I like tomatoes…

tomAto or tomAHto?

… so maybe I’ll like Pomodoro.

Some quick facts:

  1. I peruse a bunch of RSS feeds.
  2. I use a Mac
  3. I own an Android phone
  4. I DO like tomatoes. [note to self: add a post about my Dad's garden]

I have a list of about 30 or so RSS feeds that I check periodically [1] – I let Safari just load them up all on one page and quickly scan through the list for something interesting [2]. In checking that the other day, I ran across something on TUAW that was interesting – a time-management technique called Pomodoro [4] along with a little Mac application that helps execute the technique. Interesting enough that I actually downloaded the software and the documentation, and am giving it a spin.

I’ve tried a lot of different time management / time boxing / priority focused ways to “Get Work Done” (not to be confused with “Getting Things Done,” which is a way to “Get Work Done”) and I’ve been disappointed by all of them (I can’t “Get Work Done” with any of them). This isn’t to say they won’t work for you, they just don’t work for me. Pomodoro is similar to and different from all of the other ways I’ve tried, and it had two feature that I thought could make it work better for me than some of the other ones – it breaks the work into quite small chunks of time, and breaks are explicit and occur between these chunks.

These concepts underlie the Pomodoro Technique (that’s the name Francesco Crillo gave the approach): it’s hard to stay focused for a long period of time, but it’s easy to stay focused for a short period of time, and focus can be regained by explicitly scheduling brief breaks. His granularity of time was set based on what tools he had on hand, and one of those was a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. This timer was good for nominally 25 minutes – so in the Pomodoro technique the duration of a Pomodoro (a work iteration) is 25 minutes. These Pomodoros become the coin of the realm – A task will take some number of Pomodoros, which automatically includes the same number of breaks. Any clearer? If not, it’s all well explained at the Pomodoro site.

Here’s my plan – I’m going to try (or at least try to try – learning a new habit is hard for me) Pomodoro for a week. If it works for a week, I may be able to go for another week, then another, …. At some point, it may stick. If I can’t get it to work for a whole week, then I’m not sure it will ever work for me.

Expect another report in a week – I’ve already added the task to my To Do List for next week.

[UPDATE: I'm still struggling with turning the timer back on after a Pomodoro. That's going to take some getting used to...]

[UPDATE 2: I'm convinced I don't like the Pomodoro application as it stands; it does what it does but it doesn't do things that I wish it would... Since I have the source code, I could actually fix it. I think I'll just build a punch list of the things I don't like and include them next week in the real update on progress.]

1 comment to I like tomatoes…

  • I use a phone timer so it goes with me wherever I am. I set it on vibrate so my coworkers don’t get annoyed with it going off every 25 then 5 minutes (I time the break too, otherwise I also go off in the weeds.) It’s marvelous for focusing your attention on the task at hand: I find that since I know I’m committed to the task for the next 25 minutes, I don’t bother to think about anything but it. (If I’m interrupted I stop the timer until the interruption goes away.) So I concentrate more on what I’m doing, but still reserve the right–for the next pomodoro–to switch to another task. It works well in conjunction with kanban, in that respect: if I size my tasks to about one pomodoro, then I make nicely visual progress throughout the day. I can use the 5-minute break to queue the next ready (WIP limit 5) task into working (WIP limit 2), or figure out which backlog (everything starts here) tasks are ready. Working tasks move to complete so I have a list of things I did in a day, and then to archive when I need to start a new day’s complete list.

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