I have long believed and now I know that is backed by research that multi-tasking doesn’t quite work. When you switch context to check that beep from your phone, it takes your brain about 15–20 minutes to come back into the flow state. A surprising research in the last month showed that a phone kept upside down on your desk has a detrimental impact on your productivity.
That said, it is extremely hard to manage your focus when you are sitting in an open office space, with the web right in front of you, emails shouting for attention and time and again I find that I am lost.
I use the Pomodoro technique to manage my focus when I find that I am off the beaten track. I was surprised to hear that a colleague hadn’t heard about the technique. So here goes…
The name Pomodoro, is based on kitchen timers in Italy. The timers looked like tomatos and you twist them to start a 25 minute block.
The technique itself is very easy. Whenever, you want to focus, you start the timer and focus on 1 task for 25 minutes. Once you reach the 25 minutes time frame, take a 5 minute break and start again. Run through four pomodoro’s and take a 10 minute break.
To be candid, I have never been able to run through 4 pomodoro’s back-to-back but getting to 2–3 improves productivity significantly.
Another iteration on the technique is that your daily plan should include a certain number of pomodoro’s that work for you. For example an 8–10 pomodoro day would be an extremely productive day. In this case, you drop your checklists, find slots to make progress and get through items in those focus blocks.
From a tooling perspective, timer on your phone works easily. There are a number of Chrome extensions that keep track of your pomodoro on the web.