Motivation can be elusive. And huge goals are especially difficult to maintain motivation for. Like writing an entire book. Composing a whole album full of music. Trying to save for a home deposit or financial independence. Or implementing a new daily practice.
The Pomodoro Technique
Once you have defined your goal and broken it down into achievable chunks, the next step, of course, is to actually do it. And this is where the Pomodoro technique comes in.
Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique is a time-management method which uses a timer to break work down into short intervals of 25 minutes, known as ‘pomodoros’. (Cirillo’s kitchen timer was shaped like a tomato, hence, the time interval is named after the Italian word for tomato, pomodoro.)
The technique, as explained on Cirillo’s site, consists of six simple steps.
- Decide on the task to be done. You might even break this down into smaller tasks, each achievable within a single pomodoro (25 minutes). For example, you might check your bank balance, transfer the required amount to your mortgage and update your chart in one pomodoro, and in the next, you might prepare a budget for the month ahead. Or, you might aim to write 833 words of the scene in your book where the bad guy gets away, and then another 833 words of a different scene.
- Set the timer. If you have a cute tomato-shaped kitchen timer, great. If not, there are lots of free apps that do the job for you!
- Work solidly on the task. If you’re sitting at a desk, for instance, you shouldn’t be getting up from your chair except in case of emergency (the police are at the door, your small child needs you etc.). All forms of procrastination – getting up to go to the toilet or make a drink or wash the dishes etc. – you should try and get done during the break times, not during your precious pomodoros.
- When the timer rings, stop working and put a checkmark on a piece of paper (an app will generally do this for you).
- If you have fewer than four check marks, take a short break of 3-5 mins. Go back to step 2.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-30 mins. Reset your checkmark count to zero, and go back to step 1. (Again, an app will usually automatically schedule breaks for you)
If you’re anything like me, sitting down to write (or picking up my fife, or a paintbrush) often acts as an immediate invitation for my brain to think up other ‘urgent’ things to do. Like the dishes. Or the laundry.
The Pomodoro technique can help you to protect your creative time by carving out little 25-minute chunks in your day. And trust me. You’ll still find time to get all of those other essential tasks done.
In fact, FlyLady has a technique for cleaning and decluttering your home in just 15 minutes at a time – meaning that you can, in one ‘pomodoro block’ get your housework and your creative work done – while still having a rest! Check it out:
Here’s how you can combine Pomodoro and Fly-Lady methods:
- Pomodoro #1 (25 min)
- Break (5 min)
- Pomodoro #2 (25 min)
- Break (5 min)
- Pomodoro #3 (25 min)
- Break (5 min)
- Pomodoro #4 (25 min)
- Long Break (30 min – including 15 min FlyLady)
*Note: the beauty of this plan is you don’t need to find a big uninterrupted block of 2 hours to complete these tasks. The most you ever need to find at any given time is 25 mins. Read this article for more on how to find time in your day.
Think back to the goals you set in the last module, and test out the Pomodoro method on one of them now. How can you work towards achieving your first milestone today?
Keeping motivated long-term
So, you’re getting things done. You’re getting that debt down. You’re writing that book. How do you keep track of the big picture? You’ve got a way to stay motivated in the short-term (the Pomodoro technique) but how can you keep motivated long-term?