The Pomodoro effect

by Irida Griroropoulou

Who likes tomatoes? Well, there is a good chance you will love them, once you have finished reading this article!

Are you self-employed and getting stuff done for yourself is pretty hard? Are tasks and paperwork pilling up, turning you into a master procrastinator? No doubt there always seems to be something else to do: a closet to be organized, a phone call to your third cousin in Australia or checking flights and Airbnb prices on a trip you have no intention of taking.

The jig is up! It’s time you entered the Pomodoro world. Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, this technique is one of the most popular time management tools used today. Delve into it and learn how to budget your time, hyper-focus and get things done in short bursts, while taking periodical breaks.   

The underlying concept of this technique is quite simple: when faced with large tasks, break the work down into short, time intervals (the “Pomodoros”, named after the tomato-shaped timer Cirillo used to track his work as a university student) that are spaced out by short breaks.

How does it work?

Pretty much the same way as circuit training does for the gym junkies. You work in 25-minute sprints, which make sure you remain productive and once the timer rings you take a 5-minute break that boosts your motivation and keep you creative. After four Pomodoros have passed you then take a 15-minute break to recharge your batteries. Repeat this process a few times over the course of a workday and you will be amazed at the tasks you have completed. Simple as that!

Don’t forget, however, to track your progress every time you finish a Pomodoro: mark your progress with an “X” and note the number of times your mind strayed from its objective and you had the impulse to work on another task or procrastinate for each 25-minute block. Pomodoros are indivisible units of work, so every time you are distracted by a coworker, a meeting or a case that needs your immediate attention, you either have to end the Pomodoro there, save your work and start a new one later on or you have to postpone the distraction until the Pomodoro is complete. In case of the latter, the Cirillo’s “inform, negotiate and call back” strategy is a lifesaver:

  • Inform the distracting person that you are working on something right now
  • Negotiate a later time when you can get back to them about the issue in question (Inside information: Schedule that follow-up immediately, otherwise you run the risk of forgetting it)
  • Call back the other party once the Pomodoro is complete and you are all set for dealing with their issue

Is the Pomodoro Technique right for you?

Well, it’s a matter of personal preference. Studies have shown that this particular technique is often championed by authors, developers, translators and other people who have to handoff regular creative work for review. However, it’s also useful for people who have less rigid goals. If you work for instance with your hands, the frequent breaks help you step back and review your work, contemplate your next move while avoiding straining yourself and your muscles. What you should always keep in mind is that Pomodoro is just one productivity hack. It may not work for you and you will never know until you try it. So, hurry!

Set your tomato-shaped timers! Steady! Go!

About the Author

Irida Grigoropoulou is graduate of the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting of the Ionian University and has a Master’s degree in “Didactique des langues étrangères et TICE” from the University “Lumières Lyon 2” in Lyon. She’s been working as a translator since 2005 with English, French and Spanish as her working languages. She specialises in the translation of technical and pharmaceutical texts. In 2013, she decided to take her translation business to the next level and founded the “Polyglotto” translation centre in Patras, which turns into PolyglottoONTHEGO during the summer months or those times she has the need to socialise and co-work in some hub. In her free time, she maniacally does BODYPUMP™, goes to film screenings organised by the Patras Film Club and the Naked Eye (Γυμνός Οφθαλμός), and tries to learn tailoring, but without much success so far…

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