Here Is What You Can Do to Improve Your Focus And Get Things Done

Nirmit Shah
Mar 30, 2019 · 7 min read

I am a self-improvement junkie. That means I am obsessed with finding out ideas, processes, and systems that help me grow and improve myself.

One of the major things that I have struggled with is striking of my To-Do List. Essentially, sitting down and getting things done.

I have tried almost all the apps. Todoist, Evernote, Wunderlist, Slack and so on. While they are great at giving visibility of the tasks that I have to finish, they are of no help when it comes to actually doing them.

On the contrary, seeing those unfinished items with a big Overdue sign in front of them made me feel even worse about myself.

Knowing what to do wasn’t the problem.

It was about “How to get it done?”

Being a self-improvement junkie, I started doing what I knew best. Scouring the web for articles, videos, and books that would help me with my problem.

That’s when I stumbled across something called a Pomodoro Technique.

Of all the solutions I had come across, this one seemed simple and practically implementable. It didn’t require any additional equipment, no fancy apps, and no elaborate theories.

If you are reading this, I am guessing you want to stop feeling frustrated at the end of the day. You want to be efficient and productive.

More than anything else, you want to see that task list checked completely.

Well, let me tell you how you can do it.

The Pomodoro Technique

In the late 1980s, a guy named Francesco Cirillo, who was a university student came up with this idea to get better at time management.

He decided to divide his work in terms of time intervals. The time duration was 25 minutes for each interval.

That means if he had to finish an assignment, he didn’t see this as one task but he saw it as 4 time intervals of 25 minutes each.

Each time interval was called a Pomodoro since Francesco used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to keep track of time intervals.

For many people, time is an enemy. We race against the clock to finish assignments and meet deadlines. The Pomodoro Technique teaches you to work with time, instead of struggling against it.

The Pomodoro Technique helped him so much that he came up with an elaborate six-step process to explain it to others.

Here are the six steps involved:

Choose a task you’d like to get done

This could be anything. Small tasks, big tasks, tasks that you have been putting for days now.

All that matters is that it should be a task that you really want to get done with and you are willing to give your full attention to it.

Write down that task on a piece of paper.

Set the Pomodoro for 25 minutes

These 25 minutes are sacred. That means, in these 25 minutes, you make sure that nothing and nobody interrupts you.

No phone calls, no messages, no social media, no people, no nothing.

It’s just 25 minutes. So you can swing it.

Work on the task until the timer rings

Now, work on the task for 25 minutes straight. Don’t get up. Don’t talk to anybody.

Try to work as intensely as you can. If you remember some other task or some other important information, make a note of it on a piece of paper.

But immediately get back to the task at hand.

Give yourself a symbolic thumbs-up

Congratulations, you just spent 25 interruption free minutes on a single task.

Maybe you finished it. Maybe you didn't it. But you did complete 25 minutes of work.

So congratulate yourself. Use checkmarks, stars or any other symbol you like and note it down in front of the task on a piece of paper.

Take a short break

This could be anything you like.

Check your phone, check your social media, listen to a song, talk to somebody or maybe even go for a walk.

The idea is to not think about the task for the next 5 minutes. Give your brain something else to do. Make sure, the break is not more than 10 mins.

Repeat and take a longer break after 4 Pomodoros

Repeat steps 1 to 5 again. However, once you complete 4 Pomodoros, take a long 30-minute break.

By doing this, you allow your brain to refresh and get ready for the next round.

My Pomodoro Experiment — Helpful Improvements

When I first read the technique, I was instantly hooked. It seemed so simple to do. So, I tried it for a week.

And it delivered on its promise.

Although I didn’t finish all my tasks on the To-Do list, I finished most of them. It made planning the day extremely simple since I just had to look for available 25-minute time slots.

The original method works primarily because of its simplicity.

However, I found that adding a few tweaks makes a big useful difference without compromising much on simplicity.

I have listed down the same six steps below with the tricks that have helped me make the most out of the Pomodoro Technique.

Choose a task you’d like to get done

When I started, I listed down my tasks in a note-taking app first thing in the morning. However, the trouble was my day had already started. It was already bearing down on me.

I found that it is much more effective to do this the night before.

It gave me a much better view of the entire day. Additionally, writing your task down with a pen and paper in a notebook gives more satisfaction than doing it on a digital platform.

Another useful tweak I made was by breaking down the tasks into their smallest possible units.

So, the task of writing a blog post becomes

  1. Finalize the Headline
  2. Write The Intro
  3. List down Sub-headings
  4. Fill each Sub-heading
  5. Write The Conclusion
  6. Edit the Draft

The reason this helps is that you know exactly how you are going to spend the 25 minutes.

If the task is vague and big, it becomes difficult to start and consequently, it becomes difficult to finish.

Set the Pomodoro for 25 minutes

Most of the work I did was on the laptop. Hence I just used the inbuilt laptop timer to set my Pomodoros. You can use the Clock App in your Mobile phones too. No need to have a physical timer.

If you are just starting with this technique, 25 minutes can be a stretch. I started with 10 minutes and gradually went up. I would suggest any beginner start with 10 minutes first and then gradually increase it by 5 minutes till you get comfortable with 25 minutes.

I found it especially hard to do a Pomodoro at the workplace. There were too many distractions. I tried to avoid them by putting my phone behind the laptop screen or the drawer. I used earphones to make it seem like I was on a call and I turned off my mail application for that 25 minutes.

Work on the task until the timer rings

Keep a diary or a note-taking app open on the side every time you start a Pomodoro.

I couldn't help but keep remembering other tasks I had to do. I immediately made note of them, got it out of my system and continued with the current task.

Often, you won’t finish the task you are working on. That’s okay. Nevertheless, take a break. Get up from your desk and move around a little.

Try not to focus on that task so much during the break. Trust me, you will pick up right where you left off.

Give yourself a symbolic thumbs-up

Psychologically, this step makes sense. However, I felt that it wouldn't make much of a difference if you omitted it.

Take a short break

I often ignored this step because I felt that I was in the zone and could do without a break.

However, the problem was that in the later part of the day, I felt exhausted. I couldn't finish my Pomdoros because it became super difficult to maintain focus.

So, ensure that you take a break. Just listen to one song at least. They key is to do any other non-task related activity which can help you relax.

IT might not feel like it but our brains need that 5-minute break more than anything else.

Repeat and take a longer break after 4 Pomodoros

I usually timed my lunch, snacks, and dinners in a way that they would coincide with my longer breaks. This ensured two killings with one bullet.

I did it. You can do it too.

Now that you know how the Pomodoro technique works the best, all you need to do is get started.

I guarantee you that you will see results on the first day of practice itself.

Successfully finishing our tasks gives us a unique kind of high. It makes us feel self-confident, allows us to plan our days better and helps us reach towards our goals faster.

Get started with the Pomodoro technique. You won’t regret it.

All the best.

Citations

Read more about the technique here:

https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique

About Me

I am a Self Improvement Junkie on a mission to help students & young professionals grow and improve. Visit www.theveningproject.com to know more about the how & the what.

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Nirmit Shah

Written by

Self Improvement Junkie on a mission to help students & young professionals grow and improve. Visit www.theveningproject.com to know more about the how & what.

The Ascent

The Ascent is a community of storytellers documenting the journey to a happier and healthier way of living. Join thousands of others making the climb on one of the top publications on Medium.

Nirmit Shah

Written by

Self Improvement Junkie on a mission to help students & young professionals grow and improve. Visit www.theveningproject.com to know more about the how & what.

The Ascent

The Ascent is a community of storytellers documenting the journey to a happier and healthier way of living. Join thousands of others making the climb on one of the top publications on Medium.

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