Trying the Pomodoro technique again

‘Pomodoro’ means ‘tomato’ in Italian. 🍅 I say the word tomato like an American, toe-may-toe, getting told off by Nick multiple times because to-mah-to is the Australian pronunciation. It doesn’t matter, but in the sense of the Pomodoro technique, each interval is called a pomodoro.

Some people swear by the Pomodoro technique for productivity, which basically involves working without distractions for 25 minutes, then giving yourself a five minute break. Rinse and repeat. You give yourself a longer break when you have done it four times.

I used to dislike the technique because it didn’t seem to do any good for me. Usually I break things up in very small tasks and simply try to tackle them one at a time. I also tend to get quite stuck on a task and spend hours on it without much effort, but other tasks don’t seem to completely take up 25 minutes, so the technique does not work for those. Especially menial tasks.

Let’s go, tomato!

Since I got to work at 7:50am this morning, after trying to get a car space at the limited-spots train station, I decided to try the Pomodoro technique and see how I would go.

I will admit that it took me an hour to even settle properly, so I didn’t end up starting the technique until an hour after I arrived at work. But at the end of the day, I realised that my most productive hours were indeed the hours I was doing Pomodoro, and it greatly contrasted with that hour I spent in the morning just seemingly ‘sorting shit out’.

I used to time myself. I put my headphones on, threw on some music, and just got stuck into a task. I also put my laptop on Do Not Disturb mode so that I didn’t get any notifications at all, not even from the command line when my build compiled.

Tomato Time – the Pomodoro technique

Looking at the clock

I probably only looked at the clock for four reasons today:

  1. to check when I had my standup meeting in the morning,
  2. to check how long away lunch was,
  3. to check that when I returned from my walk to the shops, I wouldn’t miss my next meeting, and
  4. to check that I wasn’t leaving too late for the Girl Geek meetup I went to tonight.

After noticing this, I also noticed that I always look at the clock when I am at work. It’s not because I am waiting so impatiently for the day to end, but it’s just because I want to know how much time has passed. I think we are all guilty of looking at the clock more often than we should.

How the Pomodoro technique helped

I must admit, thinking in terms of tasks does not always help. I had previously tried the Pomodoro technique using a regular clock to time, or a timer on my phone. But somehow, having the Tomato Timer website open in a window on my computer, but hidden away, helped me to focus better. It was all about putting myself in the zone – something which your environment contributes to. If you cannot put yourself ‘in the zone’, you probably have distractions. It can be good to listen to music to help eliminate distractions.

It was a good thing that I put my phone on silent and didn’t look at it, and put my laptop on Do Not Disturb while I worked. We really underestimate the power of the notification. It can really stop us in our tracks, when sometimes, not everything requires a super urgent reply, or immediate attention.

I think that although the Pomodoro technique facilitates productivity, the onus is on us to notice when we are getting sidetracked or when something is distracting us, and to do something about it.

When I was on a roll, and the timer beeped after 25 minutes, I just continued working for another 25 minutes. I noticed that I was very productive today, and also treated my five-minute breaks like true breaks – stepping away from the work, doing something else, checking my email. It’s surprising – not necessarily how much you can get done, but how productive you can be.

I think I will try Pomodoro again – but I know it is much more efficient for me at work than it is at home. Also, I know it may not work at work when I do pair programming, or if I have too many meetings!

Have you ever tried the Pomodoro technique? Do you have other productivity tips to share?

Comments on this post

I’ve heard of the technique but I’ve never tried it. I’ve always wanted to try it since I’m studying Japanese. I’ve even download a Pomodoro app on my iPhone but I’ve never used it yet. I’ve heard that it’s useful. Guess I should also give it a try. Let us know how it goes for you :)

I’ve tried this technique and it’s definitely my go to technique when I’m studying. It’s very refreshing knowing that there’s a timer and I have 25 mins makes me do the work faster and keeps me focuses in contrast to just studying where I would spend 20 mins day dreaming and procrastinating. XD

Saying tomato the American way is better. ;)

I’ve not heard of this technique specifically by name, but I’ve heard of techniques where you set yourself a time to get as much done as you can in a certain amount of time. I always found those effective when I had a lot of things to do and I’m trying to race myself to git ‘er done. Usually at work I tackles tasks one at a time, and once I finish my task I give myself a little break to go get a drink or keep up with my emails. I don’t think the pomodoro technique would be more effective for me, but I should give it a try and see how it works seeing how it worked for you and you didn’t think it would!

The footer quote for me today is ‘I feel like these tomatoes just get me’ haha. Coincidence?! :P

Fun fact: the word for tomato in Turkish is ‘domates’ (dom-ah-tes). :)

This is an interesting technique and I think maybe I should have a go at it! Not today but maybe next week. Interesting hearing your experience :D

Wow never heard of this technique before. And Pomodoro just kinda made me hungry and made me think of pasta xD Man I do get distracted a lot.

Will try to apply this the next time I go to work.

I’ve tried the Pomodoro technique, but 25 minute blocks don’t work well for me. I benefit more from long strains of focus, broken up by very, very short breaks–I’m talking getting up and staring out the window or stretching for a minute, then getting back to work. I don’t follow a strict pattern, since my mood varies daily and what I’m working on can vary from different “zones.” But most of the time, I’ll focus for a long while, pause, and repeat.

When I’m reading material for school, I don’t give myself breaks. It’s hard for me to pick up the concentration again, so I only take a break when I’ve finished a specified reading–whether it’s an entire article, or a section in the book that I’ve decided beforehand.

One of my productivity tips? Set a cut-off time during the day for your productivity. I give myself a deadline between 5pm and 7pm (depending on the day and my classes). If I don’t get things done before then, I move it to the next day. It really, really helps me avoid burn out, especially on the days I have back-to-back classes for 6 hours! This is also why I do the long blocks of focus: I know that when I hit a certain time, I stop everything and take an extended break until the next day. :)

I also use a bullet journal to keep track of to-do lists and break them down if necessary. I love love love a simple list.

I recent got into this technique as well! I’m using the Chrome plugin called Forest, you can link it to the mobile version so that it will save your data and you can see your “forest” grow.

What I do is try to break my task down to manageable chunks, although it can be hard in the dev world. Like yourself, we get stuck into a problem but don’t simply want to stop just because the timer is up…most of the time the solution just feels so near but it maybe another hr or so away.

It works well when I know how to do something, I’ve done this before and I know it’ll take me x amount of time to complete it. Doesn’t work so well when it’s something new, trying out a new plugin, etc

I am trying to be fully focus for at least 25mins though because I get distracted so easily and end up not getting anything done.

Do you listen to music to focus? and what sort of music do you listen to when you’re trying to stay focus?