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 Tomato-Timer.com 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.
Looking at the clock
I probably only looked at the clock for four reasons today:
- to check when I had my standup meeting in the morning,
- to check how long away lunch was,
- to check that when I returned from my walk to the shops, I wouldn’t miss my next meeting, and
- 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?