Most people feel like they’re more productive working remotely rather than in a traditional office setting. But we can all have days or projects that have us struggling a little in the productivity department. In this guest post, Grace Lau, director of growth content at Dialpad, explores the Pomodoro Technique and how this method can help boost our productivity when we really need it.
Maintaining productivity in the workplace is something that most of us have struggled with at one point or another. As a result of remote working, the boundaries between home and office have become naturally blurred, with work tasks and domestic chores often overlapping. It can be overwhelming to balance both.
This is why businesses need to follow remote work best practices to boost productivity and prevent worker burnout. One of the best known methods to help with productivity is the Pomodoro Technique.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
This is a time management method introduced by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Originally named after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, the Pomodoro Technique involves breaking up work into 25-minute slots separated by 5-minute mini breaks. It has been successfully used by over two million people to improve productivity.
Who is the Pomodoro Technique for?
The Pomodoro Technique can help anyone who struggles with a lack of focus or short attention span. Alternating concentrated work periods with short periods of rest refreshes the mind and alleviates stress. Working continuously without breaks causes exhaustion and also leads to a drop in the quality of work being produced.
Virtual workers in particular can benefit from this approach to be more productive. Time management can be a challenge for many people working remotely. This is where the Pomodoro Technique helps in self-tracking work to ensure optimum management of time and resources.
How to Get Started with Pomodoro Technique
There are 5 basic steps in the Pomodoro Technique.
- Set a 25-minute timer
- Work on your task for 25 minutes without distractions
- Stop when the alarm goes off and take a break for 5 minutes
- Resume work after 5 minutes and carry on for another 25 minutes
- Repeat this cycle 4 times followed by a longer 20-30 minute break
The key point here is to remain fully focused on your work without any distraction for the duration of the 25 minutes. So control the temptation to check your social media feeds or Google random trivia during this time. Save that for your breaks.
According to Cirillo, you can do one of two things:
- End your current Pomodoro session, save your progress and return to it during a fresh session.
- Use the Inform, Negotiate, Schedule and Call back (INSC) strategy to deal with the distraction. This involves:
- Informing the person calling that you’re working on an important task.
- Negotiating and scheduling a time to address their issue.
- Calling back at the appointed time.
This clear communication is great for virtual team building, and helps ensure you’re not getting overwhelmed with additional tasks during your allotted working time.
Wondering how to get started with the Pomodoro Technique? Simply follow these three steps:
1. Make a List of Your Tasks
Always start with a list. Having a list gives you a clear plan of action, ensuring you know which tasks need to be completed and when. Make your to-do list either the day before or just as you start your work day. Calculate which tasks will need how many pomodoros to complete and delegate your day’s work accordingly.
Remember, you need to take your breaks as well so don’t cram up your to-do list with tasks that can wait. Move low-priority work to the next day so you can focus on the important stuff. This will ensure you deliver quality work and also promote wellness in the workplace.
2. Break Down Complex Tasks into Smaller Chunks
It’s a good idea to break down large or complex work into smaller chunks. For example, if you have calculated a task to take 12 pomodoros, consider dividing it into three or four parts. Complete each of these smaller parts in four or three pomodoros. This makes it much more doable.
Consider a complex task like adopting productive recruitment tools for your team. This could possibly take multiple pomodoros to complete. A good way to break up this seemingly large workload would be to:
- Identify and isolate different sections, such as reading the literature, doing a trial run, etc.
- Schedule pomodoros for each section — for instance, two pomodoros for the literature, four for the trial
- Complete each section within the assigned pomodoros
Alternatively, if you finish a task before time you could use the spare time to review and edit your work.
3. Schedule Similar Tasks Together
Similar tasks like sending emails or scheduling meetings can be scheduled together in a single pomodoro time slot instead of being scattered throughout the day. These smaller tasks won’t take up 25 minutes on their own. But scheduling them together and completing them in one session helps tick off multiple points on your to-do list.
Now that we know what the Pomodoro Technique is and how to get started with it, let’s consider some of its advantages for remote work.
Advantages of Pomodoro Technique for Remote Workers
When you schedule an amount of work followed by a break, you’re more likely to stay focused on your task during the working session.
This is because during the time that you’re working you have the motivation of an upcoming break. After spending a while practicing the Pomodoro technique, you’ll be able to focus exclusively on a task without being distracted and then switch to unwind mode during a break.
Over time, it’s natural to start associating the timer you use for the Pomodoro Technique with work time.
In contrast, when you work without any scheduled breaks you tend to lose focus and procrastinate, which ultimately affects your productivity. So you could technically be working for eight hours straight but your output may not reflect it.
Improves Estimates of Time
Another benefit of slotting your workload into pomodoros is that you can get an accurate estimate of the time it takes to complete each task. For example, you might find that some smaller tasks on your to-do list can be scheduled together and completed in a single pomodoro. On the other hand, a more complex task requires more pomodoros.
This is really useful if you’re in a client-facing role. Knowing how long a particular type of task takes, let’s you provide clear timelines to clients.
Helps Track Profit and Productivity
For business owners and self-employed people, the Pomodoro Technique is great for tracking and optimizing your profits. Imagine you’ve undertaken a project for designing contact center training material that has taken 12 pomodoros so far, and according to your estimate will take an additional 12 pomodoros to complete. You can see that the given budget won’t be enough to cover expenses and turn a profit.
Since you’ll know it’ll take additional time to finish the project you can contact the client to revise the budget. You can revise your hourly rates and other billables for similar projects in future.
Pomodoros also help track your productivity. Since these are quantifiable units, you can measure exactly how many pomodoros you complete per day and track your productivity for each day of the week.
Promotes Mental Well-Being
When we have large workloads, it can be tempting to try and finish as much of it as possible by working non-stop. This is counterproductive. Working for extended periods without a break affects the quality of your work and makes you lose focus. By breaking your workload into pomodoros you can condense it into small actionable tasks. As you complete each pomodoro, it provides a sense of achievement and makes the workload that much lighter.
Working long hours without breaks ultimately also leads to employee burnout. A recent report has found that 52% of employees feel burned out at present. With pomodoros, you are giving yourself alternate windows of work and rest. This creates a more relaxed atmosphere and promotes a sense of well-being.
Variations of the Pomodoro Technique
Every working model has its drawbacks. Sometimes what works for you might not work for your colleague. Not everybody needs or can work in a 25:5 work to break ratio. Some people, especially in creative industries, find the concept of interrupting workflows with regular 5-minute intervals distracting and counterproductive.
An alternative to the Pomodoro Technique is the 52:17 model where you work for 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break. This is based on the theory that people can do focused work for up to 52 minutes. However, everyone is different. It may be worth taking the concept of these models — scheduling segments of work time followed by short breaks — and adjusting it to your own schedule, with time segments that best suit you.
To Sum Up
Ultimately, these are just guidelines to help you better manage your time and improve your productivity.
The Pomodoro Technique emphasizes the importance of taking breaks in between long work hours to help you focus better, boost creativity, and prevent burnout. If you’re struggling to plan out your day, it’s definitely worth trying — especially if you’re working remotely. Hopefully, it’ll either be the perfect fix. Failing that, it’ll be an excellent stepping stone on the way to a solution!
Have you ever tried the Pomodoro Technique while working remotely? Share with us! Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform revolutionizing communication in the workplace for better and easier workforce management. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.
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