I learnt about the pomodoro technique a couple of years ago and while I did try it out sporadically back then, it’s only recently that I thought I’d properly give it a try when managing my spare time.
My approach without the pomodoro technique is to have a long list of things that I could do and then not really doing any of them because I feel bad about not doing one of the other things instead.
I therefore decided to give it a try so that I’d actually do something on the weekends and during evenings after work.
The pomodoro technique is defined like so:
- Choose a task to be accomplished
- Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
I pick the task I’m going to do based on what my motivation is at the time – whatever I feel most motivated by is what I’ll do next.
The most valuable thing for me so far from using this technique is that I’m able to stop myself from getting distracted.
When I don’t have a timer running I end up looking at echofon all the time and then loop between email accounts, Facebook and the BBC sport page even though 99% of the time there’s nothing that I want to read there anyway.
I don’t follow the 5 minute break between pomodoros particularly well – it’s often the case that I’m so pleased that I actually managed to do something in 25 minutes where I’d previously have yak shaved for 3 hours that I don’t feel like having that period of focus so soon!
Using the technique is supposed to also encourage us to delay external distractions as well e.g. if someone wants to talk to us then we should try and put that off until we’re done with the current pomodoro.
Said that, in my opinion there are also other important drawbacks in the pomodoro technique. What should I reply to my customer who is calling me, possibly from the other side of the ocean? That I am in the middle of my pomodoro and I can’t break it? Oh, please.
If someone talks to me in person while I’m in a pomodoro then I tend to just break it and talk to them because it seems strange not to. What I’m doing generally isn’t that important that I can’t talk to someone instead.
It’s also been useful for helping me to focus on learning one thing at a time.
Without the time constraint I can spend hours going off on various tangents thinking that I’m learning loads of things but in reality not learning all that much.
Now I can start with doing just one thing and if I think of something else that I want to do then I’ll add it to the end of the list if it’s not directly related to what I’m doing right now.
I’ve noticed that I sometimes have a bit of psychological dislike of chunking my time into these slots. Part of me quite likes the chaos of randomly following topics of interest in an unstructured way.
I also haven’t yet decided what I should do with instant messenger conversations that happen while I’m doing a pomodoro.
While writing this post I didn’t respond to any of the people I was chatting to but I enjoy IMing in an unstructured way and wouldn’t necessarily want to limit those conversations to just the breaks in the pomodoros.