The Pomodoro Method
Some days, the projects we need to work on are so big that it becomes the only task that we can do all day, and there is no room for the variety and switching up that we have discussed in previous lessons. So how do we maintain focus on those ultra-boring days where everything is the same? Time can be our friend here if we know how to use it and are willing to commit a little hard work for a lot of good results.
The Pomodoro Method is named for the Italian word for tomato, which was the shape of the kitchen timer used by its inventor, Francesco Cirillo, who created the method in the late 1980s. The central theory of the methodology is to keep the brain fresh when it needs to work on tasks all day, encouraging regular breaks but also keeping the flow of the work going so as not to lose momentum. Cirillo suggests that the mind can only focus on very difficult and demanding tasks for up to 25 minutes without burning out, and this forms the basis of the Pomodoro Principle.
The basic principle is free for anyone to access and is widely used and advised amongst productivity and motivational trainers. Although I no longer need to use it every day, when I find myself particularly strained or stressed out by undesirable tasks that I know will have me looking for distractions, I do still enforce somewhere between one to four Pomodoros on the task in order to break its back. Once I feel I’ve made a good chunk of progress, the pressure eases and the task a whole becomes easier to complete.
A Pomodoro is 25 minutes long. Your workday can include as many Pomodoros as you need in order to get your difficult tasks done, and indeed it can be a very helpful tool in telling you how much time you have to spend on such things in order to complete them. Using your timer and alarm system that we developed in Lesson Four, set your clock for 25 minutes. Throw yourself into the work for that period of time and try not to pause or deliberate for too long. Even if it seems difficult at first, get stuck in and do what you can during the allotted time.
When the alarm goes off, take a break of five to ten minutes. It helps to get away from your workstation if you can, perhaps by making a drink or taking a short walk around your space. Be sure to return to your next Pomodoro within ten minutes so that you don’t lose any leftover ideas from the first session that you may be keen to get back to. You can repeat this process as many times as you like to get short bursts of concentrated work done, but it is recommended that after four Pomodoros with short breaks, you take a longer break of around 30 minutes to rest your brain properly.
Time can be our friend or enemy depending on how we treat it, and I sometimes come away from a 25-minute Pomodoro feeling more drained than I have in a whole afternoon. But those do tend to be the times when I have achieved a particularly difficult task, and often done so in record time, so that fatigued feeling is one which can be met with celebration! It’s important to remember that this method is worth employing for the most difficult tasks of your day, with long alarms and more relaxed measures for the smaller stuff so that you can avoid mental burnout.
In the next lesson, we begin a two-part journey looking at how change can refresh your mind into more productivity and focus. In the Scenery section, we look at how changing your physical setup, location or position can change your motivation levels.
See you then!
You can read more about the psychology behind the Pomodoro Technique at Francesco Cirillo’s official site.
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