Start, Stop, Chill, Continue.

by Casey Parker 2 years ago in workflow / advice / career

Trust the tomato

Start, Stop, Chill, Continue.

A man named Francesco Cirillo developed a time management method using a timer to divide work into periods of full-focus and periods of rest. Traditionally these are 25 and 5 minutes, respectively. Each sprint is called a Pomodoro. He used a tomato-shaped timer and named the method after it.

Once you've chosen something from your (hopefully prioritized) to do list, you set your timer for 25 minutes. You keep time out of your mind and solely concentrate on work until you hear the timer. Now take a nice 5-minute break, no matter what. Set the pen down. After doing this about four times, or two hours, take a longer break. I'd suggest a half hour.

If you've ever written software, then you know that planning and tracking are key. Recording allows for a sort of "accomplishment" feel, similar to a game in a sense, but certainly not full-on gamification. Taking breaks helps to assimilate and consolidate whatever you may have learned in your work. And if you don't learn from your work, you should definitely look into a new job.

A Dangerous Situation

Oh tomato, how we love thee.

Everyone has electronics these days. We're in a state of nearly constant distraction, and we just keep buying more to—ironically—get more stuff done.

The ability to reference any information at any time is a powerful one. Unfortunately, research shows it can take upwards of ten minutes to regain focus after any sort of interruption. Consider all the social networks, the notifications, the inboxes, streaming media, and it goes on.

Multitasking isn’t something that the human animal is capable of. The only honest answer to "How well do you multitask?" is "No." The effect of trying to can be deleterious, to say the least. We’re actually wiring the brain to have a lowered ability to keep attention where we want it.



Now you’ve gone and made a new enemy. Distractions. Endless distractions fill your day, and now that you’ve started the Pomodoro technique, you actually notice and actively hate them. You’ll have to cope with them. Luckily, there are ways.

Technology, much as we love it, is the primary distraction. Turn your phone off or put it on airplane mode. You may immediately start to feel panic—this is withdrawal from a pretty serious addiction.

The second type of distraction is your friends and coworkers! It’s nearly impossible to avoid them entirely without ruining relationships, but some moderation can be done. Listening to music or even just putting headphones on can keep people from talking to you.

You may have to specifically ask for people to respect your privacy. It isn’t comfortable, but if they respect you in the first place they’ll do it.

What's next?

The Pomodoro technique forces you to put your focus and attention where you want it to be. Rather, where you need it to be. Single-minded focus is, in reality, the only kind of focus there is. By having a set amount of time, you avoid considering how long you’ve worked for. You stop checking the clocks.

After you’ve done a few Pomodoros, you’ll find that the awful feeling of being separated from your favorite distractions to bring you peace. The world is against you. Defeat it in 25-minute chunks.

Read next: Why Denny's Is the Perfect Starter Job for a Cook
Casey Parker

I'm a very cerebral person, with an eclectic history of jobs, projects, and studies. I've been everything from a C-level executive (which I hated), to a bottom level peon (which I enjoyed). Learn from somebody else's experience!

See all posts by Casey Parker