Why You Should Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique.
It’s an Italian strategy for throwing a tomato at a Spaniard at the famous Tomatina Festival in Spain. First, you squish the tomato then you take aim…then…Just kidding.
This doesn’t really describe Pomodoro Technique. But we made you look!
While there might be some secret hidden strategy to throwing a “Pomodoro” which is Italian for tomato, The Pomodoro Technique is much more useful and less expensive than a trip to Spain.
It’s a time management method that helps to encourage Lean thinking, drives productivity and is a great tool to add to your personal agility toolbox. Created by Italian entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo during his days as a university student cramming for exams, The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to set 25-minute work intervals to help establish focus on a particular task.
Once that interval is up, you earn a check mark and a short break.
The use of a timer is a way to firmly establish your time box, a fixed increment of time for your task.
Steps to earn your Pomodoro (a check mark):
1. Choose a quiet location.
Did you know that any time you are distracted, that it takes an average of 23 minutes to refocus on your original task? Choosing a quiet location may be difficult as we are all surrounded by potential distractions. If you can find a quiet place to help minimize interruptions, you will set yourself up for success.
2. Choose a task.
If the task seems too large, break it down into something that you think can be accomplished in 25 minutes or less.
This links back to personal agility by breaking focusing on small, measurable tasks so that ultimately you will produce something of value. Still stuck? Your first task could be to create smaller tasks and prioritize them.
3. Set your timer for 25 minutes and press start.
Francesco used one shaped like a tomato which is why it’s called the “Pomodoro” Technique. Feel free to use one shaped like an egg.
4. For 25 minutes (pomodoro) you are to focus only on the task you chose in step 3.
Ignore the urge to check the Facebook notification you just received or start assembling the Ikea furniture that’s blocked free movement in your living room for the past week.
If you are distracted by an important business or personal matter, inform the person that you are “right in the middle of something”, decide when a good time would be to get back with them, schedule it and then follow up after your pomodoro is complete.
You shouldn’t do this if your boss would like to discuss your raise with you and this certainly won’t work on your infant that demands to be fed. If you must tend to the distracting task, then certainly pay it attention and simply restart your pomodoro when you are able.
Lean practices encourage us to avoid wasteful activities and for many of us this takes discipline and practice.
5. Once the timer “dings” to alert you that your pomodoro is over, put a check mark on a piece of paper.
Stop your timer. Congratulations! You earned a pomodoro!
You earned the check mark for staying focused for 25 minutes, not necessarily completing the task.
Do you have less than 4 check marks? Yes? Then…
6. Take a short break for no more than 5 minutes.
Do some quick jumping jacks, refill your coffee cup, clean out that old junk drawer, book your flights to Spain or even download a great Pomodoro app such as the Pomodoro Time app which is available for android and apple users. The key is to not do anything that will require more than 5 minutes of your time.
Do you have 4 check marks or more? Then…
7. Take a 15- 30-minute break.
Take a walk over to the water cooler and see how your co-workers are doing with their fantasy football leagues or start preparing for that amazing spaghetti sauce you are going to make with all these tomatoes.
8. Return to step 3.
If you haven’t completed the chosen task, continue until its complete.
Or if you have had enough, stop. Before you go through another cycle, if the 25-minute time interval is too long, adjust it to a shorter time frame until you are able to focus for 25 minutes.
Why use the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique can complement Agile and Lean within an organization or to help you improve on your own personal agility by keeping you focused on getting things done.
This technique is simple and tends to work for the majority of us out there that are constantly distracted by outside forces and internal ones.
All you need is a timing device, paper and a writing instrument.
How many times you have worked for hours straight without taking a break to get some fresh air or even food?
How much did you actually accomplish or was it time spent generating a series of emails, web browsing, information gathering and meetings where nothing of real value can be measured?
The Pomodoro Technique helps to give us a sense of accomplishment.
We, too often, forget that we are more than just a resource to a project or company.
We thrive on a sense of accomplishment.
Encourages Physical Activity
Using the Pomodoro Technique encourages active, physical involvement such as movement during a break, putting a check mark on a piece of paper or the physical act of setting or stopping a timer. What happens when you move?
You get creativity, productivity and blood flowing!
And you may even perfect that awesome throw (or duck) at the next Tomatina Festival!