We’ve all been there: We sit down at our desk with a to-do list and look up an hour later to find that we know a lot more about Internet cat videos but have made zero progress on that list.
There are plenty of tricks out there to help you focus. One of the more popular techniques involves disabling WiFi on your computer so you aren’t tempted by an Internet rabbit hole. The problem: Many of us actually need the Internet in order to do our work.
Here’s an idea that might just do the trick: It’s called the Pomodoro Technique. It has been around since the 1980s, but is gaining increasing attention as we delve further into a world of constant daily distractions.
The Pomodoro Technique couldn’t be simpler:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes. During that time, you must focus on work. No unnecessary email checking. No distractions. Just hunker down and get it done.
- After 25 minutes, you get a 5 minute break to do whatever you want. Cat videos. Snack. Stretch. Chat with a coworker.
- After four successful 25/5 minute rounds, you get a longer break (traditionally 15-30 minutes).
The Pomodoro Technique still requires self-discipline, of course, but there’s something psychologically motivating about knowing that you have built-in breaks coming up. There are plenty of websites out there with free online Pomodoro timers (we’re not affiliated with any of them, or anyone promoting/selling anything related to this technique), but you could also just set a plain old kitchen timer or the timer on your phone.
And if you still can’t force yourself to get through your to-do list? Maybe it’s time to ask what you’re avoiding. Are there tasks you can delegate or outsource? Your time is valuable, and you should spend it doing things that cultivate progress. (Cat videos do not cultivate progress. Even the really funny ones.)