Been struggling this past week to fit in both day job and dissertation and still have time for sleep and sanity. So I thought I’d give the Pomodoro technique a go. Like many shiny new things it was designed by an IT student in his spare time and it supposedly helps you focus and time manage as well as also being so simple that even non-nerds like me might be able to use it. Plus it’s free.
It works like this: you write a to-do list, have a bit of paper to write down the urgent procrastinations that amazingly appear just when you start to study, and have a timer. One of those tomato-ey kitchen ones, the eponymous pomodoro, which times you 24 minutes of work and 3-5 minutes of break. You set the timer and start, and just work to it. Rinse, repeat, with longer breaks every 4 tomatoes. Part tomatoes don’t count; your aim is to stack up nice globs of focussed time, rather like collecting Super Mario coins. Or pomodoros. Or tomatoes, the creator lives in Berlin so why didn’t he just call it the tomato technique or what’s the German for tomato you see how easily I drift and maybe SOME FOCUS might help my studies?
Of utmost necessity then I was faffing around on iTunes last night, reading the app reviews, the free vs. the 69p vs. the whaddya think I’m made of £3.99 versions, so that I could visit the library without an unwelcomely ticking tomato to throw me from my stride or out of the building. More footling, and lo and raptures, I found Chrome browser also has a pomodoro add-on! I was psyched!
In fact I’d was so psyched and ready I was back today in record time to attempt a 4-tomatoes worth of evening study. In fact I was back home right in time for the phone to ring.
“Hello,” said Regular Phil*, as I picked it up. “I’m setting off from work now.”
“No worries, just getting myself something to eat early, need to get on with study stuff.”
“OK, there’s an Ocado delivery tonight.”
Pause. Followed by a slightly crappy and entirely subtextual discussion around study vs. the paid work that pays the mortgage, which neither of us really pursues in case the other side wins or loses, and we hang up.
I change into something not entirely comfortable, due to the expected arrival of the delivery man, and decide at least one tomato may first be attempted, and that despite my headphones I can probably still hear the doorbell ring as I finally get my head down. But do I need to mark as an interruption each time I hoof the cat from the keyboard or just once? And can I really hear the doorbell or did I miss it already? And does the Pomodoro finding that most urgent external interruptions can wait for half an hour applies to insistent cats, deliveries and late-arriving husbands or only for students and the socially skill-less?
By the time the delivery was done and dinner eaten, I only managed three proper tomatoes, not counting the squashed one that I started before the interruptions. In fact, I rather suspect the success of those using il pomodoro may owe more to being able to say no to life’s ordinary exigencies, than it does to their magic tomatoes. I did quite like it though, and have a sneaking suspicion that measuring how much time I actually do study for and marking off the procrastinations will make me do more and better. Which can only be A Good Thing.
* Regular Phil is my OH. And a pseudonym. Obviously.