The following post was written by Fall 2021 writing intern, Amelia Wright.
Have you ever sat down to complete something important and felt completely overwhelmed and distracted? If so, you’re not alone. When you look at a project, anxiety and dread can build around the amount of time it will take to complete. This is often because we associate long tasks with mental burnout. We often get used to working for large chunks of time without any respite. What ensues after is often mental fatigue. Just as breaks are needed in working out, we need time to recover from mental work to allow our brains to rest and grow.
One tested way to overcome these feelings and optimize your work sessions is by following the Pomodoro technique. Created by Francesco Cirillo in 1980, Pomodoro cycles are proven to help maximize work sessions and reduce procrastination through the use of frequent breaks. The main idea behind Pomodoro cycles is this: take breaks. Take them often, and don’t cut them short.
To practice Pomodoro cycles, you need to divide your time into even chunks. While typically people do twenty-five minute segments, you can customize these times to better fit your schedule. To begin, set a timer for twenty-five minutes, and work for the duration of that time. When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break. During this break, it is important that you do not do any work. The goal is to relax and rest your brain, so that you are prepared for the next cycle. After five minutes are up, restart your twenty-five minute work session. Repeat this process until you have completed four, twenty-five minute work sessions. Finally, take thirty minutes to an hour to decompress before restarting the cycle.
So why should you use the Pomodoro technique? Dedicating a simple twenty-five minutes at a time to one activity instead of trying to focus for hours on end results in a deeper focus during work time. Additionally, giving yourself frequent breaks allows your brain to decompress and prepare itself for the next twenty-five minute session. This aids in managing stress by not overexerting your brain through forcing hours of deep focus. Additionally, Pomodoro cycles provide structure and a starting point for projects. If you find yourself intimidated by the amount of work ahead of you, this method is a great starting point.