Let’s see if I can get this blog post done in the span of one tomato.
(It’ll make sense soon . . . stay with me on this one.)
Quick background: I’m part of a small cohort of people at Green College who pledged to keep track of their daily activities in order to answer a simple question: “Where does the time go?”
About 20 of us signed up — probably to boost our productivity — while other residents dismissed it as a masochistic little experiment.
We started last week . . . and by the end I had to admit to my brethren that I had epically failed. But it wasn’t because I wasn’t keeping track of my time. Actually, I failed because I’d kept a ridiculously detailed log, and it slowly degenerated into excuse-making on my own behalf. (I’ll be honest: it got weird.)
By the end, it was impossible to sort the minutiae into the standardized hour-long blocks, as the group had set out to do. So, on Sunday, I started using a different system.
A friend suggested I try the pomodoro technique (“pomodoro” is the Italian name for tomato), which I’m finding really effective for keeping track of work that is untainted by what the Green College experiment calls “low work.” (That is, pretending you’re working while checking Facebook or going down a YouTube wormhole.)
The Pomodoro technique was named after the inventor’s kitchen timer, which was in the shape of a tomato. The official website explains the time management strategy in five simple steps:
- Choose a task to be accomplished
- Set the Pomodoro (tomato timer) to 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then write down what you accomplished
- Take a short break (5 minutes is the standard)
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (30 minutes is the standard)
I know, it sounds so unimpressive that you may wonder why I’m bothering to blog about it. Here’s the thing: it works.
Example: I usually slack off something serious on Sundays…but I got addicted to collecting these tomatoes and ended up being reasonably productive (remember, I’m only counting periods of totally focused work):
sunday 19 Sep. 8 finished tomatoes
- 23:06 – 23:31 Read class notes and 14 more pages of Schudson
- 18:00 – 18:25 Read 20 more pages of Schudson
- 17:12 – 17:37 Read 18 pages of Schudson
- 16:13 – 16:44 Read 10 more pages of Dewey
- 14:20 – 14:45 Read 12 pages of Dewey
- 13:47 – 14:12 Watched Al Jazeera Listening Post on Wikileaks and took notes
- 13:13 – 13:38 Finished the Quebec reading.
- 12:39 – 13:04 Finished the multiculturalism reading.
This list made itself when I used this free online timer designed in Pomodoro style. (I should mention that you can pay for the official timer and booklet and what-not, but you can also find ways to be a broke student and still take advantage of this simple work rhythm.)
Apparently there’s also an app for this.
Obviously, people at the college were skeptical at first . . . but many have since come up to me and told me that there’s really something about 25 minutes that just, well, works.
Anyway, there’s no harm in getting a taste for it. Personally, I’m kind of addicted to this friendly little vegetable, not to mention the joy of accomplishing something in under 30 minutes.
Speaking of which, I’ve finished this post AND my timer says…