Want to Be as Productive as Possible? Try the Pomodoro Technique

iStock
iStock

No matter what your job, chances are, you probably could be making better use of your time. If you really want to be more productive, but don’t know where to start, you should start out small. Try the Pomodoro Technique, a popular, simple time management system that can help you focus on the task at hand.

The Pomodoro Technique “changed my workday—and ultimately, my life,” entrepreneur Chris Winfield wrote on the Buffer Open blog. He’s not the only one. It’s one of the most popular time management systems out there, for good reason.

The method was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, then a university student. He published a book about the system in 2006, and now works as a productivity consultant.

His technique is popular in part because it’s so simple. The concept is this: When you sit down to complete a task, set a timer for 25 minutes. Work on that single task continuously for that time period, without pausing for interruptions or breaks—which means no Facebook, no email, and no trips to the bathroom. If you have a thought you need to return to, just write it down, then keep working. When that 25 minutes is up, give yourself a five-minute break. You did it! If you can, complete this cycle four times, then take a longer break of 30 or so minutes.

During that 25-minute period of work time, you’ll probably be surprised by how many times your attention wanders, and how often you have the urge to give in to the distraction. "Surely I can answer one email," you’ll think. "What about just a quick Twitter break?" But the beauty of the timer is that not only do you have a small, manageable goal to work toward—those few minutes of uninterrupted productivity—but you can see your progress and keep yourself accountable as your timer winds down.

There’s some science to support the technique, too. Studies have found that brief breaks help improve focus. By giving yourself a bit of a reprieve, you’re making yourself a better worker.

And if someone interrupts you during your Pomodoro time? Pause the clock. Try to negotiate a time when you can get to their concern, whether that’s returning their phone call or scheduling a meeting for later. If it can’t wait, you’ll need to reset your timer.

There are several Pomodoro apps and sites to help you out on your productivity journey. You can use websites like TomatoTimer, or download an app like focus booster. But you don’t need to spend any money on it. Any timer will do just fine.

If 25 minutes feels like too short of a period to get anything done, try another proven productivity timeline: work for 52 minutes, then break for 17. Good luck. Your to-do list will thank you.

[h/t Buffer]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Google Is Tracking Everything You Do With Its ‘Smart’ Features—Here’s How to Make That Stop

Maybe you don't want Google seeing how many exclamation points you use in your emails.
Maybe you don't want Google seeing how many exclamation points you use in your emails.
Taryn Elliott, Pexels

Since we don’t all have personal assistants to draft emails and update our calendars, Google has tried to fill the void with ‘smart’ features across Gmail, Google Chat, and Google Meet. These automatic processes cover everything from email filtering and predictive text to notifications about upcoming bills and travel itineraries. But such personalized assistance requires a certain amount of personal data.

For example, to suggest email replies that match what you’d choose to write on your own—or remind you about important emails you’ve yet to reply to—Google needs to know quite a bit about how you write and what you consider important. And that involves tracking your actions when using Google services.

For some people, Google’s helpful hints might save enough time and energy to justify giving up full privacy. If you’re not one of them, here’s how to disable the ‘smart’ features.

As Simplemost explains, first open Gmail and click the gear icon (settings) in the upper right corner of the page. Select ‘See all settings,’ which should default to the ‘General’ tab. Next to ‘Smart Compose,’ ‘Smart Compose personalization,’ and ‘Smart Reply,’ choose the ‘Off’ options. Next to ‘Nudges,’ uncheck both boxes (which will stop suggestions about what emails you should answer or follow up on). Then, switch from the ‘General’ tab to ‘Inbox’ and scroll down to ‘Importance markers.’ Choose ‘No markers’ and ‘Don’t use my past actions to predict which messages are important.’

Seeing these settings might make you wonder what other information you’ve unwittingly given Google access to. Fortunately, there’s a pretty easy way to customize it. If you open the ‘Accounts’ tab (beside ‘Inbox’) and choose ‘Google Account settings,’ there’s an option to ‘Take the Privacy Checkup.’ That service will walk you through all the privacy settings, including activity tracking on Google sites, ad personalization, and more.

[h/t Simplemost]