As a student, Francesco Cirillo struggled with time management. We’ve all been there. As an undergraduate, I worked 40-45 hours a week while taking a full load of classes. Oh, and I had a social life (of sorts). I had to be efficient or I’d not make it. (Spoiler: I did graduate…and then graduate again…and graduate again…and graduate for the last time.)
Cirillo found that if he timed himself with a kitchen timer (He happened to have a tomato-shaped one, thus the name Pomodoro™) alternating between short bursts or sprints of focused work with much shorter breaks, he actually got more done. He kept track of his pomodori (the unit for the 25-minute work sprint), and after every fourth one, he took a 25-30 minute break.
The Pomodoro Technique® is “deceptively simple”, as one site called it. And yet it is genius. For me, using PT was not so much a stretch. As a cooker, timers rule my life anyway. So what’s the big deal with doing it with writing, too?
However, when I first heard of it, I had to order the tomato timer. It’s too cute. I mean, I’m all in! No way am I using my oven timer. I don’t write in the kitchen. Then I began to wonder who I knew was also PTing.
I hunted around, and I got a few friends to answer questions about their use of the Pomodoro Technique®.
Tracie Banister, author of Blame It on the Fame and In Need of Therapy, claims that the Pomodoro Technique® helps her limit Internet time gobblers and to focus for larger amounts of time. She modifies the times so that if she writes longer, she takes longer breaks.
Isabella and others use the timer on the phone or have downloaded timing apps to use on their computers or tablets instead of a physical timer. Some of the timing apps block you from Internet sites during the pomodoro™ period. Clever, eh?
Isabella began using the Pomodoro Technique® during edits for The Right Design. It was a way to stay focused and not feel overwhelmed by the editing task. Twenty-five minute bursts break down the “daunting task” to one that felt manageable. She credits it with keeping her on track and less grumpy.
Isabella, like most of us Pomordorans, is self-taught, and, in fact, she independently happened upon the strategy before she knew there was an official name and procedure. She used it and will continue to use the technique because it works for her.
There are lots of Pomodoro Technique® helps on the Web so you can teach yourself. But, there are also books to purchase and classes to take to extend the use of the technique. So just what is the basic Pomodoro Technique® and how do you do it? I also wrote about my perspective on what works or doesn’t, what you can do in the five minute breaks, and modifications I use.
What it is
The directions for the easiest implementation of the Pomodoro Technique® are quite simple, though there are advanced techniques that you can get in courses. For what I need, the basic method works swell. A pomodoro™ is one time unit (usually 25 minutes). Here’s how to get started.
1. List writing or editing tasks to accomplish for the day.
2. Estimate how many pomodori (plural form of pomodoro™) will be needed for each task and write it down next to the task. This takes practice and is part of the advanced course work.
3. Set your timer for the number of minutes you will work (as said above, usually 25 minutes).
4. Work on the task until the timer rings.
5. Set the timer for 5 minutes and take a break (see below for ideas).
6. After four pomodori, take a break of 15-30 minutes.
a) Changing pace often so you stay focused.
b) Changing pace keeps fatigue at bay.
c) One is aware of time passing so there’s a deadline, an urgency that many respond to.
d) People report accomplishing more.
e) PT is easy to do with little or no cost.
f) PT keeps the time-sucking web at bay.
g) You can do Internet necessities in pomodori instead of using break times.
What doesn’t work:
** If you are really rolling with a scene, you don’t want to quit and lose momentum. Decision point: Keep going or stop?
** Interruptions are sometimes hard to handle.
** The timer startles me and hubs hates the dinging interrupting him.
** Because the timer is noisy I can’t use it when I go to the computer at 4 a.m.
What you can do in 5 minutes:
We all need to take breaks for our health: mental and physical. The breaks should be mentally relaxing as a BREAK from intellectual tasks.
–Desk exercises (a ton on-line)
–Stand up and do some kettle bell exercises
–Run in place for 5 minutes (many reports found running 5 minutes a day adds years to your life)
–Answer e-mail/Facebook posts
–Go to the bathroom
–Grab a beverage and drink it in 5 minutes to stay hydrated
–Walk outside or around the house (I wear a pedometer during waking hours–up those steps toward 10K)
–Groom the dog
–Clean out your purse or a kitchen drawer
–Order prescriptions from the pharmacy
–Throw load of laundry in
–Put the butter out to soften for a recipe
–Feed the dog
–Make an appointment or reservation
And other stuff like that.
Modifications I’ve made:
~ If “in the zone”, I keep going until a logical break point.
~ Decide how many pomodori I will do each day; typically 6-8
~ I muffle the timer so it doesn’t startle me.