I have a confession: For every year I get older, my attention span shrinks by five percent. This science is based entirely upon my own research and is most likely skewed, but the experiential evidence is strong. Case in point: If I set out to study for five hours at home, it sometimes turns into one hour of studying and four hours of checking my e-mail, preparing elaborate meals, and scrolling through seasonal sports gear sales on Amazon (I dislike most sports but I love good deals). Oddly enough, the method I’ve found for combating my procrastination problem and completing my work punctually and happily involves a tomato and taking more breaks.
I stumbled upon The Pomodoro Technique in an effort to manage my distractions and avoid both goldfish-attention-span procrastination and all-night-study-burn-out. Developed in the 1980’s by Francesco Cirillo, this time management technique gets its name from the common tomato shaped kitchen timer. The system operates on the belief that by dividing your work and breaks into regular, short increments you can avoid feeling overwhelmed by a looming task while also avoiding burn out. Here’s the basics:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes, and start your task. It doesn’t have to be a tomato timer—I use my phone or this online version.
- If a distraction pops into your head, write it down on a piece of paper and return to your task.
- When the buzzer rings, put a check mark on your paper. You’ve completed one increment, also known as a pomodoro.
- Take a five minute break. You can check the distractions that popped into your head, stretch, grab a cup of tea etc.
- After four pomodoros, take a thirty-minute break.
Give it a try if you’re interested in breaking your work day down into manageable tomato sized bites, while developing a greater understanding of time management and how long it will take to complete a task.
And if you want to go beyond time management to consider the most effective approaches to studying, we’ve got you covered. Read:
Myths About Learning