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The Pomodoro Technique

Posted in Goals, Personal by

I discovered Getting Things Done back in the summer of 2006, just after I graduated from college and moved to San Francisco. Since then, I’ve used it on and off to manage my time and my tasks. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I work in the process, which I’ll detail in a future post. But one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that GTD is not made for procrastinators. There’s this inherent assumption in GTD that you really WANT to get things done, but you just don’t have tasks organized or defined well enough. David Allen’s assertion that procrastination stems from a lack of definition in what needs to be done is probably true to some extent for some people, but it’s definitely not the whole story. For example, my sink is often full of dirty dishes that I’m putting off taking care of. It’s not that I need more definition in the task, it’s just that I don’t want to do it. Additionally, some tasks are so complicated that it takes almost as long to define them as do them. This is particularly true in web development, where you need to hunt down a bug or explore some kind of new technique. You could spend an hour defining exactly what you need to do (which would probably be wrong) or you could just jump in and do it.

The jumping in and doing is where I often get tripped up. As a result, stuff sits on my task lists for too long, the task lists get too cluttered, so I stop looking at them, which means that my system is no longer a trusted system, and I’ve lost the whole point of GTD. Lame.

Enter the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method similar to timeboxing that was invented by Francesco Cirillo. You can read all about it in this paper (44 pages, but highly recommended) or in this condensed blog post version, but the gist of it is:

  1. use a kitchen timer to track your time
  2. work in iterations of 25 minutes with 5 minute breaks (one pomodoro)
  3. every four pomodoros, take a 25-30 min break
  4. once you start a pomodoro, you must finish it
  5. plan out your day and what you want to accomplish
  6. estimate how many pomodoros each task will take
  7. minimize interruptions
  8. change your plans as needed
  9. record how many pomodoros each task takes
  10. learn from your mistakes and do better next time

Pretty simple, right? So I’m giving it a try. I got a mechanical kitchen timer and it’s ticking away right now. I’ve noticed an immediate boost in my productivity…whether it lasts is another story.

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14 Responses to “The Pomodoro Technique”

  1. Ben Rasmusen says:

    In reading through the PDF on the subject it seems to put an emphasis on doing this on paper and using a physical timer and not doing anything electronic until one of the last steps (adding the stats into a spreadsheet).

    Do you have any insight on the advantages to doing it that way? Is it integral to the success of this system? Or could software be used instead of using the physical items. Example: a visible timer on your computer and recording interruption items in your GTD software of choice.

    Just a thought, maybe you have some insight. Great post, thanks for sharing. I look forward to trying this out.

  2. […] has to be launched in less than 25 pomodoros (12.5 hours), including brainstorming, design, development, launch, and initial […]

  3. xpmatteo says:

    @Ben: using a physical timer helps because it's outside your computer screen. I spend too much time concentrated in it, and the kitchen timer pulls me out and calls me back to reality. Also, the act of physically turning it to load the spring is fun. And the ticking tells me I didn't forgot to load it.

    One other important thing: you can put it where you (and your pair if you're pair programming) can look at it and always know how much time is left. (otherwise you have to devote screen space to it, and I don't like that.)


  4. kbsamurai says:

    Came across this post and wondered if you stuck with this and how it worked out? I have used very methods of GTD flavor for a while, but still struggle with just exactly what you are describing. It sounds like it has something in common with how Neil Fiore suggests to implement his "unschedule". see here http://www.minezone.org/wiki/MVance/NowHabit

  5. Gavin says:

    If you want to try a digital pomodoro timer give focus booster a shot. It's a free download from http://www.focusboosterapp.com – it works on Mac and Windows.

  6. […] non-recurring tasks, nothing helps like the Pomodoro technique. The full technique is a little complex for me, and I generally just use the timer method as a way […]

  7. […] non-recurring tasks, nothing helps like the Pomodoro technique. The full technique is a little complex for me, and I generally just use the timer method as a way […]

  8. […] very simple. The 25 mins is a reference to the pomodoro method (hence the title of this post), and I simply spin a kitchen timer that I have sitting next to my […]

  9. Be grateful for the very acceptable assess. I am & my own neighbour were definitily preparing to for a long period with that. We ended up an excellent guide to do with that may issue from our neighborhood study a great number guides the place and not as when your highlights. My group is incredibly delighted to observe some of these advice that i seemed to be buying a longer energy.

  10. ccidral says:

    For those looking for a desktop timer app, take a look at Tomighty: http://tomighty.org

  11. […] successful studying by supposed time spend on task).  Or it might be a good idea to try out the Pomodoro Technique for yourself.  Afterall, human beings are very capable of gaming the system – any system.  […]

  12. kime says:

    http://www.pomodorium.com – pomodoro technique based GAME. :)

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