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The Pomodoro Technique – getting stuff done 25 minutes at a time

MeasuPro TimerHave you heard of the Pomodoro Technique?  I heard about it years ago but never tried it until this week.  Let me tell you… I’ve been missing out.  It’s a fantastic productivity tool.  And all you need is a simple kitchen timer, a piece of paper, and a pen.

Here’s how it works, in a nutshell.  You divide your work into 25 minute tasks, taking short 3-5 minute breaks in between them.  Each 25 minute task is called a Pomodoro (Italian for “tomato”), so named because of the tomato-shaped timer first used by the technique’s creator, Francesco Cirillo.  Then, after 4 Pomodoro tasks, you take a longer 15-30 minute break.  Naturally, there are Pomodoro apps out there with timers and task tracking, but I prefer having a physical timer and task list.

When I first learned about it, I dismissed it as impractical for me due to the near-constant interruptions at work (emails, meetings, IMs, phone calls, etc.) that would have made it impossible to work this way.  However, my current job is unusually (and blissfully!) low on interruptions and meetings.  So, when I stumbled across the Pomdoro Technique again recently, I thought I’d give it a shot.

I used it throughout most of the week, and it definitely made a difference!  I worked with more intensity and focus during those Pomodoros, but I also benefited from the intervening breaks.  They gave my brain a few minutes to recharge and helped encourage me to stretch my legs regularly like we’re supposed to anyway.  For me, just knowing that there was a timer counting down made me push harder to get as much done as I could before the beep.  I use the MeasuPro, a nice little timer with a memory setting (handy for resetting to 25 minutes) and a switch to choose between beep/vibrate/LED alarms.

I’m sure the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t work for everyone, and a lot of jobs and work environments aren’t conducive to this kind of workflow.  But if you have the opportunity and think it might be a good fit, I highly recommend giving it a try.