Essays > Skill Development — 27 November 2013

Punya on a work technique she has been using recently.

A few weeks ago we had dinner with Ajara and Jalal. The boys were talking across the table with each other about I do not know what and we girls about girly things: about computers and programmes, of course. (This was also the topic of the lunch conversations with Jeevan, when we were both living in Pune.)

Ajara, more of an expert in such matters being a teacher for web design in German colleges, I was mostly at the receiving end. Apart from some interesting information about other content management systems (rather than my favourite WordPress) what stuck the most, and what I have started implementing the following day, was the ‘Pomodoro’.

tomato timer

Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, which when prepared for consumption is usually cut into slices. Unlike an apple, it is more of a messy business if you eat it whole. The poor tomato was also used because at some point in the distant past we had those kitchen timers in the form of a tomato. Remember?

The theory goes that you can eat the whole thing much easier when cut into pieces – and the same goes for any task. Francesco Cirillo penned his idea sometime in the late 80s in his book ‘The Pomodoro Technique‘.

I have not read the book as I am not good at following instructions (I rather try out things for myself, what we call ‘fiddling about’), but here is what Wikipedia says about it:

There are five basic steps to implement the technique:

Decide on the task to be done
Set the pomodoro timer to n minutes (traditionally 25)
Work on the task until the timer rings; record with an X (a cross)
Take a short break (3-5 minutes)
Every four ‘pomodori’ take a longer break (15–30 minutes)

Without knowing much about it I trustfully followed Ajara’s suggestion and downloaded the free application TeamViz (no more winding up of tomatoes and marking with crosses in this millennium), ‘fiddled’ with it for a bit and then started using it. I imagine there could be many improvements done to it, but it would make it more complicated. The way it is, is just fine.

What has this Pomodoro changed in my life? First of all I get to get up from my square ass every 25 minutes. I spend the short breaks to drink my hot cup of tea more meditatively (instead of slurping it down while cold and typing one thing or other), have a spin on my new-to-me home trainer, put on some dance music, do a small chore in the household I have been postponing for weeks – in short – I take a break from what I am doing, and this in the middle of a sentence. When I am on the phone with a client I cannot just stop the conversation: I get up from the chair and walk about the room as far as the chord of the headphones will let me, do some stretching and twisting, while avoiding any panting….

I do not expect to have any eureka moments with brilliant ideas, but the mind and the eyes get a little break from what they have been doing and after the break the job seems more fun to go on with. Also, my circulation gets a change, so no more cold feet in winter, I hope.

It also gives me the opportunity first thing in the morning to decide on what kind of projects I want to work on. I even make slots like ‘reply to my private emails’, a task I usually relegate to the end of the day where not much juice is left for a good ‘exchange of energy’.

As I am a bit of a doodler, I sometimes spend too much time tweaking a simple photo, and the ticking of the clock (which you can switch off) or the movement of the clock helps me stay with the task and finish it off a bit quicker. And at the end of the day you can close your laptop looking at your score and tell yourself: “I can now watch ‘Downton Abbey’ with a good conscience, I have done my daily lot!”

So this was now three pomodori – as I am a bit of a slow writer…

Punya, Osho News

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