Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pomodoro technique: guard your time.

The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo almost 30 years ago as a system to stay focused and maximize the use of his study time in college.  It's a godsend for people like me who could use some help concentrating on a large project by working in bursts with short breaks in between.  The method boils down to the following:

  • Get a to-do list on paper (preferably) or at least in your mind.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes and do a task on your to-do list
    • Try not to get sidetracked during the time and defer any interruptions or urges if it's humanly possible.
    • If interrupted (by your own thoughts or someone else), you stop the timer, handle the interruption, and restart the time back at 0 again.
    • Once the timer rings after 25 minutes of uninterrupted work, record that accomplishment and take a 5 minute break.
    • However, every 4 "Pomodoros" (what the author call the 25 minute unit of uninterrupted activity described above), take a 15-20 minute break instead of 5.
The author recommends using a Pomodoro shaped timer (pomodoro is Italian for tomato), but I've found success using various smartphone apps that automate the process with alarms and timed breaks.  One example is the Pomodroido app for Android.

Personally, this technique alone has worked wonders in putting in nearly 300 hours of studying in a span of around 5 months for the CFA exams.  I don't think I could have passed Levels 1 and 2 of the CFA exam without it.

Let me know what's your experience with the Pomodoro Technique in the comments below.

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