Time Management (The Pomodoro Technique)

by: Yashvi Patel, Kennedy College of Sciences Well-being Leader

I recently learned about this technique from my aunt, and it has helped me get through various tasks without feeling mentally drained. It is known as the Pomodoro Technique. There are six steps involved in this process. First, you decide on a task you need to do. Then, you set a timer for 25 minutes. Then, you work on that specific task until the timer goes off. This block of focused work time is referred to as one Pomodoro. A fun fact is that the technique is named after the Italian word for tomato as the timer that was used by the founder was shaped as a tomato. After that, you get to take a short, 5-minute break. After you repeat this four times, you can take a longer 15–30-minute break. It will allow you to stay focused without being mentally exhausted.

I do not believe in having an hourly time schedule, personally. For me, an hourly time schedule creates unwarranted stress as I am rushing to complete items in a set amount of time. I practiced this during my freshman year of college where I was asked to put a time schedule into effect. I noticed that tasks accumulated, and I was overcome by a feeling of failure if I didn’t finish something on the agenda. This hourly time schedule adversely affected my productivity as I would rush to complete things, that in the end, would be carried over to the next day, which already had projects and tasks lined up.

Instead, I like to break down a complex project into smaller tasks that are actionable. It allows me to see the progress that I’m making instead of overwhelming myself by looking at the big picture. I go into a mental funk when I look at a big task and typically don’t know where to start. For example, I wanted a research project for my thesis. Immediately, I thought of the end goal and how I need to write a thesis paper and have a presentation where I would defend my thesis, which was overwhelming.

Instead, I stopped the intrusive thoughts of how I could manage that and focused on what I could do to get there. I started by reading articles and papers to get an idea of what research question I wanted to answer. I am taking it one step (or Pomodoro) at a time, which is really helping me see some light at the end of the tunnel and reassure myself that I can do it.

In terms of the connection between smaller chunks of work and the Pomodoro technique, I can cross different tasks off my checklist if I work on a new task every 25 minutes during my “burst of energy.” Sometimes, you spend too much time on one project that you fall behind on the rest of your assignments. I use the technique to start working on another task and come back to the old one the following round of Pomodoro. That way, I can get more tasks done and not mentally exhaust myself over one assignment over a long period of time. The quality of my work is also comprised if I cram everything in one go instead of breaking it down into manageable chunks. For instance, I like to break down my lab reports into the different sections. I do the introduction, hypothesis, procedure on one day or during one Pomodoro. Then, I do the discussion, conclusion, and application another time. For my breaks, I typically would go for a walk, draw, listen to music, or do some stretches. Essentially, you would get up and move. I like having a short interval of break because I tend to get distracted on my phone and fall into a slump. Having a timed break forces me to get back to the task in anticipation for my next break! I hope this technique helps as it tremendously stopped me from falling into the rabbit role of procrastination or overworking myself over one, big task.