What is the Pomodoro Technique?
Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work. Then, take a break for 5 minutes. Then do it all over again. That, in a nutshell, is the Pomodoro Technique (PT).
I’m pretty into productivity tools, but when I first read about PT, I thought it sounded too simplistic. I didn’t understand the point of working for exactly 25 minutes. And why was the break necessary?
Later however, I was thinking about one of the most productive times in my life – when I was finishing my Professional Writing thesis. A tight deadline and deep feelings of investment contributed massively to this productivity, but I also set up my work a certain way. For the last few weeks before it was due, I worked on the thesis in 50 minute blocks, and then took a 10-minute break.
As I thought back on this, I realized my method was very similar to PT. It was just double the length: 50-minute work periods instead of 25 minutes, and 10-minute breaks instead of 5 minutes.
Why PT Works
Obviously, a modified version of the Pomodoro Technique had once been useful to me. Since then, I’ve adopted it for use in all my work. But why is PT so helpful?
First, it helps to examine why traditional work methods are sometimes ineffective.
Let’s say you go into the office and sit down at 9am, expecting to work through 5pm. When you have 8 long hours ahead of you, it’s hard to feel motivated to put your head down and really get the work done. Your mind automatically tells you work can be saved for “later.” There’s no structure, and there’s no impetus to begin, other than the vague idea that you want to have a lot of work done in 8 hours. Procrastination is likely.
When you have a defined 25-minute work interval ahead of you, it’s easier to guess how much you can complete, and work toward it. It also forces you to think in terms of small bites.
The breaks in PT, I’ve discovered, are essential. Your mind needs time to rest. Don’t just think of a break as time “not working.” When I stand up and pace during my breaks, my brain ruminates on tasks and sorts out some knots that have shown up, and that’s helpful.
You can personalize PT to make it work for you. The breaks don’t HAVE to be 5 minutes. They can be 10, 7, 15 – it doesn’t really matter. Whatever you like. And the pomodoros don’t have to be 25 minutes, though that is my preference.
The Pomodoro Technique certainly isn’t foolproof. There are days when nothing can motivate me to be uber-productive. That’s okay. However, I’ve found PT to be a useful tool, especially for tasks I’m not particularly looking forward to.
Would you consider giving it a try?