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Top Productivity Hack To Getting Things Done

There are a lot of articles and techniques developed to help you focus and optimize your time so you can get the most out of your day - some require apps like Trello or it can be simple as using pen and paper.

I went through several different techniques and I found that the Pomodoro Technique for managing your time and to-do lists is one of the simplest and effective ways for me to get work done without making pretty boards or fussing with apps.  Sometimes I spend more time figuring out the app then working, maybe you can relate.  

To break it down for you, this time management system was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980's the underlying principles is this:

  1. Based on your project or list of task, decide which tasks should be done first.
  2. Set the Pomodoro Timer for 25-minutes.  Each 25-minute chunk is called a Pomodoro.
  3. Work on the task and that task only until your timer rings.
  4. 5-minute break.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

Quick History of this Technique

Francesco Cirillo faced this very problem at his university. His great idea came in the shape of a tomato: a tomato-shaped kitchen timer.

Since then, he’s been using this simple tool to chop every task into smaller, manageable and motivating units called Pomodoro.
His technique has helped many procrastinators rid themselves of their guilt and learn to enjoy their work instead. Everyone who has checked their email more than few times an hour should consider giving it a try.

Read more about the Pomodoro Technique here.

Break Down of the Pomodoro Method

Chop your work down into pomodori in order to make it manageable.

For many, when it comes to getting work done, time is our greatest enemy: it seems to stretch endlessly while you’re trying to finish the part of your paper or designing your website, and then it flies away when you waste time surfing the web and checking social media.
Before you’ve even managed to finish that first page, it’s time to go home. You look at your to-do list and see that nothing got done; once again, your day was wasted surfing the internet, taking excessive breaks, and checking your email.

Thankfully, studies have shown that we can easily overcome these hurtful work habits: all you have to do is split your work into small, manageable tasks of 20 to 45 minutes a piece, and work within those short chunks without any breaks or interruptions.

This very concept has been used to create the Pomodoro Technique.

Pomodoro help you stay motivated so that you get stuff done and get rid of stress.

Structuring your work into little Pomodoro is so easy and beneficial that there’s no reason to not try it: you don’t have to learn any sophisticated techniques nor buy expensive gear, and yet it can help anyone rid themselves of the guilt and anxiety of procrastination while making work rewarding and motivating.

Using the Pomodoro Technique helps you gain back control over your day through focused work.

Since a Pomodoro is so small, it’s very unlikely that you cannot maintain focus during that time. And knowing that you can stop working on your task after only 25 minutes, you have no reason to procrastinate or do anything else.

This in turn makes it easier to stay motivated and get more out of your day.

You can‘t climb Mount Everest in one leap. Trying to accomplish any large task at once is daunting and leads to procrastination: you spend a majority of your time doing nothing, and then, right before your deadline, you try and cram everything in at once - you need to break it down into little sprints.

However, setting a goal of 10 Pomodoro per day, i.e. merely 250 minutes, makes each step of the climb easier to manage, and will get you a lot further up the mountain than an all-out sprint at the last minute!

Pomodoro also help you keep up your spirits, since each Pomodoro is manageable by itself to start and you don’t have to think about the entire project that you need to finish. In addition, the steady pace of 25-minute intervals keeps you from getting worn out, thus saving you both energy and your sanity.  If you're a runner or biker, you know the importance of keeping your cadence. 

There is no such thing as a “half-pomodoro”: Pomodoro are always 25 minutes long.  

What happens if I cannot complete a Pomodoro?

As simple as the Pomodoro Technique is, it only works if you adhere to the rules. The first and most important of these rules: There are only complete Pomodoro – no halves, no almost complete, and especially none that you finish with a minute left before the timer rings.

Once you’ve started your timer, you’re committed to 25 minutes of focused work on that task. Do not stop under any circumstances before those 25 minutes are over. That means no checking your email, no bathroom breaks, no texting, no snacks - name your poison.  

In the event that you do break your 25-minute commitment, you have to start over. 

Forming a Habit

Why all the rules?  Essentially, you want to internalize these habits so that eventually you work Pomodoro-style without even thinking about it.  Strict adherence to the rules is the only way to discipline yourself to make that change happen.

But then what do you do if you finish a task in only 20 minutes instead of 25?

You keep going. Ask yourself if there is anything that you could review or perfect your design or paper Are you sure you used the best font?
If you “finish” early, don’t end the Pomodoro, don’t start your break, and don’t even think about checking your email before the 25 minutes are over!  If there is truly nothing that you can do to improve your work and there are still 2 minutes left on your timer, then review your work again.

You must take a required break after your Pomodoro.

Once you’ve finished your Pomodoro, saved all of your new work and crossed off the task from your to-do list, you must observe the second rule which is taking your break.

If you want to maintain a focused mind, then you need to give it a break. This means that you shouldn’t waste your 5-minute break by checking your email or doing anything difficult or time-consuming.

Instead, relax and distract yourself. Push the task you’ve just completed out of your mind and enjoy that pleasant feeling of accomplishment. Clear your mind for the next task.

In balancing your plan of 25 minutes of focus followed by 5 minutes break, you show your brain that it needs to sustain its focus for short intervals, thus making it easier to stay motivated.

In addition to the 5-minute breaks after each Pomodoro, there’s another type of break, after you’ve finished 4 Pomodoro's, treat yourself to a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

This method of structuring your time has been proven to work especially well both in terms of being effective as well as sustaining motivation throughout your workday, thus helping you accomplish more with less stress.

As you’ve seen, the rules of the technique are VERY simple. 

What Tools Do I Need

All you need to get started is a timer and two lists.  Simple tools often works the best for me.

First, you need a timer. You don't need this timer like what Francesco probably used, but if you want the real Pomodoro experience, go for it.  You can use a stopwatch from your smartphone or download a time for your desktop that beeps when you're done.  I use this Chrome extension,

Next, you need 2 simple lists: your “To Do Today” list and your Backlog:

To Do Today includes everything you want to get done that day. It might look something like this:

* Create report outline – 1 Pomodoro
* Research topic – 2 Pomodoro
* Pay bills – 1 Pomodoro
* etc.

One thing you will have to learn is how to estimate how many Pomodoro are needed for a given task. Although your estimates won’t be perfect in the beginning, you’ll get better at it with time.
Soon, you’ll be quite good at intuitively estimating how many 25 minute chunks you’ll need to outline your presentation or sort through your inbox, or whatever else you need to do.

Your Backlog includes everything for your project.  For example, if you're taking my Ecommerce Launch Formula course, I separate the course into several modules, i.e. categories, products, themes, etc...  Within each module, there are different tasks you can create:

... design category structure

... create categories

... create subcategories

... define products

These are essentially your backlog, a list of tasks that needs to be completed in order for you to complete the project.  

How to Handle Interruptions

Your greatest enemies, interruptions.  This can originate from internal conflicts and thoughts or external.

It might be hard to believe, but most people’s workdays consist primarily of one interruption after another – they are everywhere, all the time, waiting to ruin your productivity.  When people are texting me, calling me or using instant messengers, they are robbing me of my time.

My mind always wonders... "oh, I have another GREAT business idea!  Let me research it right now" or "oh, I better not forget to take out the chicken for dinner."

You can manage any kind of interruption in order to sustain your focus.  Just follow these simple steps to protect your Pomodoro:

Simply jot down whatever comes up, somewhere and get back to your Pomodoro.  As long as you don't need to evacuate your burning house, then it can wait until you’re finished with the task at hand.

Once your Pomodoro is complete, take a moment and examine the thought that you jotted down earlier; often, what seemed critically urgent while you were in your Pomodoro ends up in the trash afterward.

If it still seems important, then put it in your backlog list or on your To Do Today list.

If someone tries to interrupt you in person, then a response like “I’m in the middle of a task and will call you back in 10 minutes."  Most people will understand because they are interrupting you and they see that you're really focused.

Sum It Up

Chunk your work into more manageable 25-minute tasks - which you work totally uninterrupted. 

Afterward, take a break for 5-minutes to relax and recharge your mind, so you can start your next 25 minutes of focused work without getting tired.

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