Pomodoro: Burst by burst

Elon Musk has endorsed it and Elonians deny further validation isn’t required in the New Age? The high-profile CEO of Tesla and SpaceX revealed in a recent two-hour podcast with Joe Rogan last week that his key to productivity lies in adopting five-minute high-performance Pomodoro intervals immediately after waking up at 7 am. Not exercise or breakfast but concentrated work bursts, he explained.

Huh? Go back to 1897—not easy in a non Google world—and the browser will find the secrets of the Pomodoro Technique. Pioneered by consultant Francesco Cirillo in 1987, it is the current shtick for time management fanatics and the administrative departments who devise organisational methods.

Musk is known to throw such curveballs just for the fun of it’ perhaps he did set the timer for 25 minutes to concentrate on a specific task or related tasks, known as a ‘Pomodoro’. After the timer goes off, a five-minute break is taken and after four Pomodoros, you get a bonus of a 15-30 minute break for relaxation or simply stretching.

Media baron Arianna Huffington swears that shutting off devices and staying hyper-focused on the task at hand (yes, flight mode every few hours) is one of her 12 ways to thrive in the modern world.

Pomodoro in Italian means tomato. Sometime in the early ’80s, University student Cirillo used a tomato-shaped timer, the only one available to him at that time, to make study fun and less tiring. He broke up sessions into 25-minute sections. These intervals became known as Pomodoros. Simply put, in this technique, you work for x amount of time, you take a break for half of the work duration and then you come back to work. Cirillo suggests that 25 minutes of work hits the sweet spot for optimal focus.

Bengaluru-based yoga, classical dance teacher and life coach Mythili Rao says that just as nature segues through day and night, our productivity also has a rhythm. By dividing our tasks into manageable intervals, akin to the rhythmic beats of a tabla, we synchronise our actions with the natural flow of energy. The dancer declares, “In Indian philosophy, time is not merely a linear progression but a dynamic dance of moments. The Pomodoro Technique invites us to engage with time as a dance partner, respecting its rhythm and pace.” Pomodoro would have been clueless about Hindu spirituality when he laid out the guidelines in his bestseller “The Pomodoro Technique: Do More and Have Fun with Time Management.”

Rao’s take is that the Italian’s technique aligns with ‘sattva’— the quality of balance and harmony. “By alternating focused work with brief breaks, we honour the need for equilibrium in what we do. The Pomodoro Technique becomes not just a method of time management, but a practice of mindfulness, aligning us with the timeless wisdom of the universe”, she adds.

S Namita who works with Sukoon Health says that the McCloskey and Scielzo study identified five key aspects of academic procrastination, including psychological beliefs about abilities, distractions, social factors, time management, and self-initiative. The Pomodoro framework helps people to manage the 21st century ailments of stress and anxiety, poor attention and concentration, and simplifies thoughts. “For academic productivity, the Pomodoro Technique is a transformative force, empowering students to unlock their full potential. Tomato, tomahto, what difference does it make when you can mange time and yourself better?

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