Monday, January 21, 2013

The pomodoro technique

If you are the kind of person who easily gets distracted with emails, phone calls and minor tasks, you may find the Pomodoro Technique useful.

  1. get a count-down timer
  2. pick a task
  3. set the timer to 25 minutes (aka. a pomodoro)
  4. work on the task, with no interruptions until the pomodoro ends.
  5. add an(other) 'X' mark next to the task (even if it's not completed).
  6. take a short break (3-5 minutes). after four pomodoros, take a longer break.
  7. while task not complete, go to step 3.
  8. after a task is completed, count the number of X's to get a sense of the time spent on it.

  • time management should be simple
  • frequent breaks improve mental agility [ref which I don't really understand :-)]
  • increased awareness of the time spent
  • reduce the time spent on distractions

I've been following the pomodoro technique for a little over a month now, and I think it did help me spend the time more efficiently (at least when I'm serious about it). I'd like to highlight a few problems and how I attempted to fix them:

problem: just because you shouldn't be distracted in the middle of a pomodoro doesn't mean you won't. 
solution: every time I get unnecessarily distracted, I punish myself by resetting the pomodoro.

problem: the short break is too short.
solution: make it a little longer. I found 10 minutes to be a reasonable time.

problem: when tasks take too many pomodoros, I lose any sense of achievement.
solution: spend the first couple minutes of a pomodoro thinking about the focus in this pomodoros. then, spend the last couple minutes of a pomodoro documenting what you have accomplished (regardless of how little/insignificant it was).

complementary tools:
While I found this technique to be quite effective, it doesn't address all time management problems. I use rememberthemilk and github issues to track my tasks and prioritize. I keep all my time-constrained commitments on the calendar to make sure I'm not double booked. ...etc