Improve Your Attention Span and Concentration in 2017

It’s the time of year where we began reflecting on the year, highlighting our Victories while analyzing the areas of improvement.

I must admit, I’m a Serial Reflector and Visionary (if there were such a thing).. constantly looking at situations or things wondering – how can I add value? I’ve learned ‘I can’t give – what I don’t have’ so I must improve.

If we improve.. we’ll be able to:

  • Improve the lives of those around us as we continue to improve our own
  • Show the people who’ve given us opportunities – those opportunities were truly appreciated
  • Be an example of continuous improvement to our loved ones, friends and associates

Self-development requires the implementation of a customized Productivity Strategy – which allows us effectively manage our time and effort. The only difference between ‘where we are now’ and ‘where we want to be’ – is how we spend our time on a daily basis. Therefore, we need to a Time Management Strategy – which allows us to Focus on our priorities.

When I’ve learned adults are only able to focus on a given task area for 20-25 minutes – I knew I needed to find a Strategy that maximizes this limitation.

Enter the Pomodoro Technique.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The methodology is simple: When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly-refilling inboxes. With time it can even help improve your attention span and concentration.

Simply put..

Pomodoro is a cyclical system. You work in short sprints , which makes sure you’re consistently productive. You also get to take regular breaks that bolster your motivation and keep you creative.

The History of the Pomodoro Technique

It was invented in the early 90s by developer, entrepreneur, and author Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo named the system “Pomodoro” after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student.

How the Pomodoro Technique Works

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished.
  2. Set the Pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
  5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

That “longer break” is usually on the order of 15-30 minutes, whatever it takes to make you feel recharged and ready to start another 25-minute work session. Repeat that process a few times over the course of a workday, and you actually get a lot accomplished—and took plenty of breaks to grab a cup of coffee or refill your water bottle in the process.

Use the Pomodoro Technique to Manage Distractions

If you’re distracted by Family, a Friend, coworker, meeting or emergency – you have the following options:

  • End the pomodoro there (saving your work and starting a new one later)
  • Postpone the distraction until the pomodoro is complete
    • Implement the “inform, negotiate and call back” strategy:
      • Inform the other (distracting) party that you’re working on something right now
      • Negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue in a timely manner
      • Schedule that follow-up immediately
      • Call back the other party when your pomodoro is complete and you’re ready to tackle their issue

Of course not every distraction is that simple and some things demand immediate attention – but not every distraction does. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to tell the person “I’m in the middle of something right now, but can I get back to you in….ten minutes?” Doing so doesn’t just keep you in the groove, it also gives you control over your day.

What do I need to Get Started with the Pomodoro Technique?

A timer is the only essential Pomodoro tool – you can get started with any phone with a timer app, a countdown clock or even a plain old egg timer. Below you will find a number of Pomodoro apps that offer more features than a simple timer offers:

  • Marinara Timer (Web) is a webapp which you can keep open in a pinned tab. You can select your timer alerts so you know when to take a break, or reconfigure the work times and break times to suit you. It’s remarkably flexible, and you don’t have to install anything
  • Tomighty (Win/Mac/Linux) is a cross-platform desktop Pomodoro timer that you can fire and forget – following the traditional Pomodoro rules or use to customize your own work and break periods
  • Pomodorable (OS X) is a combination Pomodoro timer and to-do app. It offers more visual cues when your tasks are complete and what you have coming up next, and it integrates nicely with OS X’s Reminders app. Plus, you can estimate how many pomodoros you’ll need to complete a task, and then track your progress
  • Simple Pomodoro (Android) is a free, open-source timer with a minimal aesthetic. Tap to start the timer and get to work, and take your breaks when your phone’s alarm goes off. You can’t do a lot of tweaking to the work and break periods, but you get notifications when to take your breaks and when to go back to work, and you can go back over your day to see how many Pomodoros you’ve accomplished over the day. It even integrates with Google Tasks
  • Focus Timer (iOS) is a pretty feature-rich timer for iPhone and iPad. You can customize work and break duration’s, review your work history to see how your focus is improving, easily see how much time is left in your work session, and the app even offers a star-based rating system to keep you motivated. You can even customize the sounds, and hear the clock ticking when you lock your phone so you stay on task.

These are just a few good tools to choose from. Don’t hesitate to experiment with others, but remember, the focus of the Pomodoro Technique is on the work, not the timer you use. If you would like an actual tomato timer like Cirillo uses, this one is available for $7 at Amazon. Alternatively, you can buy a tomato timer and a copy of the book together from him directly. If you want Kindle or ePub versions of the book, grab them directly from Cirillo’s store as well.

Will the Pomodoro Technique Work for Me?

If you want to improve your quality of life – effectively managing your time is mandatory.

Remember: The Pomodoro is a productivity system—not a set of shackles. If you’re making progress and the timer goes off – it’s okay to pause the timer, finish what you’re doing and then take a break. The goal is to help you get into the zone and focus—but it’s also to remind you to come up for air. Regular breaks are important for your productivity . Also, keep in mind that Pomodoro is just one method, and it may or may not work for you. It’s flexible, but don’t try to shoehorn your work into it if it doesn’t fit. Productivity isn’t everything —it’s a means to an end, and a way to spend less time on what you have to do so you can put time to the things you want to do. If this method helps, go for it. If not, don’t force it.

Integrating Pomodoro With Other Productivity Methods

Since the Pomodoro Technique focuses squarely on how you do your work and not on how you organize your work, it’s just begging to be remixed with other methods and systems .

  • GTD (aka, Getting Things Done) which allows you to easily use GTD to organize and prioritize—and then use Pomodoro to actually get your work done
  • Kaizen which emphasizes continual improvement over time
  • Scrum which demands flexibility in organization and priority, but still requires results

Many productivity systems focus on organization or specific tools. In those cases, the goal is to help you avoid forgetting things and prioritize your work. Whereas, Pomodoro’s focus is on ensuring you make progress on your tasks, stay focused and get things done without going crazy.

You don’t need other people to get on-board before starting the Pomodoro method because it’s highly personal – It only impacts how you work.

Additional Reading

Now that you have the tools required to get up and running with the Pomodoro system if you want to give it a try. It’s not difficult, and you may find that it helps you focus. There’s more to the picture here, and Cirillo’s book can offer more guidance and specific examples if you need them. Beyond that, here’s a short list of additional resources worth reading:

To a certain point, you can only read so much about the Pomodoro Technique—you have to just try it out on your own and see if it works for you. With luck, it’ll give you a way to be continuously productive while keeping you from burning out. Don’t worry if you don’t rack up five or ten pomodoros in a day: Many people who love the method note you may only get one or two in before you’re distracted by something unavoidable. The upshot however is that those one or two pomodoros may be more productive than anything else you do all day.

Credits: I’ve edited the article found on Lifehacker specifically for my Audience







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