Throughout all of mankind, we’ve questioned our existence, purpose, and most importantly, what we’re going to eat next. But there’s a question we often consider yet never attempt to answer: how do I stop binge-watching Netflix and do my work?
For some, they put off work and procrastinate, while others simply struggle to get things done in a timely manner.
We’re going to hit two birds with one stone: time itself. You often hear “time is money” but for our purposes, time is tomato—pomodoro in Italian (you’re welcome).
So what is The Pomodoro Technique? In the late 1980s, a man by the name of Francesco Cirillo decided to wave the white flag and work with time, as opposed to against it. He developed a revolutionary time-management tool. This technique allows one to use time and not race against it by not only implementing structure and planning, but also taking into account human function & behaviour.
This is how the technique works in a nutshell: begin by identifying a task that you need to work on, set a timer for 25 minutes and begin working. When the timer rings, stop working and put a checkmark on a piece of paper— you’ve just completed a pomodoro. Take a five minute break. After you’ve completed four pomodoros (or four checkmarks), take a 30-minute break. After your long break, reset and repeat until your task is complete.
Now let’s discuss the practicalities of the technique and how the structure, as simple as it is, allows us to maximize our productivity.
An important aspect of The Pomodoro Technique is the short-break system. These five-minute breaks are there to help you concentrate and combat boredom. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that given task for a longer period of time. Alejandro Lleras, the study lead and psychology professor, explained that “prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance.” He concluded that brief mental breaks actually help the individual stay focused.
Furthermore, the work-break-work pattern keeps one motivated. How many times have you given up on work because you felt so drained and bored? Recall that the longer we work without any interruptions, the worse we perform. There’s more: researchers also found that, concurrently, there’s less of an incentive to actually complete the task at hand. In their book, The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World, Dr. Gazzaley and Dr. Rosen, a neuroscientist and psychologist, discuss why breaks are essential for productivity. What they found through their extensive research is that short breaks drive the individual to work harder and get things done. These breaks not only allow you to address your distractions at an appropriate time but also enable your brain to get better at preventing them when you’re focused during your pomodoro.
The coolest part–this technique fundamentally changes your idea of time–no, not that it’s an illusion—merely your perception. Let me explain.
Awarded with the Nobel Prize in literature in 1927, French philosopher Henri Bergson, in his Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (1889), explored the concept of time and various perceptions of it. He discussed its dimensional aspect—what we measure—noting that such perception is ultimately what elicits time-related anxiety, where we put ourselves under pressure, with a constant worry of the lack of time.
However, viewing time as a series of (planned) events—do ‘x’; go to ‘y’—allows us to perceive time as a means of completing tasks and achieving goals, a tool if you will. Furthermore, with this mindset we become aware of how our precious time passes, consequently increasing our productivity and concentration; and this is especially the case with the 25-minute pomodoro intervals. They take into account your attention span as well as provide a stable system where you’re not overworking yourself. A good comparison would be to that of weightlifting—taking one to two-minute breaks between exercise sets lets you recover and efficiently train the muscle(s).
Here’s a fun fact: the very technique discussed was used to write this article.
Now go and grab a timer, a tomato (optional), put on your productivity glasses and get to work. Time is tomato.