session early. Stick to the routine.
Take a longer (15 to 30-minute) break every four sessions.
These 25-minute sessions should be uninterrupted except for emergencies. If you end up interrupting a session, start over when you get back to work. This will keep your mind focused and prevent trivial tasks from bogging you down.
Use this process to work through your to-do list. This structure will help break down your work into digestible chunks while giving your mind some breaks.
Taking it further
The complete process is outlined in Cirillo’s book, The Pomodoro Technique. This article explored the basics of the technique. Cirillo’s book fleshes this out with additional steps, rules to keep you on track and ways to improve your process.
If you find that following this work pattern helps you, you can read this book to explore the technique in its entirety.