Updated: Aug 3, 2021
The Pomodoro (Italian for tomato) Method was developed in the 1980's by Italian student Cirillo to help him focus. Cirillo's system was simple; 25 minutes of work, 5-minute break and after four of these 30-minute cycles a more extended break of 15 to 30 minutes. The Pomodoro Method was published and went on to become a popular system for anyone trying to complete difficult or tedious tasks. My first experience with the Pomodoro method was at a University writing workshop. Throughout the day, we wrote our individual tasks on the board, collectively worked on a job for 25 minutes, took the 5-minute break and started the cycle again. I went on to experiment with this method for several years, and this is what I've found.
1. Helps you get started.
Having a timer go off can help switch your brain from 'later' into 'now' mode. This switch can provide some urgency and help you get going.
2. Reminds you to eat/drink and move around.
When I'm concentrating, sometimes I can forget the basics like eating or drinking enough water. This forgetfulness can often lead me to suddenly realising I'm starving and reaching for an unhealthy snack.
3. Could help you work to a traditional schedule.
If you work in an office with check-in time, lunch breaks, and clock-out times the Pomorodoro can help you stay in sync. Especially if you are a person that has time blindness (like me) having a timer that goes off throughout the day can help you remember when to take a break or move to the next stage.
1. Forgetting to turn off the timer.
While Pomodoro is a simple system, inevitably after a few days, I forget to turn off the timer when I head to a break or fail to note down which 25 minutes I'm up to. This often results in additional time spent managing my system rather than working on a task.
2. It can be challenging to get into a flow state.
Flow is the feeling of being focused and in the zone, and for some people working in this flow state or hyperfocus can be the best way to get tasks done. The Pomodoro Method can inhibit this flow and in that case, having timers going off just as you're getting into work can be as much a distraction as a helpful tool.
3. The maths can be a problem.
This con won't be an issue for everybody. Still, if you (like me) have Dyscalculia or struggle with managing maths/time, the combination can make planning your time more difficult. This is especially true when you have to fit the inevitable 'getting back to your desk a bit later than intended' into the timer system. In this case, it's a matter of asking yourself if the Pomodoro method is helping or adding another layer of tasks and taking time out of your day.
4. Timers can be noisy.
I have a terrible habit of letting my alarms ring themselves out once I get focused on my work. Even without that, having timers going off every 25 and then 5 minutes can frustrate colleagues or family in your space. As such, timer's are best used in an area where everyone is working to the same schedule or your own space.
Overall, despite many experiments with it, the Pomodoro method wasn't for me. A lot of my work is writing, so I like getting into a flow state and hyper-focusing on a task for multiple hours. However, if you have tasks that can be completed in 25 minutes chunks, this could be a useful method for you. Alternatively, if you also want to work in longer periods but could use a timer to get started, you can set a timer for 10 minutes, and then turn it off once you're focused. Having healthy snacks and drinks on hand can also help you to ensure you can keep going without suddenly realising your starving.
Have you tried the Pomodoro Method, what did you think of it?
Talk to you next week.
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