Using the Pomodoro Technique to Engage and Train Remote Learners

Two months ago, no one was talking about social distancing. Now, it’s an undercurrent of every conversation. Companies are flocking to remote collaboration tools, some of which have added millions of users in recent weeks.

For some, remote working is nothing new. However, many of us aren’t just working remotely. We’re also taking care of our home-bound families. We’re homeschooling. We’re dealing with a significant shift in how our society works as a whole.

It can be more than a little distracting.

It’s no surprise that everyone is looking for ways to stay engaged and productive. In the past month, Google searches for the Pomodoro technique have risen by 70% worldwide.

What Is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. As he was developing this award-winning productivity strategy, Cirillo used a tomato-shaped egg timer. Being Italian, he called it a “Pomodoro,” and the name stuck.

Here’s the basic breakdown of the technique:

Choose a specific task.

    1. Set 25 minutes on your Pomodoro or app.
    2. Work on the task — and nothing else.
    3. When the timer rings, take a “micro-break” (three to five minutes long).
    4. Rinse and repeat.
    5. After four cycles, take a 15- to 30-minute break.

4 Reasons the Pomodoro Technique Improves Remote Work


1. Intense Focus

Do you struggle with staying on task while working remotely? The Pomodoro Technique can be a game-changer. No email, no quick Facebook messages, no phone calls. . . set one task, and stay focused on it until your time is up.

2. Sense of Urgency

With the timer counting down, tasks become a competitive race. This technique also provides data about your work habits, which boosts efficiency over time. For example, how long does it really take you to send an email?

3. Averted Perfectionism

Most of us struggle with perfectionism from time to time. With a timer counting down, there’s no room for endless tweaking. Instead, you can make better use of your time by working within the parameters you’ve set and then moving on.

4. Built-in Game Breaks

When working remotely, it can be easy to forget to take a break. On the other hand, it can be tempting to take too many breaks. Using the Pomodoro Technique, you can improve the balance between staying in the zone and taking a necessary recharge.

1. Team Building

Staying connected while working remotely is a challenge, even for highly interactive teams. An even bigger obstacle: When remote workers take breaks, it’s easy to disengage from the team. This challenge makes even the most vibrant company cultures fall flat. We love how creative agency, Rhapsody, maintains its weekly Zoom team happy hours (fancy dress encouraged) with bingo and quizzes to add some extra engagement. At The Game Agency, we’ve been hosting weekly team Jeopardy!® happy hours using our Jeopardy! game mechanic of course. The game can be played live, virtually with any web conferencing tool. Play a sample 80s game to see how the game works in single-player mode.

Here’s where gamification comes in. Games provide a fun outlet for teams to compete against each other and collaborate with each other. Combining them with the Pomodoro Technique allows for plenty of breaks without disrupting engagement.

2. Easing Anxiety

Work can be stressful in the best of times. Urgent work tasks, unexpected client shifts and extended screen time can all increase stress levels. During a crisis, constant news and social media updates may cause some workers to feel more anxious.

Playing games at work decreases stress and gives remote workers a much-needed dopamine boost. Short Pomodoro breaks are a great time for fun games that help keep workers fresh and relaxed — while teaching them something new. Game-based learning is engaging and immersive, which also makes it more likely to stick.

3. Rewarding Engagement

When team members have less face time, games are an efficient way to help employees feel valued and connected. With the authoring tools now available, it’s easy for anyone to build a game in a few minutes and then share them quickly through chat, email or web conference.

Games tap into employees intrinsic (e.g., a desire for recognition on a leaderboard) and extrinsic motivation (e.g., prizes and badges). You can offer your employees prizes for high scores (e.g., gift cards), an extra incentive that will encourage repeated play (and learning) while enabling connections with co-workers.

A Healthy Balance

During this remote work boom, it’s important to put the health of employees first — which means both physical health and mental health. By combining games with the Pomodoro technique, you can boost mental health by making work fun while maintaining productivity and team collaboration.

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