These days, it feels as though we can either be productive or live an active life. It doesn’t seem possible to fit both in to our day. With evidence suggesting that spending long periods of time sitting (independent of physical activity levels) increases cancer risk, it’s about time we became more active. So is there any way we can have the best of both worlds? Well, I’m glad to be the bearer of good news: the Pomodoro writing technique might just be what we are all looking for!
Developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro writing technique helps writers overcome ‘writers block’ by compartmentalising writing and disciplining ourselves to write for set periods of time. Cirillo encourages us to work continuously for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. Setting an egg timer to sound when the 25 minutes are complete ensures that our attention is not interrupted by constantly time checking. This writing technique also grants us 5 minutes to stand up, shake off the burden of our desk, grab a cuppa, do some Kettlecise while we wait for it to boil, complete a small household chore such as putting a washing on, taking a phone call standing up, going for a short walk around the building and finally; preparing ourselves for another 25 minute writing block. These are all great ways to stay active AND be productive. It’s a double win!
The excellent thing about working in this structured way is that it ensures our attentions are focused and directed towards being productive and we are also sure that we will soon get a break! It is well known that working continuously for long periods of time does not result in increased productivity. In fact, studies show that working for less time can reap the same (or higher) levels of productivity from a work force.
I personally used the Pomodoro writing technique when writing papers for my masters. I adapted the strategy to increase the amount of time I spent writing AND moving. I would write for 50 minutes and move around for 10. This broke up the working day in to a simple 7 writing slots. In a given day I could write up to 5,000 words. This, of course, had to be edited and proof read (which was definitely more time consuming), however I found that structuring my work in this way took out the pressure of writing and enabled me to focus on breaking the task down and producing a larger quantity of work. Instead of sitting down to ‘write’ for an indefinite period of time I structured my goals and objectives by the hour.
Research also shows that sitting for long periods of time is not good for general health. Indeed, sitting for more than 14 hours a week can increase our risk of developing a range of diseases (including certain cancers). This reality can be scary when we realise that the average Scot is sedentary for 5.2 hours per day in addition to their working day.
But we can change this!
So is Pomodoro the solution? It’s certainly a step in the right direction! The key is to get up and move around in our breaks. This helps us break up sedentary time, while also increasing productivity.
Let us know how you get on over on Twitter @thescpn. We love to hear your stories of how you improve your working life.