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How to Increase Your Productivity

Beth Bradford

7/16/23, 12:54 PM

If you struggle with productivity and find yourself procrastinating, you're not alone! Learn this technique on how to increase productivity and avoid procrastination.

I am one of the world’s biggest procrastinators. I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve started but not completed. In fact, I bought a book on procrastination and didn’t finish it.

When I worked in the news industry, it worked well for me because each project had to be finished by 11 p.m.—or sometimes earlier. The main motivator behind my finishing my Ph.D. in three years was that I was tired of the meager graduate school stipend.

I’ve been working on the same project for about eight months now, and you’d think that the pandemic would give me ample opportunity to finish it. No. I’ve spent more time doom-scrolling about COVID-19 and the U.S. Election.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I remembered something that helped me complete some of my grading and research projects. It was rare for me to procrastinate at work because I knew the work would simply pile up.

To get me through the most mundane moments of work, I used the Pomodoro Technique. It’s basically interval training for work. Francesco Cirillo conceived of this technique as a way to get his graduate work done. Pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian, and he coined the term after his tomato-shaped kitchen timer, which is all you need for this method.

Set your timer for 25 minutes, and begin work. Remember that this is your time for this specific task. You can’t check your emails or notifications on your phone. There will be times when you’ll ask, “How much time is left?” You check the time, which you always know is no longer than 25 minutes. Then you tell yourself, “I can continue for this amount of time.”

After the time goes off, reset the timer for 5 minutes. That’s your time to check emails, gaze at your social media feed, or use the bathroom. After that 5 minutes is over, it’s back to another 25 minutes of work.

Typically I do two hours of this, then I take a longer break.

This is a practice in attention, something that we can all admit has waned the past several years. When work becomes tenuous, distractions are so tempting. However, these distractions can easily take up more time than the work itself. Setting a timer to focus for a given amount of time helps get us over the hump because we know our minds can take a break every so often.

These breaks also help our minds overall because after rest, they have more energy to resume work. The break might also help you arrive at an answer you might be tackling.

You’re also not tempted to multitask, which actually is a productivity-killer. You can find Pomodoro Timers in several app stores so you can install them on your phone or desktop.

It can be hard to continue on long-term projects. They just seem to be so big, even if you break them down into small chunks. Each day tell yourself, “Just 25 minutes, even if you stare at your computer for 25 minutes.” It’s just enough to get you to arrive at your project each day and keep the energy of it alive.

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