Take 25: The Pomodoro Technique

I can’t even begin to explain how busy I was at my last job around the Christmas period. I worked for an online retailer and I was responsible for processing customer returns, releasing pre-orders and responding to courier queries. The workload was so full-on that I knew I wasn’t going to finish even one of the tasks before more work came in. I nearly had a breakdown in my first year because I couldn’t handle my workload; I swore to myself that I wouldn’t be there the following year – I was wrong.

As soon as October hit the following year, the work started to seep in. I decided I was going to be more organised and I wasn’t going to let my job stress me out. I set an alarm on my phone to go off every half an hour and I would switch between my three tasks. I’d spend half an hour on customer returns, half an hour on pre-orders, half an hour on couriers and then back to returns. Wow, what a difference it made! I wasn’t rushing through my work and if I found one task particularly boring, I knew I’d be able to move on to the next one soon.

This year, I discovered the Pomodoro Technique, which is not too different from the technique I had been using previously. There are six steps to the pomodoro technique:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (one pomodoro).
  3. Work on the task.
  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.

As I now work for a fast-paced start-up, I do feel guilty for taking breaks; some days I even feel guilty for taking a lunch break (this is a blog post for another day!). During my  15-30 minute break periods, as a compromise to myself, I check out culture-related blogs such as Snacknation or Buffer.

The Pomodoro Technique has completely changed my working day and I would recommend it to anybody who has trouble with multi-tasking. You could even set a 30-minute slot just for responding to emails. Nothing’s that important that it needs a response ASAP – that’s what face-to-face communication and phone calls are for!

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