Adopting the Pomodoro Technique

Using my time better

For a while now I have been looking to work more efficiently. I am a fan of tasks and lists. I have been using OmniFocus for a while and have been a fan of the old paper list. What I found was that although I tried to do a task it would eventually lead to me getting distracted. Whilst I manage my outcomes and work against what is expected of me, I know that I can do more. There is always something new to learn and I have ambitions of getting my CCIE. I have a firstborn due within a fortnight. That study doesn’t happen whilst I have job related work to do and when I do have study it needs to be effective.

What is the Pomodoro technique?


denoting a sauce made from tomatoes, typically served with pasta

The Pomodoro technique stemmed from a gentleman named Francesco Cirillo after using a kitchen timer to break down tasks. His kitchen timer was in the shape of a tomato, he was Italian and there you have it!

The Pomodoro technique is composed of five basic steps.

  • Outline the tasks required to be done.
  • Define the length of your Pomodoro period
  • Work on the task until the timer rings
  • Conduct a Pomodori; a short break of 3-5 minutes
  • Repeat until four Pomodoro periods are done

I’ve got a lovely bunch of … Pomodori?

There are some terms that you need to become familiar with. A Pomodoro is a set period of time – 25 minutes in this case – in which a work is to be undertaken. These are separated by Pomodori which are 5 minute intervals between Pomodoro’s

Four Pomodoro’s are known as a set. Whilst there are 5 minute intervals known as Pomodori between Pomodoro’s there is a longer 15 to 30 minute rest taken between sets.

Working with distractions?

In a perfect world we would never get distracted and interruptions wouldn’t be interrupting because everyone would run on schedule. Well we don’t live in this world. Phones, Emails, colleague walk ups (we’re all guilty) and social media all play their part in distractions. Managing these is critical to the success of the Pomodoro technique.

There are four methods in dealing with interruptions and distractions.

  • Inform – Let the people around you in on how you operate and that you’ll be free at X time
  • Negotiate – Can you let me just finish this piece I am working on (remainder of Pomodoro) and I’ll bere there?
  • Schedule – Plan a catch up at a specific time
  • Call Back – Either allow a phone call to go to voice mail or answer and inform the person that you will call them back in X minutes/hours

If this is unavoidable then you must abandon a Pomodoro. There is no issue in abandoning a Pomodoro and if its only a short unavoidable interruption then I do not begin the set over. If it is a longer interruption then I begin a new set when I settle back down.

Working from home with Pomodoro

I have found that I am working from home more than ever in my current role. Whilst this is great for a number of reasons there is a certain element of maturity1 and responsibility required. I have a routine which I adopt when working from home. Alarm goes off at 0600. I shower and eat my breakfast. I brush my teeth. Most importantly I get dressed for work. Jeans and a collared polo shirt and a jumper in winter. This all helps the mindset. Where I have found phenomenal improvements in time use is in conjunction with a Pomodoro time management.

I look at my tasks at hand. It could be creating a presentation, a white paper or responding to a raft of emails. I prioritise them then begin. I find that I can get a lot of work done. My mind is a crazy thing and in my little five-minute breaks between Pomodoro’s I can quickly check Twitter, Email or some other happening. I noticed in two Pomodoro’s I had an output of quality work that may have normally taken 2-3 hours with little disruptions and mind wanders.

Adopting a Pomodoro technique?

  • Get yourself a Timer. This can be a kitchen timer, watch alarm, iOS/Android app or a specialist Pomodoro item.
  • Get into the habit of creating lists. This alone can be a massive improvement in a persons Order of Operations and how they produce and output work. Omni Focus, Wunderlist, Evernote, Reminders (iOS) or Onenote. There are a lot to choose from.

This technique results in ensuring work tasks get the attention and priority they deserve whilst giving the mind the time it needs to wander. I have been able to spend more time than ever being able to study efficiently and correctly without distraction.

  1. Can’t say for sure if it maturity or self-discipline but it could be a little of both. 

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