The Pomodoro Technique

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Written By : Anish A, Programme Manager, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, ASAP Kerala

What Is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have rather than against it. Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. These intervals are referred to as Pomodoro. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes.
The Pomodoro technique is centred around 4 basic principles. These 4 basic principles are:
1. Work with time, not against it
2. Eliminate burnout
3. Manage distractions
4. Create better work/life balance

1. Choose a task
2. Set a timer for 25 minutes
3. Work on your task until the timer rings, if finished, cross it off on your to-do list
4. Take a five-minute break
5. Repeat the first 4 steps 3 or 4 more times
6. Take a 15-minute break

At first, working in such small increments felt unnatural. There were quite a few times especially in the beginning when I was tempted to ignore the timer and continue working. But I forced myself to stick to the format.
Adapting to short bursts or sprints of work takes practice. Avoid tracking Pomodoro sessions either as what gets measured gets managed. After some time, the technique started to really gel with me. I was focused and productive during my work time, as I was eager to get as much completed during that 25-minute interval as I could.
Because I was forced to get up and give myself a rest from staring at my laptop screen, I found that I actually did feel better at the end of each day. Not only did I feel like I had put in an honest day’s work, but I also felt less stressed, blurry-eyed, and cramped up.

I increased my Pomodoro sessions to 30 minutes, as I prefer a round number. Some advocates aim for 60-minute blocks of focused work. You can go the other way too. If 25 minutes feels too long, try 15 or a random amount of time like 18 minutes. Remember, the goal is to cultivate blocks of focused work. You don’t need to stack four Pomodoro sessions on top of each other like the technique prescribes, although it helps. One or two Pomodoro sessions a day sets a tone whereby you feel more focused and productive, even if you’re not up against a self-imposed timer
All in all, I was surprised to find that I actually really liked the Pomodoro Technique, and I think it lived up to its promises of making me more focused and productive. I’m planning on using it on those days when there’s nothing in my calendar.

However, I’m curious to see how well it works for someone who regularly has a lot of meetings, phone calls, and appointments.
However, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t outline at least one drawback. While it worked great on the days when all of my time was my own, it became quite complicated when I had scheduled calls and meetings. I didn’t think my colleagues would react too favourably to me yelling, “Be back in five! My timer just went off!” in the middle of a conversation.

Goals of the Pomodoro Technique
The aim of the Pomodoro Technique is to provide a simple tool/process for improving productivity (your own and that of your team) that is able to do the following:
1. Alleviate anxiety linked to becoming.
2. Enhance focus and concentration by cutting down on interruptions.
3. Increase awareness of your decisions.
4. Boost motivation and keep it constant.
5. Bolster the determination to achieve your goals.
6. Refine the estimation process, both in qualitative and quantitative terms.
7. Improve your work or study process.
8.Strengthen your determination to keep on applying yourself in the face of complex situations.

Basic Assumptions

The Pomodoro Technique is founded on three basic assumptions:
1. A different way of seeing time (no longer focused on the concept of becoming) alleviates anxiety and in doing so leads to enhanced personal effectiveness.
2. Better use of the mind enables us to achieve greater clarity of thought, higher consciousness, and sharper focus, all the while facilitating learning.
3. Employing easy-to-use, unobtrusive tools reduces the complexity of applying the Technique while favouring continuity and allows you to concentrate your efforts on the activities you want to accomplish. Many time management techniques fail because they subject the people who use them to a higher level of added complexity with respect to the intrinsic complexity of the task at hand.

Take a 5-minute break
After you’ve been hard at work and focused on your tasks for a good 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break. But, your break shouldn’t be longer or shorter than 5 minutes. So, you might want to stay away from WhatsApp, Facebook etc..(it tends to extend your break). On the other hand, don’t just keep working through either. The breaks are implemented in this technique for a reason. If you skip your breaks, you’ll become mentally fatigued. Some things you might want to do during your 5-minute break include: listen to a song, organize your desk, do a little exercise, go to get a drink, or even go to the bathroom.

Why the tomato? 🍅
Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. The pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo as a university student, when he used a tomato timer to measure his 25-minute sessions. These intervals became known as pomodoros and the technique became its namesake.

Remember to be patient, you’re not going to be Mr. Productivity in a week. You might not get through every Pomodoro, sometimes you won’t keep working. That’s okay. Everybody makes mistakes, so when you mess up just move on to the next thing. If you stay focused and keep working through all of your mistakes, you can still get the job done in half the time. Also, remember to take time before and after you work. Take time before you work to plan out your day’s tasks. This could be the night before, or right when you get there but it needs to be done. After the job is done, take time at the end of your work to review what went well (and what didn’t) and plan for the next day.