Have you come across The Pomodoro Technique [unsolicited plug]?

It’s a method of dividing up your work time, to ensure that you work in a concentrated manner in short bursts, a bit like HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) for the brain. Basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes, a period the author calls a “Pomodoro”. You then work until the timer rings, allowing nothing to interrupt you. After a short break of five minutes, you start the next Pomodoro. Rinse and repeat.

The name apparently derives from the tomato-shaped timer that he bought to measure his work periods. A tomato is “Pomodoro” in Italian.

If I were creating such a system and wanted to name it after something associated with tomatoes, I would call it “The Caprese Technique”. For those who don’t know, Insalata Caprese is an Italian salad consisting of alternating slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella cheese. Add an Italian dressing and a couple of basil leaves, and you have a great antipasto. The tomatoes would be the work periods and the cheese, the breaks, giving a more pictorially accurate image.

However, the method I first developed 45 years ago while studying at university would go under the name “The Coffee Technique”. I would have called it “The Java Technique”, but the computer language has preempted the name. “The Columbian Technique” makes it sound like something connected to a drugs cartel.

Anyway, I make myself a large milk coffee (originally in a pint beer glass). I then sit down and study or work, sipping the coffee as I go. Once the coffee is cold, I finish it, usually about the last quarter cup in one go, then go and make another one. The break is at least five minutes long, boiling the water, running the coffee machine, or whatever is necessary. Then I head back to carry on.

The time structure is more organic. For me, this has two distinct advantages:

  1. I vary the length of the work time by the speed at which I drink the coffee. If it is an easy task, I tend to drink the coffee faster. With hard work and intense concentration, the coffee is consumed more slowly.
  2. Have you ever been “in the zone” or “in the flow”, where the task becomes so easy, and you are so engrossed that you don’t notice time passing? If you have, the last thing you want is some damned timer ringing in your ear and interrupting you!

Using coffee has an added advantage: caffeine is known to be an aid to concentration.

However, you should be careful about how intensely you follow this method. During the early 90s, I had a serious coffee addiction, drinking 10-12 cups a day at work…

If you have your own way of structuring your time, why not let the rest of us know.

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