Updated: Jan 3
Do you begin every work day feeling overwhelmed by the amount of tasks you have to complete? If you’re a freelancer and creating your own schedule, this feeling can quickly become debilitating – hours upon hours stretching before you in which you could, theoretically, be accomplishing any number of tasks on your growing To-Do List. Should you start by responding to those emails that are piling up in your inbox? Or maybe you should finish the research for your upcoming presentation… But wait, you also need to spend a little time today organizing your desk! And you really should begin outlining the next chapter of your book. Oof! Where do you even begin?
Try beginning with The Pomodoro Technique, a simple yet effective time management method. You’ve probably heard it mentioned before – its simplicity is part of its popularity. At the heart of the technique is the belief that breaking your work day down into shorter, more focused work sessions can help promote productivity and prevent burnout. That might sound pretty obvious, and it is, but you’d be surprised by how much more manageable your day will be by actually setting a physical timer and giving yourself attainable deadlines.
Whenever I set aside a full day to work on a new script, my brain tends to go through three initial thought patterns:
This is great – I have so much time, and I am definitely going to write an entire first draft!
This is stressful – What should the first scene be? And oh no, there needs to be so many scenes after that one…
Beeeeeeep (that’s the sound of my brain short circuiting as I go to take a Netflix break)!
Can anyone else relate to these feelings? Often, when you have a big task in front of you, the hardest thing is usually just getting started. It’s easy to become overly ambitious about how much you can accomplish in a day, or on the flip side, underestimate the time you’ll need to reach your goal. The Pomodoro Technique helps to reduce all that uncertainty by creating a clear timetable.
The Pomodoro Technique: Very Quick History
The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the late 1980s by an Italian university student named Francesco Cirillo, who was feeling overwhelmed by the crushing weight of his workload (#relatable, am I right?). The tasks were adding up, and he was becoming paralyzed with indecision about where to focus his attention first.
But instead of continuing to flounder, he decided to tell his brain to concentrate on just one task for a mere ten minutes. And it worked! The technique is named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used to track his time (“pomodoro” means “tomato” in Italian for those of you not up to the food section of Duolingo’s Italian courses).
The Pomodoro Technique: Very Quick Guide
Francesco Carillo’s official site outlines six main steps for the technique:
Choose the task that you’d like to accomplish
Set a timer for 25 minutes (or “1 Pomodoro”)
Work on the task for 25 minutes without interruption
Give yourself a checkmark when the timer goes off
Take a short relaxing break – Drink some tea, step outside, stretch, recharge
For every 4 Pomodoro cycles, give yourself a longer break (i.e., 20-30 minutes)
The Pomodoro Technique: Very Quick Tips
Combine your small tasks into 1 Pomodoro period!
If you have several items on your daily To-Do List that will only take a few minutes each, knock them all out in a single 25-minute sitting. And on the flip side, break down any larger items into smaller tasks.
Plan out your To-Do List for the day before getting started!
And don’t just list the action items, list how many Pomodoros each task should theoretically take to accomplish. Having a clear plan going into the day is always a good idea!
Don’t stop the timer until it rings, and don’t pause for small interruptions like texts or emails!
If any unavoidable interruptions do happen, like an unexpected work call, then take your short break and restart the timer once the interruption is done.
Spend a little time at the end of each day reflecting on how things went!
Did you accomplish everything on your list? Do you need to adjust your plan for tomorrow? How often did interruptions throw you off? Has this process redefined your objectives in any way? Reflecting at the end of every day will help you build a system that works for your unique needs.
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Written by Jessie Cannizzaro