Pomodoro is an effective time management technique, originally designed for students. It has been used for over 20 years now. The idea was first conceived by Francesco Cirillo, a university student, in the late 1980s. The name is derived from the simple tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a tool for breaking up the time of each task into smaller, manageable units.
These days, distractions are very common and most of us have a small attention span. By adopting the Pomodoro technique, students can have sharper concentration and greater motivation, the two areas Cirillo struggled with himself. In the words of Cirillo, this technique works to turn time into an ally instead of an enemy.
Suggested Read: Effective Ways to Tackle Lack of Concentration
Step-wise Breakup of the Pomodoro Technique:
The Pomodoro technique typically involves five to six simple steps –
Step 1 – Begin by deciding on the task at hand
Step 2 – Break it up into Pomodoro units. A conventional 30-minute-long Pomodoro includes 25 minutes of intensive work and 5 minutes of a break.
Step 3 – Focus on your first Pomodoro without giving in to any form of distraction or interruption. During the Pomodoro of ideally 30 minutes, the smaller unit of the task must be given undivided attention and intense focus.
Step 4 – The first Pomodoro ends with a break of no more than 10 minutes.
Step 5 – Get back to the next assigned Pomodoro and repeat steps 3 and 4.
Step 6 – After completing a set of 3 Pomodoro units, take a longer break of 30 minutes. A complete ‘set’ is rounded off.
It may be noted that students can go for longer Pomodoro blocks too, extending up to 50 minutes in time. But Cirillo’s finding, backed by experiential evidence from years of teaching the Pomodoro technique, shows that a mean of 30 minutes is the most preferred time block by the users.
There are certain rules to remember regarding Pomodoro, such as –
· A Pomodoro interrupted is considered as void
· Break taken following a Pomodoro should not be spent performing any mentally demanding tasks
· Pen and paper are to be kept handy during a Pomodoro for the purpose of tracking and recording experiences and lessons
Efficacy of the Pomodoro Technique in Studying
The technique is amazingly popular among students, professional writers as well as in software developers. However, there hasn't been formal research conducted on the technique that is backed by psychological findings. Naturally, there is no cognitive psychological data about it. But, there are secondary reports on the effectiveness of the technique. For example, American professor Barbara Oakley known for her world-famous course ‘Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects’ has some really positive feedback about the Pomodoro technique. Dr Oakley applies the Pomodoro technique in her teaching and she has been given great reviews from the learners about it. According to Dr Oakley, it is not just one of the most powerful techniques in all of the learning but is the most popular one she teaches.
Implementation of the Pomodoro Technique in Studying
The primary requirement for the implementation of the technique is a notification tool. Originally, Cirillo used an analogue tool, a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian) shaped kitchen timer as a notifier. But it may not be the ideal choice for many people. Lately, multiple digital tools have been made available to track time. These tools come with advanced features of not just tracking time but also distraction blockers. Some apps and tracking systems available for PC are namely, Forest, RescueTime, Marinara apps and TomatoTimer website. Native application of Pomodoro is also available on the iOS platform.
To implement Pomodoro effectively, distractions have to be eliminated. For this, a pen and paper are needed. However, during an ongoing Pomodoro, no other activity should be done. That way, the Pomodoro will be considered broken. But during the 5-10 minutes break after completion of a 25-minute-interval, pen and paper can be used to track the distractors by writing them down. This break can also be utilized to make a to-do list based on thoughts that pop up in one’s mind during a Pomodoro task.
Cirillo identifies two broad categories of potential distractors–
1. Internal Distractors: These are usually the thoughts that arise in the mind while carrying out a task, that keeps us from focusing. Cirillo suggests that we can deal with such distractions by putting our thoughts down on paper. The thoughts that swamp us over during an important task and interrupt our flow must be written down. Any thought unrelated to the work is an internal distraction. Another major form of internal distraction is one’s need to check social media. In the age of Facebook and Instagram, this is the most common and chronic form of distraction that occurs especially among younger individuals.
2. External Distractors: These arise externally and therefore the tasker usually has little to no control over them. An urgent email or a phone call – all come under the category of external distractors. These can be dealt with by keeping devices away to avoid receiving a phone call or reverting to an email immediately. Secondly, some signs can be put up to indicate that a tasker is on Pomodoro so that others know that it is not the right time to interrupt.
Lastly, if the task gets over before the timer goes off, the Pomodoro cannot be broken. Cirilo suggests reviewing the task till a Pomodoro time is up.
Benefits of Pomodoro
· Implementing this technique reduces anxiety surrounding the completion of a task within the given time. Short intervals of intense focus induce an improved work or study process
· Increases perseverance and improves focus
· Easy-to-use technique involving unobtrusive tools. Simplifies the task and ensures better output.
· Increasingly sharper focus facilitates learning with greater clarity
· Exponentially increased productivity
Time management is an essential skill and to ensure that the task is completed efficiently, it is best to employ techniques that are helpful. Pomodoro is undoubtedly an effective technique.