The Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro means Tomato in Italian. The Pomodoro Technique is a way to eat raw tomatoes without getting tomato juice and seeds on your checks… no, just kidding. The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity technique that helps with focusing on different tasks at hand. The inventor of the technique, Francesco Cirillio, gave it the name when he used a simple tomato shaped kitchen timer to measure distinct time boxes for work and pause.

The foundation of the technique is to divide your work into blocks of 25 minutes of focused work followed by a short 5 minutes break. It is good to make a short note on a piece of paper for each block, pomodoro as they are called, to keep track of the progress. Then you start over again with a new 25 minute block of focused work. After four cycles you do a longer 15-30 minute break.

I have noticed that this technique is especially effective when I need to work on something that requires intense focus. Breaking the focus blocks up into smaller pieces preserves energy and in total I can work longer and still keep the high-level of focus.

The other area where this technique is fantastic is to beat procrastination. It is sometimes hard to start working on tasks. This because they are hard, there are uncertainties on how to complete them, they are boring or one of a million other reasons. It is easier to start working on these tasks in a pomodoro way since your are determined and committed to work for a short while and that is easier than to commit to solve the whole task. The technique helps you naturally to break the task down into pieces – even if there is no logical way of doing this.

Personally I am not using this technique every day. But it is a tool I bring out when I need to get some focused work done or beat procrastination. And usually I only need it for a couple of pomodoros.

There are a lot of tools and applications out there to help you keep track of your tomatoes. At work it may not be recommended to bring a physical kitchen timer to disturb the whole office four times an hour. You may get work done but in the meanwhile you will be dipped in tar and rolled in feathers. I have tried a few different tools but the one I like the most is the web-based Tomato-Timer. It’s free and it will give you a subtle audible buzz when you reach the end of your work or break.

Sometimes you get interrupted while doing a pomodoro. What should you do then? There are two things that can be done. The first is to postpone the interrupting activity by using the inform, negotiate, schedule and callback pattern. The other is to abort the pomodoro, deal with the interruption and start a new pomodoro when done. A pomodoro is indivisible. This being said, it is good to avoid all kind of interruptions while working in a time boxed mode. Check your phone, email and other systems in-between pomodoros or use a cycle to specifically deal with them.

Good luck harvesting those tomatoes!

Sand hourglass with pink/red sand