For some, the ability to “multitask” is worn as a badge of honor. But it doesn’t work for everyone (actually, anyone).
If you've ever thought you weren't effective because of an inability to multitask, you’re going to love what I am about to tell you - multitasking is a myth.
Let me explain.
Our nervous system can only process a certain amount of information at a time. That’s why it’s so hard to listen and understand two people who are talking to you at once.
The reality is it takes a good 20 minutes to return true focus to whatever you were working on once interrupted. While you might be able to do a lot of things at once, multitasking isn’t as great as you think because the quality of your work is worse than when you focus.
That's especially true for work that requires thought and focus.
Another way to get more done is to use the Pomodoro Technique.
This time management method, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, uses a timer to break down work into intervals, approximately 25 minutes in length, with short breaks in between.
The intervals are named pomodoros, the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student. If you don’t have a kitchen timer, surprise, surprise, there are many free and for pay Pomodoro apps out there.
In the original technique, there are six steps:
Decide on the task to be done.
Set the timer. (usually 25 minutes)
Work on the task at hand.
When the timer rings, put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
Take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go back to step 2.
After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), then repeat the entire process from the beginning.
The key to the Pomodoro Technique is rapid productivity through the shorts bursts of concentration. These cycles help keep you consistent, and the breaks help keep you motivated. Over time, the Pomodoro Technique has even been thought to help increase your overall attention span.
It’s important to note that the method is one that should not be interrupted, or else it should completely be started over from the beginning. Should you experience a disruption, Cirillo suggests the "inform, negotiate, and call back" strategy:
Inform the distraction that you're working on something right now.
Negotiate a time when you can get back to them
Schedule that follow-up immediately.
Call back the other party when your Pomodoro is complete.
The Pomodoro Technique may not be for everyone. If it doesn’t work for you, move on. There is no shame in accepting that a method doesn’t work for you and there’s always another way.