Pomodoro Technique

My last post was about time boxing and we're continuing with a focus on productivity. Here I will describe the benefits and usage of the Pomodoro Technique. This technique helps with ideas on how to organize, measure and set value for your work to be productive.

Pomodoro Technique is a time management method which was used and documented by Francesco Cirillo as a solution to stop distractions, interruptions, missing concentration and motivation that were protecting him from being productive. One day, while he was a student he asked himself a question: "Can you study – really study - for 10 minutes?". And his conclusion was: it's all about staying focused and being motivated for a certain period of time, removing all distractions and interruptions.

Benefits from applying this technique are increased productivity, improving your work or study process, making better estimations for your activities and knowing better your brain capabilities.

Name of the Pomodoro Technique comes from the kitchen timer in shape of tomato (pomodoro in Italian) that was used by Francesco Cirillo for time measurement.

Here's how Pomodoro Technique works...

Pomodoro

Pomodoro is an atomic unit of uninterrupted time spent on accomplishing an activity. The traditional Pomodoro is 30 minutes long: 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes break. You can set these timers appropriate to yourself, but it's important to stick to their length for a longer period in order to precisely measure your working process.

For time measurement you have to use some kind of timer/clock. If your environment doesn't allow you to use a kitchen timer, you can find appropriate desktop application or timer.

I'm using a timer applet on my Ubuntu Gnome desktop. You can install it with:

sudo apt-get install timer-applet

And then add it to your panel. There I set 3 presets (timers), for 25 minutes (Pomodoro work), 5 minutes (Pomodoro break), 30 minutes (break after 4 Pomodoros).

There is also an Adobe AIR application Pomodairowhich aims to solve the problem with different operating systems, but it's still in alpha phase.

Activity Inventory Sheet

Before starting with any work, you should write all the activities you have to accomplish in the next days. And every new activity that comes to your mind goes to this list. It's important to not make this list too big (adding new stuff, but not finishing the old ones), because it can make you less motivated.

TODO Today Sheet

This is a daily TODO Activity list, where you chose activities from Activity Inventory list by priority and make a daily plan with estimations how many pomodoros you need for accomplishing each of those activities (you write those estimations on TODO Today Sheet). After some practising you can make those estimations more precise.

Pomodoro Work (25 minutes) and Pomodoro Break (5 minutes)

It all starts with selecting the first activity from the TODO Today list and setting a timer to 25 minutes. You work for 25 minutes focused on your activity. When the timer rings, you write down 1 finished Pomodoro, take a 5 minutes break, let your brain disconnect for a while and defragment the consumed information. Then you repeat the process again. When you finish the activity, you cross it on the TODO Today Sheet.

Unplanned & Urgent

While working it's important to handle the interruptions in an appropriate way. They can be internal or external, and you should delay them as later as possible (after your working day ends, or after the current pomodoro ends). As the interruptions comes you write them in a section called Unplanned & Urgent in TODO Today Sheet and then continue your work. Writing down unplanned interruptions helps you in cleaning them from your mind and better focusing on the current activity.

If you receive an interruption and you have to stop the current Pomodoro, that Pomodoro is marked as void and you don't count it.

Processing collected information

At the end of the day you analyze your daily work process on a sheet by counting estimated pomodoros, real pomodoros and the difference between them. You make notes how you can improve your process and next day you try to make better results than previous.

By knowing to measure your own time, you can easily assign a monetary or other value to your Pomodoro unit of work.

If you are interested in more detail about the Pomodoro Technique, there are 2 books: official one and illustrated one.