Adopting the Pomodoro Technique in Transcribing

After the fun part of collecting data, it is time to transcribe the interviews before I could start any data analysis. I never knew that I dread transcribing to the point that I simply hate it, like no kidding. It is that bad. Probably because it feels funny to listen to my own voice. Besides, it is frustrating to keep rewinding in order to capture some words and understand the context correctly. Obviously, I understood the conversation during the interview, but for some reasons, it sometimes sounds unclear over the recording.

I am guilty of procrastination. I would find something else to do, as long as I don’t have to transcribe. But then it also means I am not progressing towards completing my study. Deep down, I know damn well that the interviews have to be transcribed eventually. I had also underestimated how time-consuming transcribing is.  In short, I just have to do it, no matter how much I do not feel like doing it, or no matter how long it will take.

When I read about the Pomodoro technique, I became intrigued to see if it would help me to just start and keep transcribing until I finish it. Pomodoro is, simply put, working 25-minute on a task, uninterrupted. So set the alarm for 25 minutes and spend the entire pomodoro time on the task you set out to do until the 25 minutes is up. Then take a 5-minute break before another round of pomodoro. After completing four pomodoros, it is time for a longer 20- to 30-minute break.

Professionally, a one-hour interview takes between 4-9 hours to transcribe. Of course, how long it takes depend on many factors like the number of speakers and audio quality.  In my interviews, there were at least 3 speakers, and sometimes up to 7 speakers. Therefore it takes multiple attempts to listen to the recording over and over, especially when everyone was talking at the same time. Still, I wanted to know roughly how longer it will take me to finish transcribing all my interviews. One month? Two months? So I started to time myself. I tried the Pomodoro technique. Surprisingly, I didn’t want to stop even though 25 minutes was up. But I still took a break, which often ended up being more than 5 minutes. I did it for a few times, but later decided to push one pomodoro to over 25 minutes.

Now, on average I can transcribe about 40 plus minutes before taking a break. The longest time I managed to stay put was 102 minutes. But it happened only once, more like a marathon final sprint to just finish the last part of the recording. So I need 14-20 minutes to transcribe a 1-min interview, which means to complete a one-hour interview, it will take between 13-21 hours over 1-5 days with plenty of breaks in between. So instead of setting 25-minutes for one pomodoro, I set a goal to complete two minutes of interview every pomodoro, even if it takes more than 25 minutes. Once I complete two minutes of interview, I try to push further before taking a break because once I take a break, it is never 5 minutes, ever.

My transcribing productivity is far behind the professional standard, but I am slowly, slowly progressing towards completion. Perhaps and hopefully with practice, transcribing gets easier and faster. As for now, just keep on transcribing. One pomodoro, two pomodoros, three pomodoros…until I finish them all.

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