ho goes on vacation and agrees to a 14-day assignment with a four-day turnaround? This girl.
Whilst in Amish country, where the residents don’t use electricity but the tourist-y restaurant’s toilets auto flush, I agreed to take on a market research project basically because it sounded nerdy cool, requiring a deep dive into the nerdy digital marketing kind of stuff that’s useless to anyone other than a nerdy digital marketer. Probably not the best time to take a job, but this is what happens when you are a former overly analytical Sociology major who likes to ogle things on the Internet.
Thankfully, I have a husband (!) who’s been successfully freelancing for years. So when Bill mentioned the Pomodoro Technique productivity philosophy while we were catching up from afar, I took it as perfect timing. Pomodoro Technique is a productivity method for the ADD and the procrastinator: 25 minutes on a task, 5 minutes of break. I need to get a project done with maximum efficiency, and here is this thing that’s all about staying productive. I didn’t get to where I am by (just) working hard, I’m even more adamant about working smart, so I immediately downloaded Pomodoro Time.
Just one of many Pomodoro timers, this one’s free and sits nicely in my Mac toolbar. I’ve spent a couple days grinding away at this job while toggling the Timer every time it alerts me for rest and work. What’s interesting is the simple length of the sessions. Initially I thought 25 minutes was just too little time to really get into something, but actually, the shorter time span is fine. For no other reason than liking round numbers, I generally attacked my to-dos in one-hour increments, but depending on the work, I’d easily get exhausted by the end of a 60-minute mental run.
Twenty-five minute segments are perfectly manageable. Not too short that I can’t make headway, and not long enough for me to get distracted.
It’s akin to my best events in high school track (bear with me here): middle distances. Each work session is like a perfectly challenging sprint, equal parts good technique and hitting your productive stride. At the end of the day, a series of medium runs is far less draining than just going for laps (hours) at a time.
If you’ve read the inflated system of Getting Things Done, then you’ll see bits of crossover between GTD and PT. They’re both about focus and knowing when to derail from a single task and how long you can afford to.
Unfortunately, while the Pomodoro Technique can be great for prolonging endurance and prohibiting procrastination (could anything ever eliminate procrastination?), I don’t see how it could work in the everyday workplace. Impromptu meetings with colleagues, burning questions from reports, and surprise visits from office pets can be imperative to a team’s progress. (“Surprise visits from office pets,” are totally influential on employees’ serotonin levels, and thus individual happiness, and thus larger company culture, and thus collective enthusiasm about going back to work every day.)
Being a productivity app for an efficiency method, Pomodoro Timer receives a lot of esoteric armchair punditry for features it could add and ways it could improve. As much as turning the Timer into a tracking tool for billable clients sounds awesome, adding anything else also feels like killing the whole point of the original technique. Like Mr. Bonaccorsi said in my 7th grade Honors Science (What? I’m Asian.): KISS! Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Why is it called the Pomodoro Technique? I wish it could be something about the proportion of tomato meat to seeded segments of a tomato, or that the originator Francesco Cirillo loves capellini pomodoro as much as I do, but actually it’s based on some tomato-shaped (obviously non-egg) timer he was looking at in the 1980s.
Just to further test my own ability to adhere to PT full time, I wrote this post in between 25-minute work sessions. It was weird not bangin’ out an essay in one sitting, but probably all toward the benefit of the thing I’m actually getting paid for.