Tomatoes and Creativity

There are so many practices and methods for promoting productivity and improving time management, but maybe the simplest and most effective one is The Pomodoro® Technique created by Francesco Cirillo. Its core is so simple, you might be tempted to dismiss it without trying. Don’t. The power of this technique is in its simplicity, regardless of how naïve it might sound at first.

All you have to do to get started is to pick one task, and no more than one, set a timer for 25 minutes, cut off as many distractions as you can control, and work on that task. When the 25 minutes are up, set the timer again, this time for 5 minutes, and take a break. That would be a good time to go back to the beloved distractions you’ve put on hold or any other thing. After your break, set the timer again for 25 minutes and go back to work on your task without distractions.

While the technique is more elaborated than this short description, that is its core. Its value lies in its simplicity. Anyone can work on a task without distractions for 25 minutes. It might feel strange at first, especially if you are used to frequent, uncontrolled context-switching. But it is a realistic goal that doesn’t require any unique setup or preparation except for turning off your phone for this short period and finding a comfortable place to work in.

The great thing about Pomodoro is that, unlike other techniques, it is truly generic. I, for example, use it less as a Time Management technique and more as a Focus Management technique. And as such, it is an excellent addition to my toolbox in many of The Creativity Operating System practices. Quite a few Core Practices require you to pause and focus. These practices are most effective when you have the proper setup, and while “the proper setup” is really individual, the most essential aspect of it is cutting off potential distractions.

For me, that was the most challenging part. Sure, I could turn off my phone when I want to reflect on my day. But for how long? I often found myself trying to reflect mindfully and jumping out of my chair after five minutes, saying to myself that was enough. Think about pausing to imagine. It sounds like an easy practice, but it does require a quiet and distraction-less setup. Without some clear boundaries, many people find it hard to achieve. That is the beauty and power of The Pomodoro Technique. It makes such a setup realistic and manageable. It sets a clear and sharp boundary to any such focus-demanding activity, no matter how abstract it may sound.

If you aim to reflect at the end of the day, manage this activity as a Pomodoro. It will “force” you to dedicate 25 distraction-free minutes to this activity. With Pomodoro, this activity that you might have dismissed after a couple of minutes otherwise has a concrete time set for it — time you have to use. On the other hand, it is really a reasonable amount of time. You will manage to cut off distractions for only 25 minutes. And if you can do it, you will soon realize the value of doing so.

Even when applied to “regular” activities, using Pomodoro not just for managing time but to increase focus and reduce context-switching has a huge benefit in terms of your Creativity. Creative insights are almost always the results of your brain doing some background, unconscious processing. Many Fusions are generated on such a background channel, and they surface unexpectedly. But such background processing requires bandwidth. When you are focused on one thing, your brain has more bandwidth for underlying thoughts. When you are constantly distracted, even if just to sneak a peek on a random notification, your mind is constantly absorbing new information (as meaningless as it might be). It is, therefore, not capable of deeper processing.

Whether it is a reflection and imagining time, working on a concrete task, or just taking some time off to wander aimlessly, The Pomodoro Technique can help you set a clear boundary around the activity and reduce distractions and context-switching. Anything done in this simple and effective setup will benefit from it, not just in productivity but mainly in Creativity.

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