Can a Tomato Increase Your Productivity?
Hi friend! I have a bit of a strange question for you today. Can a tomato increase your productivity?
Larry D. Burton, a Professor of Curriculum & Instruction at Andrews University, asked this very question in an article for the Journal of Research on Christian Education, 2016. Burton was referring to the increasingly popular time management method referred to as the Pomodoro Technique. This program is used by millions around the world to help increase productivity and efficiency in personal and group study. Today I am going to let you in on the secret of Pomodoro: where it came from, what it can do for you, and how to incorporate it into your study routine.
Where did it come from?
In the early 90s, Francesco Cirillo was going to graduate school at Guido Carli International University and, like a large number of college students, myself included, Cirillo was struggling with his time management. He wanted to figure out how to do more work with less time. Through trial and error, he started working with a timer and found a method that worked.
You may be wondering, “What the heck is a Pomodoro then?” The first thing you should know is that Francesco Cirillo is from Italy. Secondly, the time-keeping device that he used in his research was a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. Finally, the word for tomato in Italian is Pomodoro. From there was born the Pomodoro method, as well as a great merchandising opportunity! At conferences, they could pass out little tomato-shaped timers and even sell them online! So the name stuck.
The Pomodoro Method
So what is the method? The Pomodoro technique is quite simple. First, you choose a task you would like to accomplish, and then you set a timer for 25 minutes. Next, you get to work and work uninterrupted for those 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, you take a 5-minute break. This marks the completion of one full Pomodoro. Then you pick a new task and get back to work for 25 minutes. After 4 rounds of 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off, you take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. Then you start over again. The purpose of the timed study is to increase productivity and efficiency in the work that you do.
While increased productivity and efficiency are great, this method is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it can be quite difficult to get used to, and it is not for everyone. However, there are even more reasons to follow this Pomodoro method that I think you might find intriguing.
Motivation and Procrastination
Implementing Pomodoros can help with procrastination and motivation. Do you ever procrastinate? I know I do. More times than I would like to admit, I have found myself Googling how to get motivated and looking for the right inspirational quote to help me get started. The truth is that motivation does not strike. Motivation in fact comes after starting an action. Jame Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, explains his idea of the Physics of Productivity. An object that is in motion stays in motion. Just like Newton's First Law states, once you have started working it is easier to continue working.
This is where the Pomodoro method comes in. The method states that all you have to do is work for 25 concentrated minutes, and then you can get a break. I like to take the philosophy that I can do anything for 25 minutes. This type of thinking is often used in workout routines. All throughout Richard Simmons’ routines, he is telling you, “Eight more, two more, almost there!” He is letting you know in his fabulous way that you are close to getting to do something else and that you should keep pushing. Using the Pomodoro method your task is similarly broken down into smaller segments of time that are easier to begin. Once you begin, the motivation follows.
Pomodoros can also be helpful with time management. In a study by Xiaofeng Wang, Federico Gobbo, and Michael Lane in 2010, the Sourcesense Milan software development team tested out the Pomodoro method. They found that using Pomodoros as a measure of effort really helped in their time management strategies. After working with this method for a few weeks, they were able to more accurately predict how long it would take them to complete each task, therefore giving them the ability to give their customers an accurate timeline of when projects would be complete. This same technique can be used in your life for predicting actually how long each project is going to take you.
Finally, employing Pomodoro can help with distraction prevention. When you sit down to do your 25 minutes of work, you put everything away: your phone, your email, your video games, everything. Anything can wait another 25 minutes to be answered. Giving your full attention to the task at hand can help stop the habit of multitasking which lowers productivity.
How do you implement the Pomodoro technique?
First, start small by finding a timer that you like and trying it out. Larry D. Burton uses a kitchen timer that makes a ticking sound as time passes. He likes the sound and uses it as motivation to keep working. There is also a Pomodoro-specific app that can help you with keeping track of how many Pomodoros you have completed. Or keep it simple and use the timer built into your phone or computer. You can keep from getting distracted by putting your phone far enough away that you can’t see it but close enough that you can still hear when the timer goes off.
Second, record your Pomodoros. As you complete a Pomodoro, mark it down on your to-do list. I like to put down one X mark for every 25 minutes completed off to the side of the task that I am completing. This will help you by giving you the satisfaction of a completed to-do list along with letting you know how long it takes you to complete each task.
Finally, have discipline in your trial. You can do this in two ways: working without interruption and taking breaks seriously. Make sure your Pomodoros are completed without interruption. At Sourcesense Milan, they do not count the Pomodoro as being successful or completed if the Pomodoro is interrupted in any way. The idea of the 25 minutes is to have a full-on concentrated study of the task that you set out to do at the beginning of the time. If there is a lack of concentration, the method will not bring results.
Also, really take a break when it is break time. One of the tricks of this method is finding the kinds of breaks that work best for you. For the method to work, the short breaks need to be relaxing and not taxing. They also need to be not so addicting that once your timer goes off you are willing to go back to work. These types of activities can range from listening to music to doing some dishes, to taking a nap, to getting a snack. Just make sure to give your brain a break from the task at hand. This way, when you go back to studying you will really be able to have that concentrated study for the next 25 minutes.
Everyone is looking to do more work with less time. The Pomodoro technique is the way to make that happen. The ideas behind this technique are simple and very possible to execute. All you need is a timer and a dedication to getting better. So, can a tomato increase your productivity? In fact, it might just be the key.
If you want to continue reading about procrastination and motivation, check out our previous posts on these topics! There are some great insights that I think you might enjoy.
Until next time!
Burton, L. D. (2016). Can a tomato increase your productivity? Journal of Research on Christian Education, 25(2), 95-96. doi:10.1080/10656219.2016.1191926.
Cirillo Consulting GmbH: Services, products, software to enhance your productivity. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2021, from https://francescocirillo.com/.
Clear, J. (2020, November 11). Motivation: The scientific guide on how to get and stay motivated. Retrieved February 17, 2021, from https://jamesclear.com/motivation.
Sweatin' to the Oldies [Motion picture on VHS], Shipley, E. (Director). (1988).
Vozza, S. (2013, May 29). The surprisingly simple productivity time saver. Retrieved February 23, 2021. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/
Turning time from enemy into an ally using the Pomodoro technique. Agility Across Time and Space, 149-166. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-12442-6_10. Wang, X., Gobbo, F., & Lane, M. (2010).
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