In these social media crazy days, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to focus on your studies or work. The mind wanders and the instant gratification monkey inside wants you to keep checking the notifications at regular intervals, even if there is none.
You, at regular frequent intervals, open your mailbox, facebook, twitter, Instagram, pinterest, whatsapp and so on and on looking for some new messages and get lost in the addictive world spending time on news feed that may not be of any real value to you. Do you agree?
Study on online habits and productivity of workers
A recent study on online habits and productivity of workers suggests that in an eight-hour working day, an average employee is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes. 79% of the respondents to the survey were aware that they were not productive throughout the entire working day. The respondents felt guilty of being non-productive due to several distractions from their work. Some of the major contributors to their low productivity were:
- Checking social media
- Reading news websites and
- Text/ instant messaging
Respondents who admitted that they were guilty of ‘at work distractions’ revealed that they spent more than 2 hours on the above activities during working hours. Though this is expected, the sheer amount of time wasted is really an eye-opener to all of us. We should find ways to focus on our work and minimize distractions, especially social media, internet and text messaging.
The world is full of distractions
While it is absolutely necessary to take small breaks in between work, we are letting ourselves distracted too often to have any productive work.
Our human mind is designed in such a way that it keeps throwing thoughts and ideas randomly. If you just realized that you forgot to pay your credit card bill, you immediately stop doing your current activity and take steps to pay the bill.
We instantly react to our inner thoughts and external signals and jump from one activity to another. If there is a notification sound, we just drop the work we are doing and hop on to the mobile/ laptop to check the notification. While checking the notification, we get distracted by another interesting message and move on without any control.
If you want to stay productive, it is vital to get competing thoughts out of your mind and focus on one activity at a time.
Is there a solution?
Can we stay away from social media, internet and text messaging? Is it possible to switch off our phones? Is it possible to turn off that mobile data for the whole day? Can we avoid checking that whatsapp message for the whole day?
If your answer is “YES” to the above questions, please stop reading further. You have the best solution to distraction-free study or work. Go ahead, switch off your phones and study.
If your answer is “NO” to any/ all or the above questions, welcome to the club. In today’s work environment, many employees are required to check whatsapp messages regularly. Several organizations co-ordinate through whatsapp and it may not be feasible to stay away. So, what is the solution? Is there a way to improve our productivity?
Yes, there is a way. It is called The Pomodoro technique®. I will explain this simple technique that will improve your productivity drastically. You can potentially live guilt-free.
The Pomodoro Technique
Francesco Cirillo, an Italian student, devised the Pomodoro technique, out of frustration to overcome his low productivity and poor study habits. Pomodoro is an Italian word for “tomato”. The technique was given the name, as Francesco Cirillo originally used a kitchen timer, shaped like a tomato.
The Pomodoro Technique is a simple time management technique that helps you to improve your productivity at work or improve your study habits. It helps you minimize distractions and focus on the task at hand. It wants you to focus on one activity at a time and avoid frequent interruptions or overlapping activities.
The idea is to stay focused for a pre-determined time block and not letting ourselves distracted during this short duration of time. Each time block or Pomodoro® is traditionally 25 minutes, followed by a break of 5 minutes.
Steps to be followed in The Pomodoro Technique
The steps you should follow are listed below:
- Choose a task you want to perform. For example, you want to study the chapter project schedule management from PMBOK Guide.
- Switch off your mobile phone or turn it to silent mode. Log out of your wi-fi or mobile data. Switch off your laptop/ desktop; if you need it for reference, close all other windows except the one you need for reference.
- Tell yourself that for the next 25 minutes, you are just going to study. You will hold back your urge to check your notifications, whatsapp messages, email inbox or attend any incoming call (unless it is from your boss).
- Keep a notebook handy, in case if you want to note down anything really important that has to be taken up immediately after the 25 minutes.
- Don’t worry too much before starting. It’s just 25 minutes, nothing is going to change if you postpone those distractions by 25 minutes.
- Now, set your count-down timer to 25 minutes and start your study.
- You will focus only at the task at hand (studying project schedule management) for the next 25 minutes. If there is anything really urgent/ important that needs your attention, just note it down in the notebook. You can take it up after competing 25 minutes.
- Once you finish the 25 minutes, note down that you have earned one Pomodoro.
- Reward yourself with a 5 minutes break. You can use this 5 minutes to check your messages (or) attend to that missed call. Or, you can just relax and enjoy the break.
- Once the break is over, you will start your next session of 25 minutes.
- If you could complete 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break of 20 to 30 minutes.
Plan your Pomodoros
While stand-alone distraction-free sessions of 25 minutes will help, the real potential of Pomodoro technique will be realized once you start planning for longer periods. For example, how many Pomodoros do you want to achieve in a day or in a week?
If you are preparing for PMP exam, plan for about 3-4 Pomodoros every day and about 25-30 Pomodoros a week. You will realize that your concentration level improves and you are able to focus much better with this technique.
It might sound easy. And, you may be wondering whether it is really that useful. But, believe me, do it once for 25 minutes. You will reap the benefits of distraction-free study hours; you may find the focus to tick some of the to-do items in your list. Give it a try and let me know your experience.
Feel free to customize the technique to suit you. For example, you may want to tinker with the 25 minutes + 5 minutes combo; go ahead. You may just start with 15 minutes + 5 minutes; or, you may be happy with 45 minutes + 15 minutes. Nothing wrong, customize the technique the way that suits you better. I personally liked the 25 minutes + 5 minutes time blocks.
If you are excited about the Pomodoro technique, you can find more information at the following web sites:
- The official web site of the Pomodoro Technique
- Pomodoro Technique Illustrated (Pragmatic Life) – a book written by Staffan Noteberg
- Productivity 101: A Primer to The Pomodoro Technique
Greg Head, in the YouTube video below, explains how he uses the Pomodoro Technique to enable short bursts of useful concentration amidst his busy, distracted and multitasking life.
- The Pomodoro Technique® is a registered trademark by Francesco Cirillo.
- This blog is not affiliated with, associated with, or endorsed by the Pomodoro Technique® or Francesco Cirillo.
Certified Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)®
An enthusiastic project management practitioner and trainer.
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