Mar 9, 2018
Episode 12 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the Pomodoro Technique and why it is the perfect productivity tool for teachers.
Welcome to The Teaching Space podcast, coming to you from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.
Hello, and welcome to Episode 12 of The Teaching Space Podcast. It's Martine here, thank you so much for joining me.
In today's episode, I'm going to talk to you about why I believe the Pomodoro Technique is the perfect productivity tool for teachers.
If you've not come across the Pomodoro Technique before, it is a time management method developed by a chap called Francesco Cirillo in the late 80s.
The technique involves using a timer to break work down into intervals. And traditionally, those intervals are 25 minutes in length, and a 25-minute chunk of work is called a Pomodoro.
It's called a Pomodoro because Mr. Cirillo used to use a kitchen timer that was shaped like a tomato, and I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, pomodoro is Italian for the word tomato.
Now, I'm going to have to double check that on Google. One second. Phew. According to Google, I am indeed correct. That is why the Pomodoro technique is named as such.
You're chunking up work into 25-minute slots and after you've done your 25 minutes of work, you have a five-minute break.
Just to outline really clearly how the Pomodoro technique works:
You select a task that you need to complete, then you work out how many Pomodoros you're going to need in order to complete that task. Personally, I class the Pomodoro as 30 minutes because five minutes of that is your break. Say you've got a job that's going to take an hour and a half, that means you're going to need three Pomodoros.
What you do is you set your kitchen timer or your timer on your mobile device for 25 minutes and then for 25 minutes you work uninterrupted, 100% focused on the task in hand.
When your alarm goes, you then take a five-minute break. Your five-minute break is best spent doing something very different to the task in hand.
For example, if you're doing computer-based work, spend five minutes getting a breath of fresh air or moving away from your computer to get a cup of coffee or something along those lines. Put the timer on for the five minutes, though, because that five-minute slot needs to be managed with the same care as the 25-minute slot.
Then it's a case of rinse and repeat.
For every four Pomodoros you do, you should take a slightly longer break. It's recommended that you take, say, 20 or 30 minutes after you've done four Pomodoros, which is two hours work.
As I mentioned, this method was invented in the 80s where we didn't use smartphones, so Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer. A simple kitchen timer. And, of course, you can perform the Pomodoro technique in exactly the same way.
Personally, I tend to use the alarm on my mobile device. There are a number of apps that are set up for use with the Pomodoro technique and a very, very quick search for Pomodoro on the iOS app store comes up with a load.
There is Focus Keeper, which is a free app that I've used and it's really good. Be Focused, rel="noopener" data-cke-saved-href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/workflow-timer/id733300214?mt=8">Workflow Timer and a number of other options. Flat Tomato is not one I've tried, but I rather like the name of it.
There are a variety of apps that can help you utilize the Pomodoro technique.
Why am I telling you that the Pomodoro technique is a great productivity tool? In fact, the perfect productivity tool for teachers? Good question.
I think one of the biggest shocks for me moving from private sector to public sector and working as a teacher was working to a timetable. I haven't worked to a timetable since being at school. It was quite overwhelming initially.
I really enjoyed the structure of it, but what I found very, very challenging was the fact that non-contact time seemed to be very short, snatched moments of time between lessons, and because of that day structure, because teachers often don't have long stretches of time to do focused work, the Pomodoro technique works brilliantly for us.
When you work in short bursts and they are timed, you get into a state of flow much more quickly. You train yourself to get in the zone, and you are less inclined to be distracted. The Pomodoro technique makes you focus more, and for that reason alone I think it can revolutionise the way teachers deal with their non-contact times, so the time that they are not in the classroom.
Your task might be marking, it might be preparation, anything like that. If you break it into Pomodoros and you do that really focused work, you'll get into flow more quickly and you will ultimately get more done.
Parkinson's Law suggests that activities will expand to fill the time allotted to them.
Meetings are an amazing example. If you set an hour for a meeting, it's going to take an hour, even if you only needed 20 minutes for that meeting.
By using small chunks of time, 25-minute slots, you get to be more in control of the time it takes to complete a task. And the other thing you end up doing is more accurately estimating how long something is going to take you. If you have a pile of assignments to mark, you have a really good look at that pile, and you get better and better at estimating how long that's going to take.
I really believe that Pomodoro technique is the ideal productivity tool for teachers. Why don't you give it a go?
I'd love it if you let me know how you're getting on or perhaps you use the technique already, perhaps you're already Pomodoroing. I don't think that's even a thing, but let's go with it.
Do let me know, I'd love to hear from you.
The best way to chat about productivity tips for teachers is to join my Facebook group, The Teaching Space Staff Room.
Okay, that's all from me today. I hope you enjoyed this episode.
If you did, please consider leaving a positive iTunes review for the podcast, because that way the show can be found by more people and I'd really love that. I'd like to speak to as many teachers and people working in education as possible.
Thanks for listening, and I hope you'll join me next time.