The Financial Express

Taking short breaks to increase productivity

| Updated: May 04, 2021 17:00:02

Taking short breaks to increase productivity

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, yet, some people can use it more resourcefully than others. Now these people are not born with superpowers, they just happen to manage their time efficiently. Fortunately, time management is something that can be mastered by just using a few basic tools and tricks - the pomodoro technique being the most prominent among them.
The main concept of this technique is to do focused work for 25 minutes at a stretch, with five-minute gaps after each session. After four sessions, a longer 15-20 minute break can be taken. Each session is called a pomodoro, which is Italian for Tomato. Four consecutive sessions is called a pomodoro cycle. The unique name 'Pomodoro' is based on the story of how this technique was conceived in the late 1980s, when developer and entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo used his kitchen timer, shaped like a tomato, to work for measured intervals.
Although there are a lot of productivity hacks floating around nowadays, a few things make this technique stand out. Each session is done with full focus on the task at hand only, keeping any distraction away. It is even recommended to write down any thought that pops up on a separate piece of paper to get it out of the head. Once a session is finished, the distractions can be dealt with.
Faiza Kamal, a final year student at the Institute of Business administration, University of Dhaka said that this technique helped her take control of her time to a great extent.
"Earlier, I used to sit at the table for a whole day with the intention to study, only to end up scrolling through Instagram for the majority of the time. Now I finish studying in short, focused sessions, and have the rest of the day to do things I like."
Highly productive people swear by this method as well for its well-known benefits. According to Ayman Sadiq, founder and CEO of 10 Minute School, this method helps increase productivity and efficiency, reduces wastage of time, achieves set targets, and helps one get an idea about one's efficiency. He utilises the technique by working on a fixed objective in one pomodoro cycle.
This technique also helps to get started on big cumbersome projects that require a lot of willpower. Thomas Frank, famous YouTuber and author of '10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades' talked about this in one of his videos. According to Thomas, beginning a large task usually comes with some mental resistance. This technique can be used to overcome this resistance, and thereby get into a flow state of work.
One of the best things about this tool is that it helps reduce burnout, while simultaneously increasing productivity. Nowadays, working for 10-12 hours at a stretch is often required at workplaces or educational institutes before deadlines. When this procedure is followed, productivity is optimised in the distraction free short sessions, and stress is reduced in the five-minute breaks. The breaks work best when one gets away from screens and just rests the eyes a little bit. They can help reduce back pain, blurry vision, and burnout drastically, and lead to overall better physical and mental health.
"Using the five-minute breaks to go to my balcony and enjoying the fresh air really leaves me energised for my next study session, and gets me through the whole day without feeling exhausted," said Sabrina Nawar, an admission examinee.
Although the concept initially talks about 25 minute sessions, there is no hard and fast rule. Some people like to have longer sessions with an extended break, others like to focus on only 15- 20 minutes at a stretch when the task is too hard to start. One of the more popular ratios is a 52:17 minute session, where one works focused for 52 minutes and then takes a break for 17 minutes. According to the data drawn from DeskTime, a productivity app to track computer usage, the top 10 per cent performers among its users were the one who used this ratio at work.
Aside from work that requires mental energy, pomodoro can be used for doing basic chores efficiently too. The key is to divide a large chore into several pomodoros, and group small chores together in one. Sharifa Rahman, a 45-year- old housewife living in Dhaka uses this technique to group together tasks like folding the laundry, watering plants, dusting the furniture in one pomodoro, and then finishing larger tasks like mopping the floor and cooking lunch in several pomodoros.
All in all, using this method can lead to a lot of increased productivity when it is implemented effectively. The important thing to remember is, while it may not work for everyone, it is flexible enough to be adjusted in different ways and give its users the benefit they need.

The writer is a final year student at IBA, University of Dhaka.
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