I started work in a new technical communications role at a different company last week. To help me navigate the change, I also started experimenting with a time and task management method called the Pomodoro Technique. My new teammate has used it successfully to keep himself on track, and I look forward to experiencing the same improvements in my own personal and professional productivity.
Pomodoro is Spanish Italian for “tomato”, and was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Part of the key to its success is that it weans one away from multitasking (for which I am notorious). The other part is that thinking of tomatoes is silly, and our minds are all about the silly.
The system utilizes a pad of paper and a timer. The use of a multi-colour pen to distinguish between different types of activities is optional. At the core of the system, you start by collecting action items into an Activity Inventory. You select one activity from the list and write it onto your list of “Today’s Activities“. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work only on that activity until the timer rings.
After the 25 minutes pass, you reward yourself with a focused break for 5 minutes. This could include a quick trip to the water cooler, a look out the window, or just mindful meditation. The idea is to distract yourself for 5 whole minutes so you can regroup your focus for the next pomodoro.
Since I am a chronic multitasker, I don’t make any claims that this system will actually help me at all. But I am hopeful that the short bursts of focused effort will help me to be more productive and feel less burnt out.
My colleague provided me with some interesting resources to help me better understand the system. I’ve listed a bunch in the Pomodoro Resources section. The Mac timer application is already helping me to keep my focus for 25 minutes. My problem now is that I don’t know how to stop after 25 minutes. And I haven’t yet trained myself to take the 5 minute break.
What time management system have you found help you avoid creating rotten tomatoes at work? Leave me a comment below.
- Pomodoro timer and statistics application for Mac
- LifeHacker article and video overview of the Pomodoro Technique
- Frequently Asked Questions about the Pomodoro Technique
- WikiPedia article about the Pomodoro Technique
- The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated (Pragmatic Bookshelf)