Learning Objects: Teach Me Discipline: The Pomodoro Technique

Chances are you own a device that is connected to the Internet: a mobile device, a laptop or a desktop computer. The Internet provide all those connected to it to a wealth of texts, images, and video and a mind-boggling, unimaginable scale. As such, the Internet has been a boon for scholarship and for learning.

Unfortunately, the same devices that connect us to our class notes and slides, as well as the scholarly work and data that we need to draw upon for our research also provides an entire galaxy of distractions to keep us away from our studies that we can drift to in a single click.

At this moment, you might be having some difficulty maintaining focus on your studying or on writing your paper or cleaning up your data for your project. For you, here is a tomato timer.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named pomodoros, the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.

“Pomodoro Technique.” Wikipedia, November 6, 2016.

The creator of the Pomodoro Technique describes it as such:

  1. Choose A Task You’d Like To Get DoneSomething big, something small, something you’ve been putting off for a million years: it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s something that deserves your full, undivided attention.

  2. Set The Pomodoro For 25 MinutesMake a small oath to yourself: I will spend 25 minutes on this task and I will not interrupt myself. You can do it! After all, it’s just 25 minutes.

  3. Work On The Task Until The Pomodoro Rings Immerse yourself in the task for the next 25 minutes. If you suddenly realize you have something else you need to do, write the task down on a sheet of paper.

  4. When The Pomodoro Rings, Put A Checkmark On A PaperCongratulations! You’ve spent an entire, interruption-less Pomodoro on a task.

  5. Take A Short BreakBreathe, meditate, grab a cup of coffee, go for a short walk or do something else relaxing (i.e., not work-related). Your brain will thank you later.

  6. Every 4 Pomodoros, Take A Longer BreakOnce you’ve completed four pomodoros, you can take a longer break. 20 minutes is good. Or 30. Your brain will use this time to assimilate new information and rest before the next round of Pomodoros.

    “The Pomodoro Technique”® by Francesco Cirillo

Some people use the Pomodoro technique for better focus and the other for better mental agility. Still others use it enjoy breaks between tasks without guilt.

If you find that you don’t have enough strength to get through 25 minutes of the task at hand, you might want to consider apps that block the more distracting websites that you tend to visit.

To learn more about those, you might want to check out Thomas Frank’s video “How to ACTUALLY Stop Wasting Time on the Internet” (College Infogeek).

Just make sure that you get back to work after watching the video.

Mita Williams
December 2016