The Pomodoro Technique is one of those nebulous life hacks I’ve heard about on the internets in the past but never given much credence to. In 50 words or less: it’s a time-management method wherein you spend 25 minutes intently focused on a single task without distraction, then take a 5 minute break. Every 4 cycles you take a 15 minute break. As someone who works from home, distraction from social media (and sometimes household emergencies) are my main productivity killers, any time-management magic that could help me defend against those distractions would obviously improve my productivity.
After hearing Scott Johnson talk about Pomodoro on a few of his podcasts, I decided to give it a try last week. In all honesty, I did very little reading on the subject, I based my implementation on his description and reading through the (short) Wikipedia entry. In theory the Pomodoro Technique is supposed help you force yourself to stay 100% focused on a given task, by giving you a 5 minute break as a reward. At the end of the day, the sum of the breaks is should be less lost productivity than the sum of all memes, IM jokes, emails and reddit visiting, etc that you’d normally be distracted by throughout the day. It worked for me, for about 6 hours. Overall I had mixed feelings about Pomodoro.
My main productivity boost came from shutting down IM and twitter clients; turning off email checking; and making a conscious effort to avoid all web usage. After the first couple of pomodoros it became really easy for me to do this for a 25 minute stretch. Once I was in the zone, I felt really productive and got a lot of work done.
While 25 minutes was the prefect amount of time to try to trick myself into doing a small task, it didn’t leave a lot of time for larger tasks (hell, this blog post has taken me way more than 25 minutes to write) and it didn’t give me a lot of leeway to sync up with other people’s schedules. I found myself needing more than 25 minutes for some programming projects and I had to postpone a phone call in order to stay on target.
In conclusion: all that said, give it a shot. Especially if you’re self-employed or self-motivated. You’ll probably learn something about yourself, your workflow, the kinds of things that distract you the most. Who knows, it might be a better fit for you.