Beat Procrastination With This Simple & Time-tested Productivity Technique
It is a truth universally acknowledged that procrastination is the #1 enemy of productivity. It’s a common enough scenario. We start a task, but then our attention drifts. Maybe we start something else. Maybe we start several other tasks. Before we know it, we have a whole list of unfinished tasks at hand and no time to finish any of them.
Procrastination is often mistaken for laziness or a lack of motivation. But more often than not it is a symptom of underlying problems, such as a lack of focus, chronic stress, depression, or various mental health issues. And while the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the social isolation measures may have put some extra hours in the day, they’re also the reason many of us are feeling a bit more stressed and anxious. None of which is good news for productivity.
When we lose focus or start to procrastinate, it becomes harder to maintain a work-life balance, especially when we’re juggling multiple priorities. The good news is there is a technique tested and recommended by numerous experts just for that.
Developed by renowned analyst Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique is recognized as one of the best ways to get things done.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
Here’s how it works:
- Start a task and keep working for 25 minutes straight, without pause or break
- After 25 minutes, stop working––regardless of where in the task we are––and take a 5-minute break
- After the 5 minutes pass, dive right back into work and keep working for another 25 minutes
- Repeat this cycle three times
- On the fourth cycle, take a longer break, preferably of 20-30 minutes
It was named after a “Pomodoro” or tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used to mark the 25/5 minutes intervals. But the tomato shape is optional! Any digital or analog timer can be used to help keep the time. And there are multiple apps designed specifically for the Pomodoro Technique, with the work and break periods conveniently programmed.
How does it work?
The Pomodoro technique works by directly addressing the psychological barriers that interfere with our motivation and urge to work.
When confronted with a 5,000 word-report it’s natural to feel overwhelmed––especially if there’s a deadline attached. The fear of failure often hinders us from even starting something, and that’s where we start losing precious hours.
To help our brain stay focused and productive, we can break down any task into smaller goals. It can then visualize the steps, making them easier to complete. Instead of preparing to write for hours, we focus on working just for the next 25 minutes.
The more time we have on hand, the easier it is to lose focus. But when we know the timer is going to ring after 25 minutes, it gives us a deadline and creates a sense of urgency. After we’ve practiced this a few times, we train our brain to recognize the ring as a marked end.
Knowing there’s a time limit motivates us to get in as much work as possible before the bell rings. As a result, our focus gets sharpened and our productivity increases.
Procrastination is both a cause and a result of an unhealthy work-rest balance. In our productivity-obsessed culture, we often forget that rest is as crucial to success as the work itself. Without adequate rest, our brain and body become a little more drained. Over time, this results in burnout, which then leads to further loss of work.
The Pomodoro Technique schedules small periods of rest, working breaks throughout your workday. Instead of working ourselves to the point of exhaustion, we can spread out our workload while having time to regroup our mental energy as well. And that goes a long way in lowering stress. The result is higher quality work and an increase in overall productivity.
The enforced rest period does another important thing––it activates the reward cycle in our brain. Our brain sees the 5-minute breaks as the reward earned after 25 minutes of working. With each Pomodoro cycle completed, we cement the process into stronger neural pathways. The more we work, the more we rest, and as a result, our brain will be motivated more and more at the beginning of each cycle.
In today’s work culture, stress is a fact of life. It’s not going to go away and the best we can do is to manage it well. The Pomodoro Technique can help balance both time and responsibilities in a much smoother and healthier way. It helps us manage stress, and by extension, procrastination. Give it a try today!