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To Be More Productive:Get Started | Focus | Take Breaks

If you’re anything like me, some days you have trouble getting started. Sadly, humans are wired for distractions. It’s way too easy to waste time. What to do?

Three Tomatoes

image courtesy

Back in the ‘80’s, an Italian student named Francesco Cirillo used his kitchen timer to structure periods of study with breaks. He found that 25 minutes’ work paired with a 5-minute break worked best for him. His timer was shaped like a tomato (pomodoro in Italian). He called this method The Pomodoro Technique, and it is now a popular productivity tool.

I’ve been using my own version to…

  • Increase motivation, focus, and “stick-to-itiveness”
  • Avoid distractions
  • Reduce worry and stress
  • Get more done

Some Pomodoro Basics

Here are 10 easy steps to get you started (the hardest one is to avoid interruptions):

  1. Pick one thing to work on.
  2. Eliminate distractions as much as possible.
  3. Set a timer for 25 to 50 minutes to tell yourself: Now I’m working!
  4. Work on that one thing.
  5. In the last minute or two, write a note about where you are & what to do next.
  6. Set your timer again, and take a break (5 to 10 minutes).
  7. Smile! You’ve completed one pomodoro (work + break).
  8. After the break: time to start again.
  9. Take a longer break every three or four pomodoros.

    Really? Take Frequent Breaks?

    Yes. Researchers have found that taking breaks makes us more productive.

    Your brain will do better for longer if you give it short, frequent breaks. If you don’t, your work will suffer.

    So take your breaks, and don’t feel guilty.

  10. You can use this technique to plan your day around the time you have for X number of pomodoros.

Little Tweaks

Modifications that work for me:

  • Vary the pomodoro’s length depending on available time, the task itself, and how you’re feeling.
  • If you can’t avoid an interruption, pause the pomodoro. For example, put the timer on hold, take a client’s call, and then restart the timer.
  • You’re in the middle of a sentence and it’s time for a break? Finish your sentence. Start the break after capturing your thought.
  • Finish a task before the timer chimes? Start the next big task or add in some little tasks to finish that pomodoro.
  • Put a group of short tasks together and finish them in one or two rounds.
  • If they feel different enough, you can use one or two little tasks as breaks.
  • Want an automatic timer? Here’s my favorite pomodoro app, called Focus Time. For both iPhone and iPad, you can adjust the time for pomodoros and breaks, choose different alarm sounds, and track your completion history by the day or week.

Focus Time

I haven’t tried it, but Pomodroido, for Android phones, sounds good, too.

The Pomodoro Technique helps me get started and keep working. I can focus on one thing, let other things go, and enjoy the breaks while enhancing my work. If you try it, use it the way it works best for you.


App: Focus Time

Article: To Stay on Schedule, Take a Break

Article: Brief Diversions Vastly Improve Focus, Researchers Find

Blog Post: Pomodroido Is an Elegant Pomodoro Timer for Your Android Phone

Book: The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done

Website: The Pomodoro Technique


What is one tip you would suggest for having a productive day? 

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