Pomodoro Technique and Productivity

Tomatoes in Italian

I prefer to work as efficiently as possible, and as such like to look for ways to better utilize my time. The Pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo an Italian Entrepreneur in the late 1980s. It essentially works with using a six-step process and is actually quite simple to implement.  The technique got its name from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that was originally used.  If you haven’t picked up on it by now Francesco is Italian, and Pomodoro is how you say tomato.  This technique works especially well for those types who perform a lot of critical and analytical thinking, as well as creative thinking. Short sustained bursts of productivity with breaks frequently.

The Steps to Take

  1. Decide on the task to complete. Notice how it is a task, not tasks.
  2. Decide on an increment of time to work on the task. 25 minutes is the norm. Think about it this way, you are attempting to divert all of your focus on this task for the full time.  I personally found, in the beginning, I had to shoot for more like 20 minutes. Set the timer.
  3. Work on the task.  I got in the habit of turning off my instant messaging or setting it too busy, so as to minimize interruptions.  You may need to also do the same with nearby co-workers who will and often do reach out and ask questions, etc. Just let them know what you are doing and that you’re attempting to be more productive.
  4. When the timer stops, stop working on the task.  I usually keep a scrap of paper to make a mark on or use a browser timer that keeps track of my Pomodoros
  5. Take a short break if there are fewer than 4-5 consecutive marks. Short break being 5 minutes. 
  6. When I get to 4 marks on my scrap, I take a longer break, usually 15 minutes, sometimes a little longer if I am feeling a little more mentally drawn. If you have fewer than 4 marks go back to step 2. Otherwise, go to step 1.  **Another thing to keep in mind is what type of break you are taking. I prefer to get up from my desk if possible, not answering emails, or getting on Facebook, etc. I get up to walk around go to the bathroom, get some water/coffee etc. **

Pom, Pom, Pom, Pom

This technique took me a little getting used to.  However, once I get into the habit, and it is a habit, I notice an increase in my productivity. In the beginning, I found that I am more easily diverted from a task than I initially thought.  It really is a process and takes a bit of getting used to. I find that I do housekeeping in the morning first thing during my workday. Answering email, returning calls, etc. This usually takes one or sometimes two of these sessions and following that I can really get to work, aside from the necessary meetings or unforeseen urgent tasks.

Give it a try and please as always leave your comments and questions below. BTW this post took exactly one Pomodoro! Here is a nice browser based timer I use frequently.