There was a time when an Italian pasta dish heavy with olive oil, basil, and sweet red tomatoes was the first thing I thought of when I heard the word “pomodoro”. (Italian for tomato, naturally.)
A few years ago my friend and fellow tech enthusiast Jimar introduced me to the Pomodoro Technique as a method of time management. I was coming to grips with the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology at the time, a way of breaking down your entire workflow and goal setting in ways that are concrete and “agile”.
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The Pomodoro Technique is simply this: work for 25 minutes, then stop and take a 5 minute break. That’s it. (Feel free to enlighten me further – I haven’t read the book.) I kept putting it off because I tend to dedicate myself to one thing until I master it. GTD had not yet been mastered in my workflow. It was not time to Pomodoro yet.
Then my friend Jill wrote a transparent blog post about her experience with the Pomodoro Technique. And my friend Lis reminded us all about it over tea. I’m not beneath admitting that peer pressure had a major influence on me here: I decided to give it a try.
Here are my initial impressions of my first day on Pomodoro, that moment when the contrast between the new and the old methods are most vivid.
The Pomodoro Technique pushes you through the obstacles.
“The only way out is through.”
Procrastination is a beast that creeps up on us, holds us back, and makes the hard things even harder. It’s easy to distract ourselves with a thousand other easier or more comfortable things.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” –Winston Churchill
Those bite-sized 25-minute chunks of time forced me to think about how I’m using my time. I sketched out how I wanted to use each Pomodoro session and what I wanted to accomplish. The time slips away incredibly fast when you break it up instead of looking at your day as one continuous flow of eight hours.
Those tiny bits of time lit a fire under me and hurried me through the parts of my day that I didn’t want to face, spurring empowerment and, ultimately, productivity.
The Pomodoro Technique inspires balance.
Sitting (or standing) in front of a screen all day isn’t good for the body. In a perfect world we’re taking breaks to stretch, go for a walk, and so on.
The 5-minute breaks were the perfect opportunity to step away from the screen and either read a few pages of a book or work through whole-body stretches. It’s amazing what a five-minute break utilized properly can do for the body and the soul.
I used the 15-minute breaks to go for a brisk walk or to make a call. The important thing is to step away from the screen to feel refreshed.
You actually get stuff done with the Pomodoro Technique.
One way of changing a habit is to make the initial step so easy that it would be dumb to not do it.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Setting an alarm for 20 or 25 minutes with a simple goal of writing for the full block of time is an easy nudge to get your day rolling. You’re not weighed down by planners, calendars, and systems. You just do it.
I had an entire draft of a blog post before I knew it, where if I told myself to just do it when I have time in the day – it would never get done. (I guess you could say this post is a product of the Pomodoro Technique itself.)
All in all, this new time management technique was a low-barrier way to get things done. Want to try it for yourself? Moosti is a great free timer that sits in the background on a browser. For an added focus boost, play FocusAtWill in the background and you’ll get productive in no time.
Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique? What do you think?