Can’t Focus? Here’s A Technique to Get You Back on Track

Bob Wielgos '74
Meet Bob on IrishCompass

Remember taking an important exam at Notre Dame? You nervously took your seat in a classroom, took a deep breath, and then plunged into a timed test with the focus of an eagle. This kind of concentration is so elusive in the remote working world today with hours of screen time blurring our sense of time and our ability to think clearly. If you need more focus, you can return to your Notre Dame testing concentration with a handy hack called the Pomodoro Technique.

This productivity method was created by Francesco Cirillo, an Italian business school student, using a kitchen timer that was shaped like a tomato — or pomodoro in Italian. You can use your smartphone or any timing device today, but the old-fashioned tick-tick-tick of a timer is very effective. Here are the rules for the Pomodoro Technique:

•        Set your timer for 25 minutes of uninterrupted concentration
•        After 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break
•        After a set of four 25-minute segments, take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes
•        If your 25-minute Pomodoro is interrupted, it must be abandoned

With this structure in place, many people can recapture the focus that is so difficult today. You can use it to begin your workday to get off to a productive start. You can also use the Pomodoro Technique to recapture your focus later in the afternoon when fatigue begins to set in. Another good application is around a project that you have been putting off. Just apply this time management technique on your project for a morning or afternoon for a successful result. 

The oscillation of 25 minutes of concentration followed by a 5-minute break is an important feature of the Pomodoro Technique that produces better focus than just trying for a continuous 2-3 hours of working. Our brain functions best when there is hard work followed by rest and in predictable intervals. You can get into more of a rhythm and flow with this schedule. 

The kind of laser focus you had taking a chemistry test or writing an essay for your final exam on Shakespeare at Notre Dame is possible again. Try it today to recharge yourself from the brain fog of virtual work. You just need to create the structure and rigor of that old testing experience in your work life today with the Pomodoro Technique.


Bob Wielgos ‘74 is an executive coach and also coaches in Notre Dame Alumni Association’s Career Coaching Program.  

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