Saturday, October 16, 2021

Using The Pomodoro Technique

Over the past couple of years, I've been using the Pomodoro Technique more and more, for a variety of things. This is a very effective time management method.

The idea is that you set a timer for a specific amount of time to spend on something, and during that time you focus exclusively on that task. You can add additional work periods, or alternate with rest periods.

Pomodoro is Italian for tomato, and the technique is named for kitchen timers that are shaped like tomatoes. Each work period of 10-60 minutes is called a pomodoro.

I like to use my cellphone timer, the Brain Focus app, or a timer similar to this one. There are a number of phone apps similar to Brain Focus; I picked it pretty much at random from the choices that showed up.

What's nice about the app is that it sets up an alternating cycle of work periods and rest periods. I use it for studying and reading, to make sure I take regular breaks. The default setting is 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest, with a longer 20-minute rest every 4 cycles.

As I mentioned in Review: Limitless, by Jim Kwik, the rest periods are to allow my brain to consolidate information. If I'm doing some kind of physical activity, the rest periods allow me to recover physically and avoid overdoing it. Both cases allow me to put in a sustained effort that can add up to several hours.

I spend the rest period in a variety of ways, depending on the main activity and how I'm feeling:

  • Doing a deep-breathing meditation, which I also covered in the Kwik review. Another common pattern I use is to count breaths to 10 (5 breaths alternating inhale and exhale, then start over; start over if I lose count or my mind wanders).
  • Standing up and doing stretches to work out the kinks.
  • Doing "chair yoga," simplified yoga poses that use the furniture as props.
  • Doing simple calisthenics like situps, pushups, or deep knee-bends. Where the other rest activities are relaxing, this is stimulating.
  • Going for a short walk.
  • Getting coffee or water. It's important to stay hydrated during any mental or physical effort.
  • Going to the bathroom.
There are a variety of benefits. In addition to pacing out and breaking up work and making sure I get brief rests, it enforces both minimum and maximum times.

This ensure that I at least put in some minimum amount of time for something I don't like doing, such as housework; and that I don't let time get away from me when I'm doing something I like, such as reading.

It also makes sure I address and balance the various demands on my time. That prevents exhausting all my energy on one thing while overlooking other things. Just about anything can be done in small segments, mixed in with segments of other things.

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