January 23, 2020
It’s easy to become anxious when trying to meet a deadline. Often the most imposing challenge when faced with the ticking clock is figuring out just where to get started without it all seeming hopeless. Sometimes, it becomes unclear how we should prioritise work and how we will ever get started towards meeting a deadlines. In short, it’s easy for anxiety to get the better of us and stop us being productive.
Thankfully, there’s a remarkably simple way of getting going. Setting a timer and working in small bursts can jumpstart even the most avid procrastinator’s journey towards meeting a deadline.
The Pomodoro technique systematises this method. With it, you define periodic bursts of work and play. It turns the ticking clock in your favour, by breaking the large task down into manageable chunks and planning out how you’ll do the work. In short, it will help alleviate the anxiety and have you being more productive instead.
The Pomodoro technique is a time management method. It is based on splitting work into 25-minute blocks, followed by 3-to-5 minute rests, and then 15-to-30 minute rests after the completion of four work blocks.
As a technique, Pomodoro encourages people to work within the time constraints that they have. Acceptance in this way fights deadline anxiety by empowering you to take action immediately, rather than wasting time trying to fight the inevitability of progressing time.
Instead of squandering the time you do have (trying to convince yourself that you can extend the deadline by bending space-time to your will), you instead work productively in blocks of 25 minutes to get things done.
Ultimately, knowing that you only have 25 minutes motivates you to make as much progress on a task as possible. The frequent breaks and work blocking help your mind stay fresh.
Faced with an assault of university deadlines and anxiety, Francesco Cirillo created the technique in the 1980s. The idea behind the technique is that a simple timer creates a sense of urgency. The technique is named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Francesco had. “Pomodoro” is Italian for tomato.
After a some minor modifications and great success with the technique, Cirillo decided to share his method with the world. You can find the original description in his free PDF. In it, he describes the method:
For this to work, there’s a couple of things to notice. Firstly, you need to estimate how many work blocks (Pomodoros) you think it will take to do the task. At first this might be quite difficult, but you’ll become better at estimating this with practice and a bit of trial and error.
Ideally, you’d also create a timetable and align the most important Pomodoros for when you work most productively. Planning is one of the best ways to make sure you hit your goals – as they are actionable statements of intent rather than just empty promises that you’ll do something. With a good plan you can motivate yourself to push through challenging work while maintaining a healthy division between work and play.
When it comes to the Pomodoro, you must be absolutely clear that this is a non-negotiable block of time. Short of an absolute crisis, it is the time in which you will get your task done. No distractions. If it must be interrupted then you have failed. Make the decision to do the Pomodoro completely or protect it from all distractions. While harsh, this will form a positive reinforcement about the importance of urgency and focus during your work blocks.
To help deal with outside distractions Cirillo advocated the “inform, negotiate, schedule, call back” approach:
Of course, some distractions are part of our internal creative process. Note things like new ideas, supplementary reading material etc on some paper (or use one of these note taking productivity apps) and continue with your work until the Pomodoro is complete.
While we know it’s tempting to try out a novelty tomato-shaped timer, we instead highly recommend that you use an app to help you manage your Pomodoros. Pomodoro apps are designed specifically for the Pomodoro technique. They encompass a variety of features, from planning out your blocks, note taking, and distraction blocking techniques – making it easy to meet your deadlines.
Here’s our top 3 Pomodoro timer apps to get you started:
Focus booster is geared towards the serious professionals among you. Freelancers and agency workers will particularly appreciate this app. The app allows you to track time spent on project work for specific clients. When you log a Pomodoro the time spend is automatically logged against a timesheet. You can then export these timesheets to CSV for invoicing.
In terms of analytics, you have complete visibility into how you’ve spent your time over a certain period thanks to the reports dashboard. The app also includes stats regarding your profitability and percentage of tracked time per client, so you know which client brings in more cash.
This app is also one for the analysts among you. The app has extensive visualisation and dashboards that allow you to dig into your productivity and optimize your work. It has statistics ranging from time breakdowns per project to profitability per project.
Focus keeper follows the Pomodoro technique quite rigidly with little deviation from the original method outlined above. You simply set the length of the Pomodoro and break times and then a ticking sound notifies you when it’s time to work.
It also has excellent planning capabilities. It helps you set goals for the number of sessions you want to complete in a day. As mentioned above, planning is one of the most effective ways to convert an empty intention into an actionable means of being productive, so this simple feature shouldn’t be underestimated.
The app is a bit light in terms of analytics but, for what it does have, it allows you to monitor up to 3 days on the free version. This can give you some insight into your productivity.
OK, so this one is a bit of a wild card. Strictly speaking TickTick is a todo list that comes with a Pomodoro timer. It comes with a very slick UI. You can add tasks, break them down, and set deadlines. You can even get a filtered view of your todos based on your location.
Wether you’ve got lots of small things to do or just one massive thing that needs broken down, it doesn’t harm to combine the todo list methodology with the Pomodoro technqiue, and TickTick has certainly combined them in a way that gets the best out of each.
It also comes with an extensive productivity overview that allows you to track and hone your work over time.
Now that we’ve talked about how to immediately address the anxiety about meeting your deadlines using Pomodoro, it’s important to consider the steps you can take to make sure not to suffer from the same issues again in the future.
Pomodoro works because the blocking creates highly focused, intensive work sessions that bring about clearly planned results. As previously alluded to, the process of defining actionable things you can do is far more effective that stating vague goals, such as “I want to complete this work by some date”.
In psychology terms, such breakdowns are called implementation actions. They focus not on the intention itself, but rather how the intention should be achieved. In the case of exercise, people who make implementation actions are almost 3 times more likely to achieve their goals than those who do not.
It is the habit of the most productive people to clearly understand what needs to be done in order to achieve their goals. They meticulously plan for success and then execute on their vision. They are not fixated on outcome or perfection, but rather on honing the small things they do to be the most effective they can be in the small periods of time they do have. They are habitual.
Such habit formation is not easy. Here at ObjektivApp we take the best learnings from behavioural science to help with habit formation and productivity. You can use Objektivapp in to form Pomodoro habits. Use the strict time limit of a pomodoro as a race to get things done, but use the lessons learned to get into the habit of being more productive person.
Already had experience with Pomodoro? Got another method or app you like to overcome deadline anxiety? Tell us about it in the comments.