So there: pomodoro is a great, simple and smart way of increasing productivity if you have work that involves concentrating on something that, well, sits on a desk.
This piece is on my adventures with pomodoro.
I work on a Mac, and the first thing I thought when I decided to work in pomodoro was to install a Mac widget that was tailored for the job. I couldn’t find any, so I started with an egg-timer that I could set to 25 minutes. Though on a side note, I am yet to understand which animal’s egg cooks in 25 minutes.
I probably have a mild case of ADHD, so keeping myself to the screen for 25 minutes straight is still hard. What I really found impossible was repeating three pomodoros before a long break. I just can’t do that, if I’m not locked in a library room. So I decided to take things slow.
I started with two pomodoros in a row, with a longer break. I do one pomodoro, stand up and walk around a bit (3-4 minutes), and come back and do another one. How you take the break is more important than how long it is. If you’re caught up in a discussion, you make a brief phone call, or you do anything that shifts your concentration from work, you’ll find that your “flow” was disrupted and you’ll have to wait before you can concentrate in your second pomodoro.
Likewise, if you stay in your desk and switch over to Twitter chatter, you’re not taking a break. You’re basically destroying your productivity.
A break for me is a quick stride to the water fountain or the coffee machine.
Results? I tally-mark how many pomodoros I did each day. While working in an office, 12 a day is a good number. If I get 12, I leave happy. In an 8-hour workday, 6 hours of pure focus is a really good number. I know it will seem very strange to you if you haven’t tried timeboxing yourself: but the benchmark figure in Turkey is 3.5 hours.
I work well in a library where I can clock up to 20 pomodori a day. I’ve used the technique to also find out I perform dismally at home: averaging 10.
I don’t immediately mark a pomodoro incomplete if I’m interrupted by an important phone call. Instead, I wait until I go back to work and check if I can continue immediately. If I can, the pomodoro continues.
After a while, I just found the egg-timer was unnecessary. So now I just prop my watch up next to the computer, and time myself for 25 minutes. It works equally well.
Progress? Yes. I know I’m about two times more productive on days I use the pomodoro technique, and I now fully understand that time is really not a parameter for quality/magnitude of output. The correct parameters, I would say, are “pomodoros” and the peace of mind you have while marking those pomodoros.
Give pomodoro a try, and let me know how it goes.