Pomodoro Technique Put to the Test

pomodoro technique

It goes without saying that capturing our attention these days has become an increasingly difficult task. Regardless of where we go or what we do, media presents itself to people at all times and in all places. While many of us try to multitask to accommodate this rapid flow of information, oftentimes this technique fails. With so much going on, no wonder it’s difficult to focus, let alone be productive. Thus, we need to transition from managing time to managing attention in order to help us achieve our goals. In other words, there are ways that we can pay attention to our inattention and increase productivity.

Mindfulness

One example is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Numerous studies have found that the practice of mindfulness can have physical, social and psychological benefits. In today’s digital world, exercising mindfulness is an especially important task. In his book Net Smart, Howard Rhinegold states, “Deliberately exercised, continually strengthened, and judiciously applied, mindfulness is the most important practice for anyone who is trying to swim through the info stream instead of being swept away by it.” Thus, mindfulness can help us tune out distractions and improve our attention as we try to reach our goals.

Rhinegold’s emphasis on mindfulness and the need to incorporate it in our lives made me curious about my own attention to media and how I allot my time. While I certainly have experienced times where I have been swept way surfing the web, I never gave much thought to where my attention was focused or how I interacted with these forms of media.

Pomodoro in Action

Thus, in an effort to increase mindfulness of my own I decided to try the “Pomodoro Technique” that Rheingold references. Developed by Francesco Cirillo this technique uses twenty five minute intervals, or pomodoros, of work separated by five minute breaks to increase productivity. Every four pomodoros and you take a longer break. With nothing to lose, armed with a mountain of work and my egg timer I decided to give it a shot. The timer started and my mind began to race. How much could I accomplish in this little span? Could I make it to the end of the chapter? If I start researching, how far will I get? In other words, I found the twenty-five minute spurts or uninterrupted work to be a race to beat the clock.

Break

Likewise, I found that the five-minute breaks go faster than I thought they would. The first break I did a few light chores around the house but just as I started to get into things, the timer went off. Back to work. The next few breaks I found myself texting and shortly after the timer chirped again. Even though I easily found ways to distract myself for five minutes, the Pomodoro site offers several suggestions of things to do. Most importantly, being active or physically creating distance between you and your work is best. As a result, going for a short walk, getting a glass of water or even simple desk exercises or office yoga are recommended.

Critique

Overall, I think the Pomodoro Technique with its short bursts of work helped me hone in at the task at hand. Knowing that after periods of work I had a five-minute incentive of free time helped me stay focused. Additionally, thinking about unrelated things for a few moments oddly helped keep me on track. While the fourth twenty five minute stretch was the longest, it also was the most rewarding because of the longer break.

However, one criticism is the application of this technique in different contexts. When I tried it I was at home and was able to have my timer go off without being a nuisance to others. In contrast, if I were to try this technique at work, having a timer constantly chirp may be an annoyance to other co-workers who may not be as receptive to my attention management strategies. Additionally, it was frustrating to become absorbed in a task and have to stop simply because the timer buzzed. In a few instances, I would have preferred to keep working and stop at my own pace. Yet, for the sake of the experiment I followed suit.

Closing Thoughts

In sum, even though my stint with the Pomodoro Technique was brief, I found it helpful nonetheless. While experts agree that you can to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two, true mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.That being said, I believe mindfulness would be a great technique for anyone, including myself to cultivate in order to help achieve goals. Thus, with more time and practice I should be able to realign my attention habits and train myself to be more present and aware.

Posted on October 18, 2015, in Blogs, Metablogging and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. I would not have actually tried the Pomodoro Technique, but your positive experience makes me want to take it into consideration. I also noticed you mentioning instances where you would have preferred to keep working as you were really into what you were doing. Perhaps I can use it as a tool to gain momentum, and when I burn out I can reward myself with a break.

    Regardless, I see the logic and I feel rewarding yourself for your efforts relieves pressure.

  2. I have tried the Pomodoro Technique as well, and I’ve found that it does help me focus on the task at hand. Just knowing that I had a 5-minute break in which I could unleash my mind to its thoughts was like a pressure-release valve. The breaks do go way too fast, though, but they do give you enough time to send a couple of emails or respond to texts. It takes a lot of disclipline, and our minds tend to resist that, so it would take some time to retrain our minds if we were to pursue this method long term (as you said, 7 to 20 days).

  3. Pomodoro has been a household term ever since my husband adopted it as his primary productivity strategy. He is full-time grad student on his way to a PhD, and he found that the Pomodoro Technique worked for him as a way to get focused when working at home (…and in the lab. He needed a little help.). Now he’s been using the technique for about two years, and he measures his workday in 25 minute segments. For example, on a typical day he tries to get six Pomodoros of work in before noon. I know if I text him during the day I shouldn’t expect a reply until he reaches one of his breaks.

    I have used the technique myself if I really need to hunker down and focus. An app that my husband recommended for me is called 30/30. It cycles through whatever increments of time you program it for, so for Pomodoros you can make it go 25/5/25/5…etc. It has some bugs, but it’s not bad. If you leave your device’s screen on low it will softly buzz when the time is up. My cubicle neighbors can’t hear a thing.

    Link to an article about the 30/30 app: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/3030-an-app-that-enhances-productivity-through-task-timing-video.html

    • Thats interesting that this is a technique that your husband uses- and has stuck with for quite some time! In my short lived experience as I’m trying to adopt it now I’ve been wondering if this is just a phase or if it really will grow into something more.

      I also like his goal of completing six Pomodoros before noon. This is an extra level of discipline to help stay on track and make sure you reach your goals- love it!

      P.S. Thanks for suggesting the app. Its downloading as we speak 🙂

  4. This is truly interesting! I have heard of these types of experiments and as I analyze the potential productivity they might ensue – I question it quite a bit. To your point, I would think that I would want to take breaks – especially if I am able to get into and focus on a specific task at hand. But I think the biggest point to call out is the fact that I even said if I am “able” to get into a task. The likelihood lately that I am able to dive deep and stay focused on one particular thing is slim to none. I think this type of focused, attentive work would help to hone in to get and stay attentive.

    One of the things that you did bring up was the feasibility to actually complete this in a workplace, because it would not be taken well by coworkers. But I would wonder, if one continued this type of exercise on a consistent basis at home, would that continual repetition carry over into other areas? Almost like changing a habit?

  5. I think there is merit to this technique although I think the structured use of exact timing work cycles and breaks would seem a bit exhausting and possibly distract from the intent of mindfulness. Although some might agree this level of discipline is required to establish a routine of becoming mindful, I would tend to think this structure is more of a distraction. I could understand how you might feel rushed through a 25 minute section of work to beat a timer, or feel somewhat compelled to fill a 5 minute void with something other than work; and possibly even feel compelled to waste it with useless distractions. I do believe the technique is helpful to maintain focus and absorb the work or reading being perfomed, however mindfulness becomes

    • I understand what you mean about finding natural stopping points for work… Unfortunately, Pomodoro doesn’t account for this or any unexpected interruptions which makes things a little tricky…

  6. most relevant to me when the breaks are taken at natural stopping points, where my own body or mind is feeling the urge to break, or when the work seems to have a natural stopping point that requires reflection, or at least a cup of coffee. Then other breaks if I feel so compelled might better serve me if I were to pause and observe my surroundings, chat with a co-worker about nothing important, or simply walk around, or rest my eyes and stretch out for a couple of minutes

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