Increase Your Work Efficiency with The Pomodoro Technique

Today I started using The Pomodoro Technique to better manage my time, and based upon my increased productivity today, I am very excited about its possibilities – especially with respect to my blogging here, my guest blogging, article commitments, and unfinished books.

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The Pomodoro Technique

I just became aware of this technique over the weekend via John Jantsch and his Duct Tape Marketing Blog.  After perusing the free pdf from The Pomodoro Technique site, I was immediately intrigued, because this method is predicated upon how we use our minds – or let them use us, something I studied for over 15 years when I was actively teaching meditation.

The Pomodoro Technique, which was created by Francesco Cirillo, uses an ordinary kitchen timer, which may or may not be in the shape of a tomato (a tomato is a pomodoro in Italian), to track a fixed unit of time of 25 minutes.  This unit is known as a pomodoro.  You use these units to estimate, track, and evaluate your investment of time for accomplishing your priority activities.

How To Use the Pomodoro Technique

Francesco goes into detail about the subtle nuances for applying this technique in the descriptive 45 page pdf (link below).  So, I’ll just give you a general idea from my experience today.

You start the day by organizing and prioritizing your list of activities. I allotted one 25 minute pomodoro to carefully plan and prioritize my goals for the day that I extracted from my weekly list, which I keep updated online with Checkvist.

One of the vital qualities of a pomodoro is it is an indivisible unit of time.  This means if your work is done a few minutes early, you use the remaining time to refine it further – which led me to at least one breakthrough today.  The flip side is that when time is up – it’s “pencils down.”  You then take a 3-5 minute break, whether you think you need it or not.

So, when you are planning your day, you estimate how many pomodoros you need for each activity. If it is three, you place three boxes to the right of that item – x-ing them out as you use them.   Sometimes you’ll need another pomodoro, other times you’ll have some to spare.

At the end of the day, you can take a look at your progress (or not) and now have the raw material for making better estimates, and for trimming the fat out of regular activities that are taking longer than your would like.

Time and Stress Management

One of the activities I worked on today was editing a chapter on blogging for a book that our National Speakers Association is publishing to compile best practices for professional speakers.  I had estimated two pomodoros, but was making excellent progress so I added a third to get to 95% completion.

The big breakthrough from a stress management perspective is that instead of not being finished with the full and complete edit, I have indeed completed the serious heavy lifting I had intended, and know exactly what is necessary to make it ready for final submission – one pomodoro.  So, that’s a mini-celebration of progress for today, along with a clearly defined activity for the next day.

Also, by setting aside that final edit for tomorrow, I’ll be doing so with a fresh and clear mind.  This is where I’m beginning to see the ultimate progress.  Instead of starting the day with a list of to-do’s, I envision a learning curve where my planning, tracking, and processing leads to even better planning and productivity.

The Tools for the Technique

The primary tool for this technique is of course the pomodoro kitchen timer.  Today I used the timer on my iPhone. Francesco likes the timer because he feels its important to see the time passing – so that you can align with it and use it well, instead of it slipping away like an enemy into the night.

I get that, yet I’m not sure if I could handle the ticking of the timer. I’m going to find out tomorrow because there is a free Pomodoro iPhone app that emulates the pomodoro timer.

The only other tools are the tracking sheets that you can print out from the free Pomodoro instructional PDF, with the most vital being the To-Do Sheet on page 36.

The Secret Benefit

There are a number of benefits to this method, including greater focus and concentration, increased awareness in the present, better estimating of your time, and reduced anxiety.

However, I believe the secret benefit is that is helps us to conquer our biggest enemy – our wandering minds. You don’t realize that it is you that interrupts you from taking a job to completion. We have conditioned ourselves that we need or deserve a break, that we are just too busy to focus on this right now, etc, etc.

Yes, if The Pomodoro Technique does one thing well, it is that it helps you to manage the self-talk that Seth Godin refers to in Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? as the resistance.  That little voice that always has a reason why its ok to put off what you are very capable of doing – getting the task at hand completed and shipped.

Has this been helpful?   Then please click away on the Facebook Like button below, or otherwise share it with your community.

Until tomorrow,   Jeff

 

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Comments

  1. I’ve used similar strategies in the past and have had mixed results.

    The biggest problem is always underestimating the number of pomodoros you need to complete a task. You think you only need three, in reality you probably need five or six.

    The “rigidity” of this would kill me.

    If you use a pomodoro timer to manage your schedule 9 hours a day, five days a week, trust me, you’ll smash that timer into pieces before Friday arrives 🙂

  2. Chris – I too used a similar system from my work with The Strategic Coach – we scheduled our calendar using three types of days: free days (no work whatsover, including email, etc), buffer days (cleaning up messes, admin work, phone calls, etc) and focus days ( doing nothing but your highest value, revenue generating activities) -i.e. selling if you are in sales.

    That system worked for me when I had a staff. I see the Pomodoro Technique as a version of it. The point being you only use Pomodoro’s for focused activities, not “messes like cleaning up emails, etc.

    Points well taken. He covers a lot of this in the PDF. As with anything else, you have to adapt to your situation — it can be both rigid and flexible. The Pomodoro itself is rigid by definition, which is why you have to decide when to use it as a focusing tool!

    Jeff

  3. Hello guys, take a look at Tomighty, a desktop timer for Pomodoro Technique users:

    http://code.google.com/p/tomighty/

    Cheers!

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