I recently posted about my current lack of motivation and inability to focus on my university study, in ‘Lost: Motivation. Rewards if Found’. I’m not bored! I want to learn and take all this information in, but at the moment, it’s just not happening. The archives and records community on Twitter were very helpful, and I received some great advice for keeping on track, and taking time out for myself. One piece of advice suggested that I try the Pomodoro Technique. I had not heard of it before, so I did a little research…
What is it?
The Pomodoro Technique is a method of time management, a cyclical system which ensures constant productivity, and simply consists of using timed intervals (called Pomodoros) for focussing on a particular task, with frequent short breaks. Francesco Cirillo, who created the technique, named it after the tomato-shaped timer that he used.
When using the Pomodoro Technique, the general consensus is that the Pomodoro (your focus time) should be set for 25 minutes, followed by a five minute break to clear your mind, grab a drink or a snack, or just stretch your legs. Once the break is over, the next Pomodoro begins. The technique suggests that a round of Pomodoros is four sessions, followed by a longer break of 20-30 minutes.
How did it work for me?
On both occasions of trying out the technique, I turned my phone to airplane mode so that it wasn’t a distraction, and made the decision to allow the timer to run its course, and not to check how long was left every now and then.
My first attempt at the technique was on an early morning train to London. I was able to fit in half a round of Pomodoros (2 x 25-minute focus session plus 5 minute breaks), which perfectly matched my hour-long commute. I was really tired and didn’t find myself enjoying the article that I was trying to read. I really appreciated the 5-minute breaks when they came around, but I was still distracted by people getting on and off the train and chatting loudly. My mind kept wondering how long was left and I caught myself a few times thinking ‘it must have been 10 minutes by now’ or ‘surely it’s been 25 minutes’ or ‘maybe I should check that I actually started the timer…’
On my second go of using the technique I was at home, alone, in the comfort of my own office, in the afternoon, in a comfortable surrounding, and with plenty of space. This attempt was much more successful. I didn’t think about how much time had gone by, or how much time was left. When the timer went off, I felt that the focus tie was an appropriate length, and that I had managed to read and make notes on a decent amount of the article. I hadn’t felt a surge of relief when the timer went off, unlike the early morning attempt, but it did feel good to stop working and pop downstairs to make a cup of coffee and get away from what I was doing for a brief moment.
A tomato-shaped timer might look fun, but really, any timer would work. There are quite a number of apps available on the iPhone app store that advocate this style of time management (not being an android or Google phone user, I can’t speak for them, but I would assume that there would be something similar available through these devices too).
Realistically, I don’t think I’ll be employing the technique on an early morning train again. I might have a browse of an article during my commute, but the atmosphere and noise levels on a train are not really conducive to focussed study. (I could imagine that it might work better in a quiet First Class carriage, but I’m a student and can’t really afford to try that out).
I can imaging that this technique would work well in situations where very repetitive work is required, especially repetitive computer work, as the short breaks would give your eyes a rest from focusing on a computer screen for too long. One of my voluntary archive roles involves very repetitive computer work from time to time, and I will definitely give this technique a try when the time comes.
There is nothing worse that staring at an article or your computer for hours on end trying to squeeze some work out of nowhere. Having a process of timed focus accompanied by regular short breaks does seem to advocate productivity. The Pomodoro Technique worked well for me, once I was in a comfortable and suitable environment, so I think that there are appropriate situations in which to employ the technique (being on a train is not one of them). Research suggests that repeated use of the technique can help you develop a more focussed mindset, so I will definitely be employing this technique again on a regular basis.
Header image from Productivityist.
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Cirillo Company, ‘The Pomodoro Technique’, Cirillo Company [n.d.] <http://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique> [last accessed 05 February 2017].
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Henry, Alan, ‘Productivity 101: A Primer to the Pomodoro Technique’, lifehacker, (February 2014) <http://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-pomodoro-technique-1598992730> [last accessed 05 February 2017).
Kennedy, Sean, ’12 Pomodoro Timer Apps that Will Boost Your Productivity’, Zapier (September 2015) <https://zapier.com/blog/best-pomodoro-apps/> [last accessed 05 February 2017].
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