The Pomodoro technique was invented by Francesco Crillo. The story goes that Crillo had a tomato shaped timer that he adored and used to keep his studies on track as a 1990’s college student. This system which he named “Pomodoro” has been the crown jewel in the repertoire of almost all Productivity Pundits and Time Management Gurus’.
The idea behind this technique is that it requires any behemoth task to be broken up into bite sized, actionable steps. Then we train our brains to focus for 25 minutes on that single actionable step or the series of actionable steps.
By doing so you’re able to harness all the fierce concentration that is available to your brain. The flipside to this technique is that it works in short bursts of intense concentration. The human body is designed for cycles of work and rest. The Pomodoro technique taps into this idea and makes utilization of the fact by breaking the work rest cycle into 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest periods.
The Pomodoro Technique can be utilized by setting up an alarm either through a dedicated alarm clock or our phones. This author would recommend that you use an alarm clock as a phone might present ample distraction.
A way to circumvent the usage of phones is to use a free app called Forest. This app dissuades the user from using the phone by growing a tree while they work. As they reach closer to the assigned time, they will have a fully grown healthy tree. By disrupting their work cycle to check their phones, they’re killing a tree. This proves to be an effective tactic because the user has already investing some time growing he tree and by killing it, it iterates a negative consequence to discourage behaviour that you do not want to continue. You can also use positive sanctions to arrange for a pleasant feeling of accomplishment and joy for completing the task. It also inculcates a strong sense of pride in growing a forest that is the cumulation of your hard work.
The steps are simple:
1. Choose a Task: Pick up a large task. For example, the task could be “Learn History”. So this is a large task. Break this down into the smallest actionable step. Which part of History are we going to study? Ancient? Medieval? Modern? For example, if we chose Modern India, what will we study in Modern India. The Revolt of 1857 is a topic in Modern India that is usually a good start. But we cannot simple note down “Study Revolt of 1857” for our Pomodoro session. We can attempt to break this down even further by examining this issue through the lens of “Causes, Consequences, Events, Leaders”. This cannot be further broken down so we can list one of these topics as what we will focus our minds on for the Pomodoro session. For the next 25 minutes we can focus only on that topic. On gaining knowledge on that topic, we can follow up that topic that week so we can revise within the week.
2. Set up your timer: As said before, the first recommended session for Pomodoro advises working for 25 minutes. This session is meant to be sacred with no interruptions. All phones are to be switched off or put away in another room. The computers unless you’re using them have to be off. Cloister yourself in a space where no one can reach you. Even if it urgent, it can wait 25 minutes. The Pomodoro session is best practiced alone. If you find yourself in company, sit in separate areas of your home, facing opposite directions. This will remove any temptation to disturb each other.
3. Do the Thing: Now comes the simple part- Do the thing! Keep focusing on the task at hand. Do not give in to the temptation to look at your phone. Do not look away from your book. If your mind wanders, forgive it as you would a young, untrained child. Bring your attention back on the book. Bring all the intensity of your focus to bear on your book. For the initial few sessions, you can ensure that you treat your attention span as you would a child- with forgiveness. Then after a week of consistent practice, you can start setting up penalties for failure. For example, if you are unable to focus, keep a plate of vegetables that you hate nearby. Eat a slice of something you hate every time your mind wanders. You can also use positive reinforcement by promising yourself a small treat when you are done. This can be something non disruptive as a piece of chocolate that you like or say you can binge watch 3 episodes of a favourite series for finishing 6 sessions.
4. Beware: The Pomodoro technique, while it boosts your productivity by a long shot, also has a pitfall. The brain despite receiving a shorter duration of intense work will become tired eventually over the continuous stretch of work. It is therefore recommended that after four Pomodoro sessions, you take a longer 20 minute break. This break can help your brain recharge and refresh itself. This can be best accomplished by leaving your study area. Go to other rooms in your home. Take a short walk outside. A short walk and Vitamin D exposure has been shown to have a positive effect on your mind. This would be more beneficial as you can physically as well as mentally leave your study space. Listen to some music. Watch a funny video. After 20 minutes return to your study space. Pick up your books for Round 2. After another four sessions, you can take a much longer break. A word of caution to the wise- the Pomodoro works on the principle of engaging your mind on the basis of interest. What might have been interesting initially may wane after two hours. Switch up subjects after two sessions- alternate between two subjects for the best possible results. Do this on the hour, or once very two sessions. This will provide the optimum learning rhythm and will keep your interest from waning while maintaining advantage of the technique.
The Pomodoro technique doesn’t have to function on the basis of just 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes rest model. It is also possible as one is more experienced and more capable of strong feats of concentration, to increase the time taken for the Pomodoro. This author has been able to double the usual Pomodoro time and works on 50 minutes of work and 10 minutes break cycles. This or the alternative- 45 minutes with 15 minutes of rest cycles can be utilized. You can also experiment with the time interval and utilize it as you get more used to the technique. For complete beginners, 25-5 cycles work best with the fledgling ability to concentration.
We hope this technique proves useful. As with most techniques, it requires a dedicated trial period before it can be proven or disproven to affect your studies. So practice consistently to get the best possible results.