Do you ever find yourself wanting to complete a task? Seven minutes later, you’re flipping through your phone and checking out your Instagram or Facebook feed. Then you’re quickly jumping online to search for that thing you need.
20-minutes later, you’re back to the task at hand. An hour goes by and you have nothing tangible to show for it. Other than being caught up on your various social media feeds, and you’ve bought a gorgeous set of cushions for the sofa.
Why is it so impossible to stick to the task at hand? There are two reasons. Firstly, it’s about what you’ve trained your brain to do. Secondly, it all comes down to the dopamine effect.
Let me show you how to retrain your brain and yes, tomatoes are involved.
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for that feel good factor. Whenever something good happens, dopamine is released. It teaches you to associate that action with feeling good. Whenever you complete something, you get a lift, or a dopamine hit which makes you want to go on and complete something else just so you can enjoy that dopamine effect once more.
But did you know that scrolling through your phone, and the stimulation from looking at interesting colorful things also releases dopamine? It makes looking at your phone addictive.
It trains you to consume bite sized information snippets on your phone which is not helpful when you want to get a task done.
We’ve learned to consume information very quickly. The short headline on the bottom of the TV, bite sized YouTube videos, social media, and even emails have taught us to consume a short piece of content and scroll on. That’s great for keeping up with this current pace of life.
It has also destroyed our ability to focus on something for more than three minutes, or to think deeply or to apply critical thinking. Flipping between tasks is a habit that’s self-taught. So, applying a focusing tool that’s also broken into short timestamps is going to triple your productivity.
the pomodoro technique
It was created in the 80s by Francesco Cirillo. He called it the Pomodoro Technique after his wife’s kitchen timer because it was shaped like a tomato. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. Time starts ticking away as soon as you twisted the lid.
The Pomodoro Technique measures time in Pomodoro units. So, one Pomodoro equals 25-minutes. You focus for 25-minutes, and then you take a five-minute break. After you’ve worked for four Pomodoro’s or two hours, you get a longer break.
Here’s what I love most about it. When we think about a task we want to complete, we naturally find it difficult to estimate how long it’s going to take. For the most part, our brains struggle to name a task as either a three-hour task or a four-day task or a 20-minute task.
This is why most projects run late and why time management and scheduling systems that are task based simply don’t work. The sprint cycles that you find in projects employing an agile methodology, they’re made up of tasks based on comparative time and that’s the key difference. So, we say to ourselves: “Okay, this task is a one-day task.”
So, if that task takes one day, then by comparison, that task is a three-day task. This is what the Pomodoro Technique also does. Before you start the timer on your 25-minutes, you’ve broken out the task into how many Pomodoro’s you’re likely to need to complete it or to get to a predefined stage.
how does it work?
Before you get to work, assemble everything you’ll need to complete your task and most importantly turn everything else off.
This includes email, your phone, random browsers. It’s only for 25-minutes, that’s all you need to commit to. Set your timer. You can use your phone an
d app or kitchen timer and get to work. Focus only on that task.
Want to turbocharge this technique? Use those five minutes at the end of your Pomodoro for active recovery. Take a quick drink of water, a few deep breaths, some squats and away you go feeling recharged.
So, when your five minutes is up, you set the timer and you get Pomodoro going.
I’ve tripled my productivity with just this one technique. Do you want to know why?
I’m more realistic when it comes to estimating how long I need to complete a task and while I may struggle to focus for an hour or two, counting to 25-minutes of focus time is easy. It stops me investing energy deciding what to do next.
Give it a go. Block four Pomodoro’s each day during your peak focus periods. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done.