CHAPTER 3 There’s nothing to lose

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking 25 minutes is a pretty specific number. Why does this number work? Why not 40 minutes or 20, even?

Put simply, 25 minutes is practical, easy and achievable — and it has the smarts to back it up.

Doing work in short, focused bursts has long been supported as a way of efficiently using time and energy. Anyone from your mentor to your personal trainer will tell you this.

After doing a series of repetitive tasks, you rest before doing another series of repetitive tasks. This is how you build, maintain and sustain your strength over time, and reduce the chance of injury, mental fatigue and stuffing something up.

As far back as 1911, Frederick Taylor Winslow, whom we recognise as one of the very first management consultants, made the connection between productivity, effort, and rest or breaks. He found that people who gave a focused amount of effort for 25 minutes, and then spent the next 35 minutes resting, increased productivity by 600 per cent. (Wow!)

Now, I’m not suggesting that you have a meeting, and then take a 35-minute nap. Our ability to maintain focus for 25 minutes is what’s important here.

Francesco Cirillo’s book The Pomodoro Technique centres around short bursts of work for 25 minutes at a time, followed by a short 5-minute break. This choice of 25 minutes was not arbitrary and was based on several different trials, experiments and iterations before landing on 30-minute work intervals. ...

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