I Tried the Pomodoro Technique, and I've Never Been More Productive in My Life

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Last month was the most burned out I've ever been. I found myself waking up dreading the start of every single day, greeted by a sharp pain in my chest that wouldn't go away. I was instantly filled with so much anxiety about all the tasks I had to get done from the time I woke up until the late hour I fell asleep — meeting tight deadlines for work, cooking meals, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, errands, appointments, and making sure my toddler was happy and cared for at all times. There was just too much to do and not enough time for any of it.

I was so overwhelmed that I ended up putting off every single thing I wanted to tackle. I would either address every task in a half-ass manner, or neglect a handful of them and only get one done . . . leaving even more work for me the next day. I couldn't keep up with the way I was operating and handling all of my daily responsibilities — until I tried the Pomodoro Technique, which completely turned my I-can't-do-this mindset into a bring-it-on attitude.

To do the Pomodoro Technique, all you have to do is use a timer to break down tasks into intervals. The intervals are usually around 25 minutes long with short breaks in between. To find out more about it and how exactly it helped me, keep reading.

How the Pomodoro Technique Works
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How the Pomodoro Technique Works

The Pomodoro Technique was started by consulting firm owner Francesco Cirillo while he was in college in the 1980s. Cirillo decided he wanted to work smarter, not harder, so he used a tomato timer to keep track of the time he spent studying, and would then reward himself with a timed break. Cirillo perfected the method until it blossomed into the Pomodoro Technique it is today, which has six key concepts:

  1. Pick a task to get done on your to-do list.
  2. Set the timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Work on that task until the timer rings.
  4. Check off the task on your to-do list.
  5. Take a short break.
  6. Repeat; after every four of these "Pomodoro Sessions," take an even longer break.
Why I Started Using the Pomodoro Technique
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Why I Started Using the Pomodoro Technique

I'm a working mom with a lot to do, juggling multiple (yes, multiple) to-do lists on a daily basis. I also write for a living, which means I have deadlines to constantly meet. After one too many days of feeling overwhelmed and unproductive, I knew I couldn't keep procrastinating and neglecting the tasks that I needed to get done each week. I started researching different methods and books for a more productive workflow process — one that could help me prioritize my tasks and not get side tracked while banging them out one by one.

Lesson Learned: Breaks Make a To-Do List Less Daunting
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Lesson Learned: Breaks Make a To-Do List Less Daunting

As much as I love to put pen to paper and get my thoughts organized by writing out a to-do list, visualizing all of those bulleted notes can be a bit overwhelming for me. Since I knew that I would be taking some (much needed) breaks during each Pomodoro I completed, it made tackling each task that much more bearable. I knew I had some down time to look forward to in between, so I wasn't totally dreading each chore I had to get done.

Lesson Learned: I'm More Productive in Shorter Increments of Time
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Lesson Learned: I'm More Productive in Shorter Increments of Time

I've found that when I give myself too much time to complete a task — say, two hours — I often stray from the activity at hand and get easily distracted. This can happen with almost anything, whether it's a massive pile of dirty laundry or five articles I have to edit. When I used the Pomodoro Technique, I was becoming more and more productive with each timed work session. Instead of giving myself too big of a time frame, I was actually finishing more in shorter amounts of time.

Lesson Learned: I Found a Way to Be More Self-Disciplined
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Lesson Learned: I Found a Way to Be More Self-Disciplined

I pride myself on being responsible, but as I mentioned before, I do get easily distracted. I found that using the Pomodoro Technique turned me into a more self-disciplined worker because I knew that I only had a certain number of timed sessions to get my tasks done. I took it seriously and powered through each one. Plus, since I always had a break coming, it was easier to focus.

Lesson Learned: The Longer Breaks Give My Brain a Refresh Boost
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Lesson Learned: The Longer Breaks Give My Brain a Refresh Boost

I definitely underestimated the power of a break until I started doing the Pomodoro Technique. With each break I take (and the longer they get), I can feel my body and mind become physically and mentally more relaxed. The tasks I'm completing certainly aren't as taxing after I take my breaks and return to a timed working session.

Why You Should Try It
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Why You Should Try It

Honestly, if the Pomodoro Technique can work for a reformed procrastinator like me, it can work for you, too. Aside from the fact that the method is researched-based with years of rave reviews from people who have tried it around the world, it's also just simple. It makes sense. It's not complicated. The work-break style is the best part, and is a big reason why the Pomodoro Technique worked for me. I thrived off of this type of reward system, and I truly believe others can, too.