Sunday, January 3, 2010

Want a simple way to get more out of your time? Try the Pomodoro Technique

About one month ago I started using the Pomodoro Technique, a simple time management tool. The process is simple: pick a task to focus on, set your timer for 25 minutes, and go. The idea is to avoid any other distractions as possible. Don’t check your email. Don’t answer that telephone. If something comes to mind, write it down and return to your focused task. Of course, if the fire alarm starts ringing, I suggest your change your focus.

Once the 25 minutes is up, walk away, take a five minute break and return for another 25 minute “Pomodoro”. After 4 Pomodoro’s, take a longer break (15-30 minutes).

Why am I so hot on this technique?

  1. More mental energy throughout the day: working in 25 minute increments, and taking a five minute break I find that it creates a sustainable pace. Coding does drain the grey matter, well at least for me, but using this technique extends my productive hours later in the afternoon than without it.
  2. Reduces procrastination and anxiety: don’t want to start something? Just try it for 25 minutes. Starting something new or difficult can be accompanied by procrastination and anxiety. For example, writing, hence blogging doesn’t come naturally to me. But break it down in 25 minute chunks makes it hell of a lot easier. Of course getting started is the killer, but I know I can do something for at least 25 minutes. And once I’m started, it’s normally a breeze.
  3. Improves visibility of how you spend your time and track interruptions: being a freelancer, selling my time, obviously time tracking is important. But it also gives me a good feeling that when I’m billing the client, I have given them focused, uninterrupted time. When interruptions occur, these are also tracked and reviewed at the end of the day. The goal of course it to do as many uninterrupted Pomodoros that make sense, and devise strategies to avoid interruptions.

For more information checkout the website. There is also a book written about the technique. While the technique itself is super simple, the book “Pomodoro Technique Illustrated” does give you some insights into why the technique works and dives into topics such as the mental cost of context switching.

There is also a free book in PDF format available online written by the creator.

Oh, and you are probably asking yourself, “Why Pomodoro?” The creator of the technique, “Francesco Cirillo”, used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato.

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