The “work/break” cycle is also known as The Pomodoro® Technique, which was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s.
We like the idea of set times to focus in on something specific that you have to do for a set amount of time and then taking a break to do something you want to do before going back to focusing on what you have to do.
Francesco Cirillo in his own words:
“I was a student at the university in 1987 and I had to take the sociology exam in September. I couldn’t keep my mind focused on my book. I was constantly getting distracted. I made a humble bet with myself: ‘Can you stay focused for two minutes without distraction?’ I went to the kitchen, grabbed a timer and came back to my table. The timer was red and shaped like a Pomodoro (tomato in English). I wound it up to two minutes and started reading my book. When the timer rang I had won my bet against Time. Surprised, I began to ask myself why it had worked? I gradually increased the amount of time when I set the timer. I got to one hour, but that was too much. I didn’t take too long to realize that, for a number of factors, the ideal unit of work was 25 minutes followed by a 2-5 minute break.
There, on that table in September 1987, I hadn’t noticed yet but for the first time I had managed to turn time into an ally. Exactly at the moment when Time appeared to be such a vicious predator to me I managed to stop in front of it, and still and afraid ask this simple question: “How can you, Time, be useful to me now?
For the first time I used time instead of running away from Time. I decided to use Time, spend it to take a break, favour my mental processes, allow my mind to organize the information it had acquired in the working time and put me in the best situation to start my next Pomodoro.”