I thought I was done with productivity systems. After reading GTD by Davin Allen, I used to think his productivity system was the best (for me) and I wouldn’t need anything else for getting things done. That’s why I didn’t consider the pomodoro technique the first time I came across it, one year ago.
But as it always goes with good things, I was invited to try the pomodoro technique again a few days ago, and I can now say that I was literally impressed by how well the system works.
The pomodoro technique is a simple productivity system that can be learnt in about thirty minutes. It basically consist of five phases: planning, tracking, recording, processing and visualizing.
At the earth of the pomodoro technique, there’s the single focus principle. When you work using the pomodoro technique, you focus on a single task for 25 minutes, and after that time has passed, you stop and take a break of 3-5 minutes. This amount of time (25 minutes) is called a pomodoro, which is the italian for tomato, and it’s considered by the system an atomic measure of time which can’t be divided.
Once you start a pomodoro, you can’t switch to another task until the pomodoro is done, and you can’t continue to work after the 25 minutes are passed, even if you think you would only need another 3 minutes to complete your task.
Another critical aspect of the pomodoro technique is that you should track what you do during the day and record your efforts at the end of the day. This is done especially in the recording phase.
Why it works
Although this systems might look a bit strict at first, it really works. Being strict on the 25 minutes rule has many benefits. First, if you finish a task before the 25 minutes, you have the time to review or over-learn the subject. If you finish a task early in the pomodoro (for example in the firsts 5 minutes) and you think you can’t do anything else on that task, you can void the pomodoro and start a new one after a short break. This helps against procrastination because you avoid task switching.
Another reason why the pomodoro technique works is because of the way our brain is built. I wont be specific here, but our brain is not good at maintaining focus for a lot of time, and 25 minutes fits nicely with our brain capabilities.
Breaks are also very important. Doing 2-3 minutes of non-challenging activities every half hour helps to fight stress and procrastination, and is a good reason to get up from your chair and stretch your muscles.
In the pomodoro tecnhique, you also take a longer break (15-30 minutes) after you have completed four pomodoros. This is a perfect time for checking emails or going to the coffee machine.
What you need
All you need to start using the pomodoro technique is a timer, a daily sheet and an activity inventory. You also need a way to record your progress during the day, for example a notebook.
I personally use a sheet of paper to track my activities, which can be found on the pomodoro techniques website.
I still use software on my computer to keep track of long term projects and ideas, and I only transfer to my activity inventory the important tasks for the week, but this is a personal choice, and it may or may not work for you.
When to use the pomodoro technique
The pomodoro technique is highly effective if you work don’t need to move a lot to do your work, for example is good if you work with computers or in an office.
The pomodoro technique should not be used to manage your free time, or when you want to spend quality time on something.
It really takes thirty minutes to get you started and to grasp the fundamental concepts, so why don’t you give it a try today?