Posted by: lisetta | September 19, 2009

The Pomodoro … Technique

At the end of the service tonight, I noticed that Fabrizio had a large bucket of tomato sauce, and wondered what it was for; nothing on the northern Italian menu features it. He reminded me that there was some tomato in the wild boar ragu, but what he really had it for was the staff meal: penne with eggplant and tomato sauce. (He’s from Napoli.)

Uninterested in the eggplants, and worn out from a chaotic shift, the sight of the tomato sauce got me thinking about the Pomodoro Technique, a simple time management trick where you work for 25 minutes on a task and take a 5 minute break. Put forth by Francesco Cirillo, an Italian software developer/project manager,  I suppose the idea behind the frequent breaks is that it gives your mind a chance to refresh? The Pomodoro Technique makes little sense to my nonlinear way of being, and contradicts the basic principles of ‘flow’:

…the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (as defined by Wikipedia).

Challenge_vs_skill

Image grabbed from Wikipedia

The Pomodoro Technique would crash and burn in a restaurant environment. Tonight, for example, 4 demanding customers came in wanting a six top outside at a few empty tables they saw. I told them I thought we were holding one of those tables for a reservation, but to wait 5 minutes so that I could figure out if I could seat the reservation at another table instead. A few moments later, I went to tell them I could seat them but they had disappeared into the night without a word. The remaining two in their party showed up about 10 minutes later, surprised to learn that the others had left, yet relieved they didn’t have to dine together. They grabbed a two-top, I lit a candle, and everyone was happy. While the 5 minute ‘break’ in this case wasn’t a self-imposed “pomodoro”, it broke the flow that would have otherwise proven more profitable for the restaurant. 

Working in a busy restaurant is all about being in a flow state. That’s why I love it. Teaching/taking Spin is all about flow as well. Cooking too, if I start actually *doing* it myself again.

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Responses

  1. Well, that’s how I work, but my pacing is about 50+10. After 50 minutes or so, I take a walk around the office – I have a couple of routes i follow – it really helps me stay focused for longer and it helps me catch the peripheral issues I may have neglected while in focused work mode. Your brain is still working on the same issue, but it’s like shifting gears. It’s a legacy of the years of Universita’, where we used to study in the library and we took 10 minute breaks every hour for the smokers…it was a break but inevitably you ended up talking about the text you were reading and often went back to your desk with more insight – funny the things that stick with you.

    Rabbit and polenta season is coming up….

  2. I tried this technique at my day job today, but got sucked in to telling entertaining tales about working in the restaurant! How can you walk around the office and *not* talk? If I try walking around the building, I’m sure I’ll end up in EMS to chat with Mike the bike guy or Eric the climbing guy. Much more distraction will ensue, then, for sure….

    I want to cook for you guys next time!!


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