Article: Rupal Sorkhel | Edited: Atri Das | Illustrations: Nivedita Tripathi
“When you repeat a behavior over time, your brain learns to automate the process." - Stephen Guise
You must be wondering why on Earth you might need to break something in order to make something. Voila! The Pomodoro Technique - one of the most beneficial time management frameworks to have ever been developed. It is an essential life hack which includes breaking down time in order to increase productivity with less procrastination. This technique has been immensely popularized by innumerable applications and websites providing timers and necessary instructions. But why Pomodoro? The Italian word for a tomato is “pomodoro”. Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the technique, as an University student, in the early 1990’s used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to break down and track his workload in intervals (traditionally 25 minutes long) separated by short breaks. Each of these intervals came to be known as pomodoro. How do you use ‘pomodoro’ ? The physical act of winding the timer confirms the user's determination to start the task; ticking externalizes desire to complete the task and ringing announces a break. Winding down of the timers can help to wrap up the current task faster while spreading the task over a few pomodoros can reduce frustration. The constancy leads to better accountability, minimizing distractions.
Apart from the time management the Pomodoro Technique provides, the planning, tracking, recording, processing and visualizing are of equal importance. Planning enables to estimate the effort required by tasks while recording completed tasks adds to a sense of accomplishment and helps in self-observation and improvement. The rituals of planning the day, winding the timer, crossing out a Pomodoro, and recording the progress make you feel you are in control of your tasks, and not overwhelmed by them.
Traditionally, the method is meant to be carried out through these six steps:
Choose the task to be completed, realistically.
Set the timer to 25 minutes, and protect yourself from internal and external distractions of any sort.
Work on the task with full and undivided attention. Avoid checking the timer.
End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark (X) on a piece of paper to mark your progress.
If there are fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break of about 3 to 5 minutes and then return to step 2; otherwise continue with step 6.
After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15 to 30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero and then go to step 1.
Therefore, pomodoro refers to the interval of time spent working. It is essential to limit interruptions (curb the impulse to procrastinate or switch to another thought or task) of any sort and engage in 25 minutes of intense focus. Regular breaks aid in assimilation of new information. A short break (3 to 5 minutes) separates consecutive pomodoros. These short breaks promote sustained concentration and ward off fatigue. Four pomodoros form a set. A longer (15 to 30 minutes) rest is taken between sets.
Shorter breaks can be utilized to breathe, meditate, grab a coffee, do eye exercises, stand up and stretch, get a water refill. Cirillo suggested that if one finished the task within time then the rest of the time should be utilized to review, edit and note what all has been learnt or reflect on upcoming tasks. What do I gain ? This simple technique aims to provide a user with maximum focus and creative freshness in order to complete projects faster with less psychological exhaustion and mere use of a mechanical timer, paper and pencil. Most of us make time our enemy by racing against the clock to meet deadlines. This technique teaches you to work with time instead of struggling against it. It eliminates burnout, manages distraction and creates a work-life balance.
The technique is ideal for tasks like writing, coding, design, repetitive work and study. It is also useful for individuals who have long to-do lists, tend to work past the point of optimal productivity, jump between a lot of tasks throughout the day, work on large projects that seem to have neither end nor beginning. It points towards reducing the impact of external and internal interruptions on focus and flow. Any interruption must be recorded, postponed or abandoned using the inform- negotiate-schedule- call back strategy. Will this technique work for me ? In spite of being a popular and systematic way of handling work and study habits, it isn’t for everyone. For one individual productivity might increase in leaps and bounds while for others it might not work at all. It is a matter of personal preference. A pomodoro session is long enough to complete a task but not long enough to become overwhelming. Short bursts of focused work bring about a sense of accomplishment.
This technique is criticized because some feel its an all or nothing affair. A 25-minute block has to be completed for a task completion or you can’t mark the progress. But if you are unable to complete the activity maybe because of a lack of time (pre scheduled calls and meetings) then it may not result in marking an X. It might result in stress and guilt for some individuals because of a lack of progress.
Some also feel that it lacks definitive rules and a timer isn’t essential to hold concentration. The ‘inform, negotiate and reschedule’ procedure may not always work. For e.g., it is not possible to ask your boss not to interrupt you.
The pomodoro technique is popular with freelancers wanting to track time, students wishing to study more effectively and anyone looking to improve themselves at work or in their personal projects. It has inspired different application software for varied platforms. Few of the apps that have implemented this framework are Marinara Timer (Web), Tomighty (Win/Mac/Linux), Eggcelent (OS X), Focus Timer (iOS).
It has been closely related to concepts of timeboxing and iterative and incremental development used in software designing and has been adopted in pair programming contexts. There are also several variations devised to tailor specific needs of individuals and better suit their working styles. Some variations preserve the core pomodoro technique of working in time blocks by adjusting the periods to better suit subjective differences. These include:
· Work in 90-minute block intervals to reflect a natural concentration cycle.
· Work in natural time periods. For e.g., focus periods between meetings or till the oven timer goes off.
· Monitor periods of naturally high productivity and then workout the best productivity system from that data.
Pomodoro can prove to be extremely effective, but for inculcating the habit of the ritual one needs to be extremely determined! In case you are having trouble with time management, give us a ring! We can help fix it!