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The Pomodoro Technique: What It Is, and How It Can Help Your Productivity

Lauren Bryant

Lauren Bryant is a University of Illinois student who volunteered as an AbilityLinks blogger this summer. I was pleased to supervise Lauren and serve as her editor. Here is Lauren's final blog post of the summer. - Bill O'Connor

In the interest of being completely honest with the readers of this blog, I’m going to make a confession: I have trouble focusing on work more often than not. I am a chronic multitasker: usually those other tasks are not work related.

I know of many disabilities where a lack of focus is one of the symptoms, and though it is not a symptom of my particular disability, it is something I struggle with. There is a technique out there, however, that I’ve found helpful when I’ve used it. That technique is called the Pomodoro Technique.

What is the Pomodoro Technique? According to its official website, the Pomodoro Technique is a unique method of time management that uses intervals of 25 minutes spent on a pre-determined task (say, writing a report, or working on coding a website) spent SOLELY on the task. 

If any distraction interrupts you, even an unrelated thought, write it down on paper, then immediately return to your task. When your 25 minutes is up, put a check mark on your paper and take short break; say, 5 minutes. Then come back and repeat. Every four Pomodoro intervals (or four check marks), you get a longer break; 20 to 30 minutes.

To many of you, this technique may seem a bit confusing. How on Earth could this help me be more productive? Well, the reasoning is simple: frequent breaks make it much easier to focus on your task, not procrastinate, and get more done. This is useful for everybody, since the human brain is only able to focus for fairly short periods of time.

According to one article, this period could be as short as five minutes! While these 25 minute chunks can seem long, the act of

recording your distractions can really help them from piling up and actually distracting you.

By allowing yourself to take occasional breaks, your brain can retain more information. This could mean you could bring up relevant information to your supervisor about departmental meetings.

Please remember that I am most certainly not a doctor. Your particular trouble focusing may be entirely due to your disability. If this is the case, the Pomodoro Technique may not work for you. You may find after using it, if you do not have focus issues due to your disability, that this method isn’t helpful. That’s perfectly okay. There are plenty of other productivity methods out there, but if you give the Pomodoro Technique a try, please leave a comment and tell me how you liked it!