Pomodoro Technique

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There are many distractions trying to get to us during the work day. There are many ways of dealing with them. I wanted to share with you the way that is super easy and helped me a lot to not only keep focus but also to successfully manage distractions like emails, phone calls, alerts, etc. The Pomodoro Technique created by it’s author tells you a whole story behind it. For those of you who like having it the simple way possible, here’s brief sum-up, based on presentation I’ve held for my colleagues at work.

Purpose:

  1. Increase concentration and commitment
  2. Remove obstacles/interruptions
  3. Keep motivation as high as possible
  4. Gain awareness of your actions and what’s driving them
  5. Continuous improvement

Tools:

  1. Timer (e.g. kitchen Pomodoro)
  2. Pencil
  3. Activity Inventory (download from Pomodoro’s site Pomodoro Activity Inventory)
  4. ‘To Do’ list (download from Pomodoro’s site Pomodoro To Do)

First, you should fill in Activity inventory list with tasks you would like to complete in longer perspective (anywhere between a week and a month). Every day in the morning, prioritize tasks off that list, and put them on ‘To Do’ list - this list will help you pomidoring during the day and accomplish everything you’ve planned for any given day.

Technique (basic):

  1. Pick first task off the ‘To Do’ list
  2. Set timer for 25 minutes
  3. Work exactly for that long
  4. Put ‘X’ mark next to the task you’ve been working on
  5. Take 5 minutes break

Rules:

  1. Pomodoro is a atomic unit of time
  2. If you estimate task will take longer than 5-7 Pomodoros - granulate the task
  3. If you estimate task will take less than 1 Pomodor - concatenate Pomodoros
  4. Use Pomodoro only for tasks at work (never for spare time activities)
  5. Next Pomodoro will be better!

It’s very important to have a proper way of dealing with interruptions. Generally we can divide interruptions into two groups:

  1. Internal - checking mail, news, etc…, thinking about things not related to the task at hand
  2. External - people calling, coming in, asking questions, trying to drag your attention

To deal with internal ones - you need to convince yourself to keep absolute focus for the 25 minutes of Pomodoro. To deal with external interruptions:

  1. Inform
  2. Negotiate
  3. Call back

It’s been proven average office worker gets interrupted every 3:20 minutes. Going back to what has been interrupted occurs in less than 80% situations. What makes those numbers even more dramatic - it takes over 23 minutes to get back on track! That’s why you can’t let interruptions drive your activities - cause if you do, then you’re doomed!

Strategy proposed by Pomodoro technique (inform, negotiate, call back) is based on the assumption (from my experience - nearly 100% right) most of the tasks, even those that might look as urgent, can in fact wait for 1-4 Pomodoros. This gives you enough time to complete what you’ve planned. So - asked for assistance - inform you’re working on something important, negotiate when you could come back ‘To Do’ what’s asked of you - and - this is really important - really call back (or get back) to the person you’ve promised it to.

I am truly amazed by how dramatically my performance has improved since I’ve started using Pomodoro. What I’ve presented in this post is pretty basic stuff, more on Pomodoro advanced techniques (estimating, team work, etc.) on The Pomodoro Technique site. Enjoy your Pomodoro!

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