The Pomodoro Technique

If you’re a student who procrastinates then the Pomodoro Technique could help you.  You’re probably procrastinating now, rather than tackling that essay or assignment that’s worrying you.

Maybe you’re part of the 71% of students who are suffering from study-related stress.  And even if you’re not then the Pomodoro Technique also benefits writers, lawyers, managers, basically anybody who needs to get some work done.

The Pomodoro Technique? Isn’t that a tomato-based pasta sauce?

While a pomodoro sauce is delicious with mum’s spaghetti, it is also a tried and tested study method invented by the Italian Francesco Cirillo.  It was named after the tomato-shaped timer that he was using.  Fun fact: pomodoro is Italian for tomato.

Even more fun fact: the Pomodoro Technique is when you partition your workload into 25 minute sections, before taking a break.  You do this by using a kitchen timer.  This helps to prevent burnout.  Sometimes we try to get all our work done in one go.

We’re stuck in one spot.  For hours on end.  Our brains short-circuit.  Writing.  Calculating.  Procrastinating.  Writing.  Calculating.  Procrastinating.  So much writing.  So much calculating.  So much procrastinating.

It has also been reported that the ticking of the timer creates a sense of urgency.  We feel pressure to complete as much work as possible within the allotted pomodoro.  It focusses our mind on our studies.

The great thing about the Pomodoro Technique is that it encourages you to work with time and not against it.  Rather than rushing to get your work done, you’re working at your own pace.

Structuring your workload

The Pomodoro Technique forces you to organise your time.  You know that you’ll be working for exactly 25 minutes and not for hours on end.  Of course, this is going to take mental discipline from your end.

When you start work, turn off your phone, put your cat out, do whatever you need to do to get in your zone.  Every time you feel your mind straying from the task at hand, write down this distracting thought and move on.

When your timer rings, put a check on your work and take a break.  You’ll find that your sense of accomplishment builds, as your checks progressively grow.  Your momentum will snowball helping you to overcome your paralysis.  The Huffington Post also recommends taking small, but sure steps, to get your work done.  Small steps lead to bigger ones.

Break time! Now for that Netflix episode…

The best length for a break is five minutes.  This allows enough time for your mind to become refreshed without losing your train of thought.  That means that it’s probably not a good idea to watch the next episode of Narcos.  Yes, it ended on a cliffhanger, but you have to prioritise your work.

Taking a break is not optional.  If you decide to work through your break then you run the risk of becoming burnt-out, as we discussed earlier.  It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it isn’t work.  But it’s important that you are as disciplined in your break, as you are when you’re working.

To fully replenish your mind, it’s a good idea to completely get away from your computer or desk.  Humans aren’t made for sitting for long periods of time, which is why you could replenish your mind by combining the Pomodoro Technique with a Savouring Walk.

When you want to take a break, leave your house, and go for a quick walk around the block.  Concentrate on the sights, the smells, the sounds.  Anything that’ll make you happy.  An adorable little puppy.  The sound of the ice cream van.  When you return to your work, you’ll find your head clearer and your outlook brighter.

This may sound like hippy, new-age jargon, but it works.  Loyola University published a study where they invited their participants to engage in Savouring Walks every day for a week.  Those who did reported a greater happiness than those who didn’t.

Furthermore, research has shown that the highs we receive from social media are comparable to the highs that drug addicts experience.  To not lose this high, we may be tempted to stay on social media for as long as possible.  All the more reason why you should leave your computer during breaks.

When you’ve completed four Pomodori, or have worked for an hour and a half, take a longer 20-30 minute break to let your brain recover.

Room for Flexibility?

Yes.  There certainly is.  Antonio Cangiano of Programming Zen believes that studying for 25 minutes is completely arbitrary.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, then tailor it to ensure that it does.  Cangiano reports that some people prefer to work for 50 minutes and take a 10 minute break afterwards.

What the Pomodoro Technique does is create a balance between your work time and your free time.  It encourages you to be productive when you need to be and to fully relax during your breaks.

Now it’s time for you to start work on that 5000 word essay you’ve been avoiding.  Instead of banging out all 5000 words in a Redbull-fuelled all-nighter, divide it up into manageable goals.  Aim to achieve each of these goals in four Pomodori, with regular breaks, and see how much your productivity increases.  And don’t become disheartened if it doesn’t work at first.  Good things take time: it’s a cliché because it’s true.

Originally published on Inspiring Interns.

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