Breaking Down The Pomodoro Technique I Oxford Open Learning

    Pomorodo Technique

    Breaking Down The Pomodoro Technique

    How The Pomodoro Technique Can Help You

    In a recent article, I touched on the Pomodoro technique as a means of being productive when it comes to revision over the Easter break. But, such a fleeting mention doesn’t do justice to just how useful it can be.

    The What

    The Pomodoro Technique is a strategy aimed at helping people who struggle to focus for long periods and have a short attention span. If you get easily distracted, the Pomodoro is definitely for you. Developed in the 1980s by a University student who struggled to focus on his studies and assignments, the Pomodoro Technique is a strategy for doing work in short stretches. Twenty-five minutes of focus broken up by five-minute breaks, with a longer break of 15-30 minutes after every fourth stretch. It’s a technique that’s applicable beyond revision and can be applied to how you work, manage tasks, and helps you completely remove procrastination as a problem—which is an issue many of us deal with, especially when it comes to those things we just don’t want to do. By breaking tasks down into smaller, more manageable chunks to deal with systematically, that mountain in front of you is reduced to a series of steps. It makes you more efficient, mitigates distraction and ultimately makes you much more accountable to yourself.

    The How

    The Pomodoro Technique is designed to get work done while preventing the chance of overwhelm or the temptation of distraction. It works best with a bit of preparation and with a timer beside you (that timer should not be your phone, we’re here to remove distractions not add them). To prepare, make a list of the tasks or a single large task broken down into smaller ones. Assemble everything you need and remove anything you don’t. What you’re going to do is flip your perspective from sitting down for the long haul and instead stack a series of small wins through short bursts of focused work with breaks in between.

    Once you’re ready, the process is fairly straightforward:

    STEP ONE: Choose the task.
    STEP TWO: Set your timer and work ONLY on that singular task.
    STEP THREE: Once the timer goes off take a five-minute break. Stretch your legs, grab a drink, or check your phone.
    STEP FOUR: Repeat steps one to three FOUR times.
    STEP FIVE: Take a longer break of between fifteen and thirty minutes. Have some lunch, walk the dog or meditate.

    Keep working through the steps like a cycle as you progress through your to-do list, and you’ll soon find yourself racing through it. It may seem deceptively simple, but that’s why it works. The idea behind this method is that the timer instills a sense of urgency. Instead of sitting back with the whole day ahead of you, finding ways to put off the work, time is turned against you. The breaks are there to help you catch your breath and not burn out.

    If a task overruns, simply pick it up on the next interval, while if you have tasks that you know won’t take long at all, group them. If you have a sudden revelation of something that needs doing, simply make a note and add it to the list to do later, don’t ruin your momentum by diving into that task immediately. And of course, there are always moments of unavoidable interruption. Whether it’s a knock at the door or being informed of an important phone call, it’s not the end of the world. Simply take that break there, and then start fresh with a new interval from there.

    What if you finish that task before the timer is up? Don’t call it early, use your remaining time to brush up further on whatever that task is. Research it more or go over what you’ve done; you’re focused on that particular topic at that moment so it’s important to keep that focus.

    Things To Note

    This technique isn’t going to change your life and solve all your problems, but it can be a huge help if used properly. With that in mind, it’s important to note that it doesn’t apply to everything and has its limitations. Long-form writing isn’t always the best for this. To really get into the flow of a piece, you do need longer to get the thoughts out of your head, so save the Pomodoro technique for research, editing and planning. Timing-wise, while the windows are relatively short, as you adjust to the technique it’s important to consider lengthening the windows of focused work. As your attention span and working mind adjust to it, you’ll likely find that the short windows begin to hinder more than help and longer stints will be more beneficial. Indeed, with that in mind, you might just come to a point where one day, you may not need it.


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