5 Min reading time

(25+5) x 4 = 2 hours of clear focus

23. 11. 2016

Being a Pomodoro user myself for years, admittedly in various intensities, I was a bit surprised when discovered some people haven't even heard of this time management technique.

It’s quite understandable that not everyone would use Pomodoro, but I was a bit surprised when discovered some people haven’t even heard of this time management technique. Pomodoro is, in short, a focus control technique and it can be boiled down to a few very simple steps:
  1. Take a task
  2. Set the timer to 25 minutes
  3. Roll up your sleeves and work for those 25 minutes
  4. When the timer rings, take a 5 minute break
  5. Rinse and repeat
  6. After the fourth cycle take a longer break
(More details are available on the Pomodoro website – obviously you can start a business out of anything.)
Such a simple concept can work but leaves a lot of space for fooling around after which one can say that the thing doesn’t work, or doesn’t have any sense, or is impossible to implement in a real environment and so on.
Hence, this article.

What’s needed for start?

For successful application of Pomodoro focusing technique, it is necessary to have:
1. Job to get done, unlimited pcs
2. Timer, 1 pcs
3. Pen, 1 pcs
4. Small paper cards, several pcs
What follows is a few tricks from my experience, with that mandatory title…

You won’t believe what you can achieve with this 6 simple advices!

Pro tip #1: Don’t plan your tasks so that they fit into 25 minutes time slot.

Actually, I don’t plan my tasks at all. I have a list of tasks, with – for the given moment – the most important task on the top of the list, and that’s it. I roll up my sleeves and don’t do anything else until the task’s not finished. When it’s done, I check the list for the next most important task.
This in fact means that I have simplified the planning phase to selecting the next task and I do that every time before starting to work on something. It’s not so simple as it sounds in these few sentences  but I got hold on that relatively easy. When the timer rings 25 minutes I simply stop.

Pro tip #2: 25+5 is cool, but it’s not sacred.

25 + 5 minutes is a neat combination since it measures exactly half an hour, two pomodoros are one hour etc., but during time I realized that some jobs are better done if I have 35-40 minute time slots and 2-3 minutes breaks. For example, writing an article for our Factory papers is such a type of work. It could be related to the position I write the articles in – semi-laying down, but that’s another story. 50 minute pomodoros never worked for me.

Pro tip #3: Post-it and a pen.

The method says that every single thing that comes to my mind during the work which is not directly related to the task should be written down and forgotten. It’s easy to write down something, not so much to forget, especially if I use Evernote or even a simple txt file on my computer. As most of my work is on a computer, I guess the problem lays in the fact that I haven’t removed the distraction far enough; it’s still somewhere there, bothering me. Hence, Post-it and a pen, for two reasons: different physical medium is really aside, separated and independent; and additionally the size of a Post-it limits the number of written things. In other words, if I work on something and in a meantime I have one or two Post-its completely filled, something is wrong. I have the instant opportunity to ask myself what’s going on, why I work on some task and at the same time think about so many other things. Maybe I haven’t selected the most important task? Or is it the time for a longer break?

Pro tip #4: What to do during a break?

Or even funnier question, is it allowed to thing about the work during a break? Of course it’s allowed, it’s not that Pomodoro Police would knock on your door, would they?
I usually get some water or stretch a little and that’s it. A few minutes and continue, while I try to stay within those 5 minutes limit.

Pro tip #5: Real, physical timer.

It turned out that for the time measurement purposes a real physical timer suited me best, and exactly this one shown on the picture below. It can be bought in Muller store on the kitchen department and it’s not expensive. They offer a few different types, but this one features neat visualization of the remaining time – that red flag – and nicely ticks while working (which might make somebody nervous; not me).
If I’m somewhere in public, say waiting for my car being repaired, it is a little bit awkward to pull out the timer on a table. In such situations I use Goodtime application (for Androids, there’s surely something similar for iPhones. The application is very simple, it features only the basic functionalities and as an additional bonus it turns off all the sounds the phone might produce during the pomodoro. There are a few web based applications, for example https://tomato-timer.com/#. The thing works what it should and that’s it.

Pro tip #6: 3-4 blocks and then break.

U usually succeed in completing 3-4 blocks in one pass before I need a longer break or I conclude it’s enough focus for that day. Two times by two hours of concentrated work means, at least in my line of business, a very well used workday.
Above mentioned advices are mostly related to one-man-band types of work, but this method is applicable on groups, during meetings etc. But more on that later – maybe.
And not to forget one very important detail:
When to do emails?
Well, during the pomodoro slot for doing the emails. Honestly…
[No timers have been injured during the writing of this blog post.]
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