Ever woke up determined to have the most productive day any human has ever had, only to see the hours slip away into nothingness? No? Good for you! You can stop reading now. For the rest of us procrastinators, this is a sad reality of life.
There are days when time seems but an illusion, a deceitful mistress promising more than she can give, whispering soft lies into your naive ears!
And yet, time is all you have. It’s an unrelenting, unpurchasable, undulating force carrying you in its waves towards the shores of non-existence. There’s no fighting it, no bribing it, no coercing it — it’s just the way it is. Nihilism aside, the best thing — the only thing — you can do is try to manage the amount of time you have and do things that are important to you.
So, in this article, I’ll describe a technique I use to manage my time more effectively. One day when pouring out the woes of my procrastination to a friend, he introduced me to this wonderful technique and my life has never been the same. I hope, my procrastinating friend, that I can do that same for you.
The technique I’m talking about is called the Pomodoro technique. If you’re unfamiliar with the word, this is a “pomodoro”:
At first, it looks nothing more than a common kitchen timer, something you’d have lying around somewhere in your house and haven’t thought about in forever. But in it lies the secret of the greatest time management technique known to man — or at least to me.
Here’s how it works: you start out by dividing your work into chunks. Make sure each chunk takes about 25 minutes to complete. Start the timer — for me, it’s an app on my phone — and continue working for the next 25 minutes. Then, take a 5 minute break. That, my friend, is one pomodoro of work. So, not only have you chunked up your task and made it easier to work on, you’ve also set up a time zone in which you’re forced to perform and scheduled a well-deserved break right after it. Your work seems easier, goes by smoother, and you get a reward at the end. It’s magical!
You continue doing pomodoros throughout the day, as many as you want. At the end of the day, you can clearly see how much of your time you spent productively. You begin to realize that time is in your control, that it doesn’t just slip by like it used to. This is an incredibly empowering feeling. Eventually you’ll start wondering how you ever got anything done without this technique. Such is the power of the pomodoro.
The one thing you have to keep in mind is the sanctity of the pomodoro. When you’re in the middle of a pomodoro, chances are the monkey in your brain will want to start playing again. This is where you need to exercise self-control. The pomodoro is a great technique but it’s only as effective as you choose to make it. So, you need to treat it as a sacred chunk of time when you can’t veer off to Facebook or Youtube. If you’re really tired, you could take a pomodoro off for a nap, or just a free pomodoro where you can do anything. But make sure to measure your time. As is common wisdom: you only improve what you measure.
I have only briefly introduced you to the pomodoro technique. I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough for you to go off on the internet and read about it some more. Then, if you decide to implement it in your life and you like it, please drop a comment here. Let’s make the world more productive!
A version of this article appears on our Medium Page.
First Published on Sep 25, 2016.