Of the hundreds of productivity tools and methods available today, one stands apart due to its simplicity and effectiveness – the Pomodoro Technique. It’s probably the most talked about productivity method available. It’s simplicity must have had productivity tool designers slapping there foreheads, saying “why didn’t I think of that!” So let me turn on my pomodoro, put my nose to the grindstone, and get this article written.
Francesco Cirillo developed a method of ‘chunking’ using his kitchen timer which was shaped like a pomodoro, Italian for tomato. He would set the timer for 25 minutes, and during that time, focus on his task or tasks that he had predetermined to complete. After the 25 minute interval, take a 5 minute break, then resume another ‘pomodoro’ interval of 25 minutes. After four of these intervals, he would take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. That’s it. Simple, right? But the science behind it is genius.
First of all, science has proven that the human brain does not function as well when asked to0 multi-task. As much as we would like to think that we multi-task well, it just is not true. The more separate tasks that we interleave with each other, the worse our productivity gets. So focusing on one task until it is complete is the most efficient and productive way to carry out that task. The Pomodoro Technique is a linear process that encourages the user to work on the task until it is complete, and only then, begin working on the next.
Second, the longer a brain is engaged in a task requiring sharp concentration and focus, the less productive it gets. Have you noticed that when studying for an exam, or trying to understand a new concept, you tend to ‘lose momentum’ after a while. You may think that your brain just can’t comprehend this new concept, or hold any more information, but in reality, your brain is just begging for a short break! The Pomodoro Technique is designed to give your brain a break after 25 minutes of concentration and focus. That doesn’t mean you should go work on something else during that 5 minutes. No, actually give your brain a break! Get some coffee, watch a cat video, or visit with a co-worker. Just don’t get carried away. Five minutes is enough for your brain to recuperate.
Though extremely effective, this technique doesn’t apply in all scenarios. For instance, if you want to perform better in your job as a phone support representative in a call center, you can’t really apply the technique to what you do while at work. However, if you want to improve your technical skills or expand your knowledge, then you may use the technique at home where you would be able to block off chunks of uninterrupted time to learn.
This technique is most effective for people who require long periods of concentration and focus. Francesco, the creator of this technique, was a student at the time, and used the method to keep his mind focused for a set amount of time, while regulating his breaks for optimum learning. In fact, this technique works best for those who are learning or researching. It also works well for writers, like me, who often do research and must focus intently in order to present their research in a way that is understandable, informative yet entertaining to their readers.
So there you have it. It’s most likely the simplest method for staying on task for learners, project managers, researchers, developers, etc. Likely one of the most effective, as well. I have to admit, it took me three pomodoros to complete this article. Now it’s time to wind it up again and get to work on the next article.