We constantly hear people say that they are too glued to their work that they cannot take breaks to walk and stretch.
However, the lack of breaks while working is not only detrimental to your body, which has been in one position for so long, but the effects are felt mentally as well. It does not take long before one realises that in 8 hours they have done work that could have taken just two hours.
Another concern is that time management at the workplace can be a tricky affair. The world is full of disruption—the bing of a text, an urgent question from a coworker, a surprise task from your supervisor that must be done as-soon-as-possible(ASAP). Being pulled from task to task… well, that is just life sometimes. However, for many people (especially within creative fields), once focus is lost due to interruption, it can take quite a bit of time to get it back. This can cause your work and productivity to suffer.
Created in the 1980s by developer and entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that alternates between periods of uninterrupted 25-minute focus and 5-15 minutes of rest. These periods of focus are called “Pomodoros”—the Italian word for tomatoes. The method was named after the tomato-shaped timer Francesco used to track his work as a university student.
So… how can it help you?
There is no argument to be had here—focus is an important part of success and resisting distraction can have its benefits, like improved leadership and mindfulness, but there is also a downside. Too much focus can be detrimental to productivity. According to the Harvard Business Review, excessive focus can exhaust the focus circuits in your brain, draining energy and encouraging impulsive, scattered decision-making. The brain works best when it switches back and forth between periods of resisting distraction and embracing it. I.e., Pomodoro.
How To: The Pomodoro Technique
1. Create a list of three to five tasks to be accomplished —put your most important task at the top of your list. Accomplishing this task will make your day of work feel worthwhile. No worries if your listed task is large! Breaking it up into chunks makes it much more manageable.
2.. Set your timer to 25 minutes and start your Pomodoro— it is recommend that you power down that cell phone, close your email and eliminate all distraction so that you can focus.
3. Work on your task until your timer goes off—if you do not finish a task, that is perfectly OK. You can pick up right where you left off next Pomodoro.
4. Take a short break—5 minutes is fine, but if you need a bit longer, set your break time to your needs; during this time, feel free to check those texts, answer emails, chat with coworkers, grab a snack or handle any tasks that popped up during your Pomodoro
5. After every 2-4 Pomodoros, take a longer break— 10-15 minutes; focus is crucial to the work day, but hyper focus can hurt productivity more than help
Pomodoro Tip: Noisy workplace? Pop in those headphones and tune into some light instrumental music! It is very relaxing AND eliminates distractions.
If you work in an office or a cubicle, put up a Pomodoro Sign displaying when you will be available again (unless it is an emergency!) to eliminate distraction.
If you are interrupted by something that cannot wait—no worries! Just end your Pomodoro, take a break and jump right back into it when you are able.
NELLIE NTHIGA, BDM, C&P Health Centre.