How to MAXIMIZE Productivity (Pomodoro Technique)

Table of contents

If you guys have watched any of my “daily routine” videos, you’ll notice that I almost always tap a screen to start a countdown-timer when I begin working, but it’s not just a countdown timer,  what I’m using is actually an entire productivity framework called “The Pomodoro” technique. I’ve used it religiously for over 8 years and it is far and away the best productivity framework I have ever found. 

In this video, I’ll show you exactly what it is, review the keys to making it work, and then show you the tweaks that I’ve made as well as the app that I use to make it work for me. 

Let’s begin. 

The Pomodoro Technique: explained

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the late 1980’s by Francesco Cirillo. As the story goes, he was a university student who, in an effort to improve his focus, started using a Pomodoro Kitchen Timer, Pomodoro is Italian for “tomato”, to work in timed intervals, and so the Pomodoro Technique was born. 

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Choose a task to work on

This could be studying for a test, writing a script for a YouTube video, or even reading a book.

Step 2: Set A count-down timer for 25 minutes

You can use a kitchen timer if you’d like, but I prefer using an app on my phone. More on that shortly. 

Step 3: Work ONLY on that task

Direct 100% of your energy and focus on the task you’ve chosen to work on. When the 25 minutes have completed, mark off one pomodoro, and then. 

Step 4: Take a 5 minute break

You can do whatever you want during your break. Ideally you should get up and stretch, refill your water, and hit the bathroom. 

Step 5: For every 4 Pomodoros, take a 20-30 minute break

Making the Pomodoro Technique effective

Ok, so now that you understand what the Pomodoro, let’s talk about the 2 main things that you need to understand to make it effective. 

1. Eliminate distractions & focus ONLY on the individual task

The Pomodoro Technique is about maintaining a laser-like focus for the entirety of each Pomodoro session. This means putting your phone on silent or in do not disturb mode, as well as removing any and all distractions that might present themselves. 

The rule is that if you get distracted and have to “stop” focusing on whatever task you were working on, that you have to cancel out that pomodoro and start from scratch on the next one. 

Now what I particularly love about this is that, over time, as you condition yourself to laser focus on individual tasks, you’ll find it much easier to slip into a “flow” state. If you’re interested in learning more about flow states, and Wu-Wei, the art of action without effort, I’ll drop a link for the video. 

2. Estimate how many Pomodoros you need for each task 

As you do more and more Pomodoros, your ability to plan and complete tasks will improve, it works from both ends, let me explain. 

So on the one end, let’s say you have a big task to finish, such as responding to over 600 emails, which I recently had to do after my big Africa trip. 

I’ve been doing Pomodoro’s for so long that I know it takes me 1 Pomodoro’s to get through 50 emails, so 600 emails should take me 12 times that amount, or 12 Pomodoro’s. So Pomodoro’s can help us to understand how long tasks actually take so that we can better organize our day. 

But on the other end, Pomodoro’s also increase our ability to complete tasks, because with each Pomodoro, we’re essentially racing to get as much as we can done within that period of time. 

For example, when I’m working on a script for a 1 minute video for my business, I’m always trying to knock the whole thing out in just a single Pomodoro, and so it feels like a race against time to get it done, but not by sacrificing quality, because the script isn’t done until it’s done. 

The “race against time” feeling is all about cutting out inefficiency, by adding a “timer” element to each task we do, over time we build the habit of eliminating inefficiency, and that’s an extremely important habit to develop for anyone looking to get a lot done in a small window of time. 

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How I use the Pomodoro Technique

This is definitely the part of the video you’ve been waiting for, and if for some odd reason it wasn’t, trust me, this is the part of the video you’re going to most enjoy, because we’re going to move into a complete breakdown of everything I’ve learned using and adapting  the Pomodoro Technique for 8+ years. 

1. Find the time interval that works for you

So way back when I first started trying to implement the Pomodoro Technique in my own routines, 25 minutes just wasn’t working for me, it simply wasn’t enough time, I found myself annoyed by what seemed like constant interruptions during deep flow states. 

My solution was to increase the time. For about 5 years, I found that 40 minute pomodoros and 8 minute breaks worked great for me. Over the last few years, I’ve switched to 50 minute pomo’s with 10 minute breaks, and that’s worked even better. 

Now a few things to note here. The length of your pomodoro’s should reflect how much blood flow you’re getting, let me explain. 

I’m extremely physically active, I spend at least 2-3 hours per day doing physical activity like working out, swimming, biking, and salsa, I also spend at least 2 pomodoros per day using my treadmill desk, and even when sitting down I have a vibration plate that I turn on to keep my blood flowing. This is how I’m able to sustain lots of 50 minute pomodoro’s each day. 

Sitting for long periods of time without activities that generate blood flow is really bad, so if you’re someone who spends most of their day sitting with very little physical activity, your Pomodoro’s probably should be closer to 25 minutes. If you’ve got a standing desk or spend part of the day standing, yes it’s better than sitting, but only slightly. Keep that blood flowing. 

Which brings us to point #2. 

2. Use your breaks wisely

When I’m working at the cafe and I don’t have the benefits of my treadmill or vibration plate, I’ll usually use my 10 minute breaks to a quick stretching routine, hamstrings, quads, calves, and these two hip flexor stretches. Then I’ll also do some arm stretches, focusing mostly on this stretch where I’m countering the effects of having rounded shoulders which we all do especially when working on a computer. 

Then I’ll go for a walk, where I’ll usually climb the stairs to the top floor, do a quick lap, and then go down those same stairs. The important thing here is to get that blood-flowing so you can prepare your body to be idle for another pomodoro session. 

As long as I’m getting good blood flow, then I’ll mostly just use my breaks to check messages from my team on Slack and Whatsapp, watch something mindless on YouTube, or sometimes just rest my head and close my eyes. 

Because my Pomodoro’s are so long, I take my long break after 3 Pomodoro’s instead of after 4. I’ll usually use that break to eat something, take a nap, or move to a different location. 

3. Find a good Pomodoro App

I’ve tried every Pomodoro App under the sun, and my absolute favorite is called Minimalist Pomodoro Timer which you can grab in the Google Play Store, if you have an iphone then I recommend a similar app called Minimalist

It’s my favorite because it’s extremely lightweight. When it comes to productivity, the key for me has always been simplicity, and Minimalist Pomodoro Timer is exactly that. 

I don’t need my Pomodoro App to grow me a Forest, or to play music for me, since I have my own music that I like listening to, I just need to be able to open it up and tap once with my finger to start counting. Well that and I also need it to keep track of how many Pomodoro’s I’ve done… and play some sort of sound when the Pomodoro and Breaks are finished.

I’ve got one final recommendation that’s extremely important, but I’ll save that for the end. For now let’s do a quick recap of everything we’ve covered. 

Summary

The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity technique consisting of 25 minute work sessions followed by 5 minute breaks. 

After every 4 Pomodoro’s, take a long break of 20-30 minutes. 

While engaged in a Pomodoro, eliminate all distractions and focus only on the individual task, if you have to answer a phone call or attend to some other distraction, you lose that pomodoro. 

Estimate how many Pomodoro’s you need for each task to help improve not only your ability to properly plan for tasks, but also your efficiency in completing them. 

I prefer 50 Minute Pomodoro’s with 10 minute breaks, and a long break every 3 Pomodoro’s. Find what works best for you!

Make sure to use your breaks wisely, in addition to refilling water, grabbing a quick snack, and going to the bathroom, make sure to also stretch and get that blood flowing.

Lastly, keep everything simple. I’ve seen lots of people recommend doing things like writing down distractions or planning out your entire day ahead of time via a to-do list. I personally find that these things create unnecessary friction, and I believe that the people who recommend these things are just talking from theory, I’m talking to you from years of actual application. 

When it comes to a productivity system that you will actually be able to maintain for months and years, the critical factor is keeping things as simple as possible and removing all friction. 

Which brings me to my final piece of advice. 

Conclusion

The Pomodoro Technique is ultimately a framework that you need to adapt to you. 

The key components are to focus on an individual task, for a set amount of time, and then take a short break. You should play around with that, try different times for Pomodoro and break lengths, try different apps, and find the proper Pomodoro Technique configuration that works for you. 

Alright guys, hope you’ve enjoyed the video, I’m going to be starting another Dark Mode soon which we’ll actually be making into a series for this channel.

Dark Mode is the overarching productivity system that I use whenever I need to really bunker down to achieve major goals, right now I’m working towards climbing Everest in 2023.

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Make sure to follow me on Instagram @NelsonQuest. I’ve been making a lot of effort to provide lots of additional insights and ‘behind the scenes’ type stuff that you guys seem to really be benefitting from. I’ll do my best to keep that up. 

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