All Hail the Mighty Pomodoro Timer
Scattered, reactive, distracted, I was all over the place and jumping from one thought to the next. Everything was calling my attention. An email here, a quick check on Twitter there; I need some coffee right now. Maybe I received an email; let me check my email just one more time. Did someone like my tweet?
Gah! Distractions everywhere!
Where was all my time going? I had reached a breaking point. I had to find a way out of this madness, and for me, it was the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a time management method to help you focus in timed sessions such as a 25 minute focus time followed by a 5 minute break. After completing four sessions, you can take a longer 15-30 minute break and then begin the Pomodoro cycle again.
When I first started with this technique, completing even a single session was challenging, but committing to it and sticking to it, helped me complete it after a few times of trying. It is incredible how much work you can get done in a 25-minute session when you are fully present and focused on a single activity. The next challenge for me was to complete multiple Pomodoro sessions in a row. That’s a lot of focus time, my distracted mind told me. Little distractions can scatter your thoughts and attention, which add up throughout the day, and before you know it, the whole day is gone with little progress to show for it. It’s easy to give in to disruptions.
Yes, there are times when we need to pay attention to the important things that come up, but the distractions don’t need our attention right away. I had tried using a digital timer app on my computer with lukewarm success. I found out that I easily kept forgetting about the timer and would become distracted and veer off my task quickly. I needed something with a physical presence as a strong reminder to stay focused during my sessions.
There had to be a better way. Around that time, a coworker presented a talk about the Pomodoro method and their process and mentioned they used a physical timer. My eyes lit up. Was this the answer to my problem?
A physical timer to the rescue
A few days later, I had a physical timer on my desk, and after using it for a few weeks, I can say that it has been a game-changer for my productivity. A physical timer is just what I needed to stay focused. I like the physical timer because it is in front of me at all times, staring at me intently with its piercing red eyes, judging me, reminding me to get back on track.
Red means stop
The timer itself is simple. It has a single knob that you rotate to the session time you want to focus for, in my case, 25-minute sessions. Once I set the timer, I know it’s focus time; no distractions are allowed for the next 25 minutes while the red part is visible.
During a session, I cannot check my email, social media, or the weather. I cannot get coffee, snacks, or a drink of water. I am dedicating my energy to keeping my focus on the tasks I need to complete. Nothing else matters except for emergencies; everything else can wait.
A journey of a thousand steps
So how do you get started? My suggestion is to begin one small step at a time. You don’t need to start right away with a 25-minute session. Try a five or ten-minute session and work your way up.
Remember, this is a practice, and it may take time for you to get in the flow of things. Start with a 10-minute interval instead of 25 and work your way up. As you experience the results and see firsthand how much more focused you can be, you can slowly increase the time and even move past the 25-minute session.
Progress, not perfection
Do what works best for you. Do I still get distracted? Yes, some days are better than other days. Some days I am happy to get even one session in, and other days I can get through multiple sessions in a row. Don’t feel stressed if you’re not getting the hang of it. Stick with it and let the results provide the motivation you need to move you forward.
Using a physical timer when practicing the Pomodoro technique can be a lifeline for your time and sanity. It can help you become more focused, intentional, and as a result, get your work done on time.
Try it out, and let me know how it goes.
Love the Time Timer. I have been using it for almost a year.
I wouldn't rank it as an S tier for productivity hacks. Maybe like B tier depending on the context.
I don't find the 25-minute sprints great for my type of work. I usually do 40 min cycles or longer up to 1 hr 30 min max. It's usually either a -10 min task or a 40+ min one. Ymmv.
However, there's something ritualistic about turning the dial that helps get me into a competitive game mindset, which helps for reaching flow.
It definitely helps with time blindness as well.