Something I’ve done in patches in the past (without knowing there was a name for it) and something I’ve recently learned more about is called the pomodoro technique.
There is even a pomodoro technique .com website, though the technique (like all my favourite models and business concepts) is such a simple idea I have neither read the wikipedia page nor done more than glance at the .com website.
I give you these links as references and feel free to look at either but I can tell you what it is right here:
- decide on the task to be done
- set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes
- work on the task until the timer rings
- take a 3-5 minute break
- every four “pomodoros” take a longer break (15–20 minutes)
… and that’s all there is to it.
The pomodoro technique is actually named after the original tomato shaped kitchen timer the guy who invented it used at university (although my timer is actually a rather cute piggy).
What I Found After Trying This
It really suits my working style. I love the idea of being really really focused and just getting on with stuff. and ‘time-boxing’ has always worked well for me – having limited time for things certainly helps my focus.
Also by using a kitchen timer rather than the timer on my iPod Touch, I had the added bonus of a faint ticking sound which that timer makes as it counts down the seconds (for some people that might be an annoyance or a distraction but for me it seems to act as a kind of extra stimulus to move quickly).
I may experiment with different periods but today I have gone for 25 minute chunks of work with 5 minute breaks. the other advantage of using a timer rather than set times on a clock is if you do over or under-run slightly on anything it has no impact at all on your next iteration. You just reset the timer for the next piece of work and off you go!
Results: Here is What I Have Done So Far Today:
I started work at 9am as always (just after actually as I had a quick haircut between breakfast and starting work today, but who’s counting). Each # apart from #5 (Lunch) is a separate ‘pomodoro’.
- Complete a planning application for some work I’d like to do on my garage
- Fix a problem with a software installation on a computer which I’ve been putting off for ages – something which was actually easier than I thought it would be and that this technique ‘time-boxed’ and allowed me to dedicate 25 mins to (which actually turned out to be just enough time to fix the entire problem)
- Complete the first module of a training course I just bought
- (25 mins of) General Website Tidy-up
- Manage emails (business to-do – see this post if you want to know more about how I manage my emails: Email Overload…)
- Write this post (The Pomodoro Technique) which is what I’m doing right now 😉
that gets me to 13:54pm which is the time right now. Not bad for a morning’s work (including a break for lunch). Clock still ticking by the way so I hopefully should have time to finish and post this.
Would I have done this much if I wasn’t using the pomodoro technique? Possibly as I’m quite efficient anyway, but probably not (this way ABSOLUTELY OBLITERATES distractions).
Would I recommend the pomodoro technique? Yes I would.
Obviously you can split one task across more than one pomodoro or work on a separate task each time. As I generally have lots of different things I’d like to work on, as you can see above I like to change tasks every time. If I have a task which needs more time, I’ll split it but won’t work on the different pieces in consecutive pomodoros, instead choosing to do something else in-between. this makes sure I get at least some of many different types of tasks done and is what works best for me.
This is an idea, a concept and a technique. The original technique seems to talk about 25 minute blocks but I don’t see why you couldn’t make the time blocks whatever you want and play around with it to see what suits you best. There is probably some significance to the 25 minutes and it actually works pretty well for me, but there’s nothing to stop you experimenting with different blocks of time.