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The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Bushido - 02-26-2015 02:02 PM

For years I struggled with focus and concentration towards my work and academic studies. In a pinch, I could pull an all nighter and finish dissertations when the adrenaline fuelled me. Obviously though, this approach doesn’t work over the long-run and it's an unhealthy way to work. I tried several hyped-up productivity methods but nothing seemed to stick. This was until I found the Pomodoro Technique.

When I was first introduced to the Pomodoro Technique I was sceptical. It seemed far too simple to work. However, my initial scepticism has given way to amazement as my daily productivity has continued to rise and rise. I’m getting shit done every day. My clients are happy and I’m freeing up more time to do the stuff that I want to do.

I recommend that you too suspend your disbelief and give this method a try. When we plan well and concentrate intensely it’s amazing how much we can get done.

The benefits of the Pomodoro Technique

- Getting important things done each day
- Dramatically higher productivity
- Increased intrinsic enjoyment of work
- Lower stress levels
- More free time for you

What you will need

- ‘Pomodoro Technique Illustrated’ by Staffan Noteberg
This book properly explains the method and the intelligent thinking behind it. My post will skim over the details, but I recommend you pick up this book even if it’s on the expensive side. It's 100% worth it.

- An egg timer (also known as a kitchen timer)
Or anything else that you can time yourself with. Mobile apps exist but it’s better to stay away from them as the potential distraction factor is too high.

- A notebook and writing utensils
This notebook will serve as your base for planning out work and recording your performance. No fancy software required. Again, low tech is the way to go when it comes to productivity.

The Pomodoro Technique explained in simple terms

There is a lot to be said about the Pomodoro Technique. I’m going to give a basic overview on how it works and leave the rest for you to discover yourselves. While you can immediately implement the technique based on this information alone, you will benefit more by looking into the method more deeply before starting out. Do it right and you will reap the benefits. OK, with that caveat let’s get down to business!

First off, this technique is best utilized when applied to FOCUSED, high-priority work. The technique’s author himself (a computer programmer) has stated that he is only able to complete 8 “Pomodori” periods per day. One pomodoro period is measured by 25 minutes, so 8 Pomodori work out to just 200 minutes (3.3 hours) of focused work each day.

Though you can sometimes go over this 8 Pomodori guideline, doing more on the regular will eventually lead to burnout. Trust me now that slow and steady always wins the productivity game.

200 minutes/day doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, it’s more than enough when you are fully applying this method. This is going to be ball-bustlingly intense and focused hard work. You will feel mentally drained when you are done.

This technique is not designed to kill yourself by doing 12 hours of work. I highly doubt you could apply it for that long in any case. The basic idea is to get shit done and then go about your day. It’s amazingly effective, especially if you are in the position to set your own hours. That said, you could still apply these principles in an office job to do important tasks first thing and then goof off for the rest of the day.

It's all about flow

Flow constitutes a big part of the method. You want to achieve single-minded focus on the task at hand, as if nothing else existed in the world.

You have probably achieved such a state when working on something you enjoy or when an urgent deadline is at hand. With Pomodoro, we are aiming to reach this level every single day!

So how do we maximise flow? Here are some tips:

- When working on your Pomodori tasks, find a quiet place with minimal disturbances. - - Focus on the task at hand only (more on this later).
- No texting or emailing (I turn off my phone).
- If you share a working space, let others know what you are doing and when so they can respect your focused time.

See ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience' by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi for more information on how flow works. The book is not essential for applying this method, but it’s an excellent and insightful read.

Next, I will break down the basic Pomodoro methodology that I apply every day.

1. Write down the high priority tasks that you will complete today

Each and every day, sit down with your morning coffee and notebook. Write down your priority tasks for today, along with an estimation of how long they will take. We will call this your “Pomodoro List.” Time units are measured in “Pomodori” of 25 minutes.

If you have a large project, break it down into smaller chunks. One such task entry might be: “Write introduction to Q4 Sales Report (2P)”. So you are estimating 50 minutes for this task. Be realistic with your estimation. Things usually take longer than you expect. Later on you will be able to monitor how accurate your estimation was, but for now this is enough.

The Pomodoro List is a commitment for today only. It’s NOT your standard to-do list. To-Do lists are fine, but they are different from Pomodoro lists. Keep the two separate!

- Errands and odd jobs go on your To-Do list.
- “Nice to have” and longer-term tasks go on your To-Do list.
- High priority tasks go on your Pomodoro list. Only write down high priority tasks to complete today.

Again, the Pomodoro List is a commitment to yourself. Make it a matter of manly pride to complete everything you write down in the morning. With time and experience you will learn to only commit to realistic tasks in the morning, because you know that you have to finish everything on the list. I for one have tortured myself into the earlier hours of the morning on many occasions by writing down too much!

2. Set your egg timer to 25 minutes and get to work

When you are ready to start work, set your egg timer to 1 Pomodoro (25 minutes) and start on your highest priority task. Often, you won’t feel like starting so the key is to just do this mechanically and obey the timer. It’s amazing how quickly your mind settles down once you begin.

To make this 25 minutes effective, you are ONLY going to work on this task. Close all your other browser tabs and focus.

- Other tasks and projects will be ignored. They don’t exist.
- No checking email.
- No chatting to others.
- No answering the phone.
- No browsing RVF.
- No food or drinks.
- No checking the timer.

The above sounds extreme, but remember that there is plenty of other time in the day for all of these things. We are training our brain here. These 25 minute periods are for focused work only and your ability will increase over time.

You may sometimes find your mind drifting. This is OK. Perfect focus is difficult to achieve. Gently bring your attention back to the task at hand. Continue work until your timer goes off. You know you are doing it right when the timer goes off much quicker than expected. That’s when you are immersing yourself in the present task.

Quick tip: I’ve found that going over the current task with a highlighter pen helps me to maintain some extra single-mindedness. Occasionally when my mind wanders, I can glance down to my notebook to remind myself of what I’m doing. It sounds stupid and obvious but it does work.

3. When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break.

Taking short (and timed) breaks is vital. What you do during this time is entirely up to you. Basically anything that isn’t related to your current task constitutes a break. You can make a quick drink, walk around the room or even do some pushups if you like. Whatever rocks your boat. I recommend staying away from the PC during this time, but you can occasionally check your email if it’s important for your job.

Don’t make my mistake and let a 5 minute break turn into an hour though. Use your timer to measure breaks too, then go back to work when it goes off. You are conditioning your brain to know when it’s time to focus. Cheating will just confuse the process and reduce the effectiveness of your results.

4. Rinse and repeat for 4 Pomodori periods then take a longer break

Repeat the above method until you have completed 4 Pomodori in a row - you can then take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. Cross off the tasks as you finish them and write down how many Pomodori they took. This gives you a good idea of how long things take. Such experience will build up over time until you are able to accurately estimate your own productivity on any given kind of work. Continue this process until all the tasks on your Pomodoro list are complete.

Any questions?

Above is the essence of the method, but I left a lot of details out. Like I said, pick up the book for the full deal.

The author recommends monitoring distractions and measuring up your own estimations of work time. For those of you who go to the gym, it’s similar to examining your detailed workout logs for cause and effect. This analytical approach is highly logical and brings new insights about yourself and your work. While you can get a lot of value out of this, it isn’t necessary in the beginning. Start simple and consider adding these elements in as you go.

Planning ahead is another key factor. As time goes on, you will notice that your original task planning leaves a lot to be desired. Your focus is only as good as the set task. Try to break down projects as effectively as you can and hit the priority parts first. A good sign of a priority task is one that you are dreading doing. Being honest with yourself helps a lot in this regard.

All in all, discovering this technique has had a profound effect on my life. I've been applying it since December 2014 with great results. It sounds too simple to work, but having also tested it on family and friends, I can confidently state that it's effective for anyone who applies it correctly. Give it a spin and post up your results. Let me know if there are any questions!




RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - fucksong - 02-26-2015 04:29 PM

I've also used this technique and am a fan of it. But don't forget to do overall macro weekly planning ala GTD, Tony Robbins RPM and 7 habits because what good is being efficient in the micro tasks of say a job that you actually don't want to be even doing when your real passion and purpose lies elsewhere. Once you've got the core solid foundation down, then the micro steps become much more valuable.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Hannibal - 02-26-2015 09:33 PM

You can use the pomodoro technique for anything, too. I used it a lot during college.

I also use it in the gym if I don't feel like being there on a given day, but I still want to get something productive done. Set a stopwatch for 20 minutes, hammer the shit out a given exercise, get a drink of water and go home.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - el conquistador - 02-27-2015 10:59 AM

Excellent simplified explanation of the Pomodoro Technique.

Do you work alone OP? How have you explained to co-workers what you are doing? Have you encountered resistance from to others?

I've worked with people who don't like me shutting down and going into hyper-focussed mode for periods.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Bushido - 02-27-2015 12:39 PM

(02-27-2015 10:59 AM)el conquistador Wrote:  Do you work alone OP? How have you explained to co-workers what you are doing? Have you encountered resistance from to others?

I've worked with people who don't like me shutting down and going into hyper-focussed mode for periods.

I work on my own projects now, so I have have total free reign. Banana

Yes I can imagine that it might take people some convincing. The way I see it, if you can show your boss that having some isolated time to yourself is effective then he should support you. He is the only one that matters really. Make it a regular time slot so that everyone knows not to disturb you unless it's an emergency. Perhaps you don't need to explain the whole methodology - the results should speak for themselves. But of course, a lot of this is going to depend on the workplace.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Wahawahwah - 03-01-2015 02:49 PM

Good to know, OP

Ive been using a variation of this without knowing what it was called.

I work for an hour at breakneck speed followed by fifteen minutes of moving physically away from the place of work and doing something completely different. Rinse and repeat for 3 more cycles, essentially 4 hours of hard work in 5. By this time the mental fatigue starts in and affects productivity, but a straight break of 3-4 hours away from the workspace.

Rinse and repeat for 4 more cycles. That is essentially 8 hours of hard focused work in about 13-14 hours.

I tried doing the 25 + 5 minute routine you suggested above, but found that I was getting irritable at the constant breaks and it was affecting my continuity, perhaps that's because my brain is conditioned to work this way?

Anyway, good to know


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - NovaVirtu - 03-01-2015 03:16 PM

Dreambig I wish I could give you 5 rep points, I tried this out yesterday and got so much done! I have a major deadline coming up on a job and I've been stressing over whether I could finish it in time. Now I'm very confident I can.

This is why I love this place. Thanks so much!


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Bushido - 03-01-2015 03:38 PM

(03-01-2015 03:16 PM)NovaVirtu Wrote:  Dreambig I wish I could give you 5 rep points, I tried this out yesterday and got so much done! I have a major deadline coming up on a job and I've been stressing over whether I could finish it in time. Now I'm very confident I can.

This is why I love this place. Thanks so much!

That's great to hear man!

It's an intoxicating feeling when you finally get shit done, which is why I alluded to "lower stress levels" being one of the major benefits. If you keep with it, your next project will be much more pleasant.

The stress usually comes from the procrastination that we are all guilty of at times. It may be a cliche, but it really is all about making a small start. Once you're fully conditioned, pressing the timer will be enough to practically guarantee major progress towards your given goal.

Anyway, I'm glad you found it useful. Shoot me your questions on here or by PM if you run into any difficulties.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Alche - 03-04-2015 03:16 PM

I tried this when i first started being actively efficient in my learning and can say yes it works but is not needed. Once you have trained your brain to focus you can go longer and longer without a break.

I also use another technique thats really helped me focus on something for hours on end that a guy from kazahkstan taught me about. I pretend what I am learning is a video game and also try to break down what I am learning visually.

Its all about tricking your brain to want to keep focusing on a task.

Another alternative is to take modafinil. The shit works.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - General Mayhem - 03-04-2015 09:18 PM

I used pomodoroes to cram for exams once last year and it helped me stay on task when I didn't give a fuck about anything. I think it helped.

I don't use it anymore. It feels to constraining to me. I am a lot more focused now in general and only take breaks when I start to get scatterbrained.

Good write-up nonetheless.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Beyond Borders - 03-05-2015 03:17 AM

Nice post, dreambig.

I've heard this mentioned before and used to use a very similar method using 50-minute work sessions and 10-minute breaks. I got a ton of shit done, though sometimes 50-minutes was a bit intimidating for the start.

I think I'm going to try the 25-minute plan in my latest attempt to get more work done. Big Grin

Will report back.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Beyond Borders - 03-06-2015 07:38 AM

I just read the book you recommended - Engima recommended this to me a while ago, but I didn't listen, and now I see it indeed could have saved me quite a bit of time and money. A good read, though I was a bit chaffed that he didn't give a review of the nuts and bolts at the end so I could hit the ground running on some of the more complicated stuff. Oh, well - giving it a reread now.

To be clear, this is simple but there's still a lot more to it than grabbing a timer and chunking up your day in 25-minute blocks. The book is crucial and has given me some key insights into how to pull my time together, something that has been a real struggle for me to date.

I'm also blown away by how much longer it takes to get important stuff done than I thought. I'm not fully tracking metrics yet, but I finally understand those countless days that went by so fast with nothing substantial being accomplished. I think having a better grasp on this will not only allow me to get a more accurate idea of what I can do over time but make a lot more get done in the meanwhile.

Understanding these metrics is going to also play a huge role in my freelance business in both setting my rates accurately and creating proposals in a more timely manner.

I'm going to dig into the original book written on this topic as well - the guy who created the strategy should get his cred too. http://www.amazon.com/Pomodoro-Technique-Francesco-Cirillo/dp/3981567900/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1425645362&sr=8-5&keywords=pomodoro


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Bushido - 05-29-2015 03:48 PM

Here is an extra tip for this method that I incorporated lately.

During your breaks you can add in some bodyweight exercises such as pushups or situps.

They are easy to do and immediately applicable for this method.

I find that the bodyweight exercises help reinvigorate my brain and body after a long time sitting down.

So for example, you could do 5 sets of 10 pushups for starters, spread out across your breaks. Next time you increase it to 5 sets of 11 and so on.

I like the synergy of getting work done and looking after the body. It makes me feel very positive about what I'm doing.

This is much so better than using your phone or PC during breaks. You can save the intense exercise for the gym, but doing this alone will work wonders.

As they say, healthy body healthy mind. Hitting two birds with one stone!


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Chaos - 05-29-2015 04:44 PM

^ Sounds like you're on a hell of killing spree at the moment.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Magnesium Chloride - 05-29-2015 08:14 PM

Whats the science behind this? I always want ways to improve my productivity but am skeptical because it seems like it would reduce productivity if you are chained to the clock for work/rest periods and getting interrupted by the timer. Why cant you gain flow just by working or breaking whenever you want?


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Bushido - 05-29-2015 11:06 PM

(05-29-2015 08:14 PM)Magnesium Chloride Wrote:  Whats the science behind this? I always want ways to improve my productivity but am skeptical because it seems like it would reduce productivity if you are chained to the clock for work/rest periods and getting interrupted by the timer. Why cant you gain flow just by working or breaking whenever you want?

The books quoted in this thread refer to the science behind it. I'm not going to get into that here. It's easy to be a sceptic. Why don't you just try it out and see for yourself?


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - roberto - 05-30-2015 02:39 AM

Having recently been introduced to the concept of flow by a friend, and experienced first hand the beenfits of a 'flow state' where everyone is learning from each other at 5x regular speeds, I will be re-reading and implementing this thread as well as finishing the book on flow by buddy lent me.

I rely too much sometimes upon Modafinil to chog through a big list of tasks.

Nice one dreambig.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Americas - 06-02-2015 09:53 PM

I have been experimenting with this technique this week. It has worked really well. One of the best things about it is that you get to break down your tasks so that you don't get the "this is too daunting" procrastination effect.

I was recently having a lot of trouble motivating myself to work on some things independently, this technique has basically solved the problem for me. I highly recommend it.

I have been going with pomodoros of 20 minutes in sets of 3s and then a 30 minute break. Right now I am doing two sets of 3s, would like to bump it up to three sets of 3s.

BTW, you can just download the whole book for free here:

http://xudafeng.github.io/Tomato/Pomodoro-Technique-Illustrated.pdf


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - storm - 06-04-2015 01:12 AM

I've been using something like this for a very long time.

It also helps to have a separate paper dedicated to stuff you plan to do 'later', so that when you have a good idea or task while working you can quickly jot it down and get back to work without losing it.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Americas - 06-04-2015 09:34 AM

(06-04-2015 01:12 AM)storm Wrote:  I've been using something like this for a very long time.

It also helps to have a separate paper dedicated to stuff you plan to do 'later', so that when you have a good idea or task while working you can quickly jot it down and get back to work without losing it.

That's a pretty big part of the technique. I already have a huge list of stuff and a schedule of things I need to do this summer so it wasn't really something I am focused on, but the general process is this:

- Make a list of all the things you need to do.
- Pick out the more important things out of the list for what you need to do today.
- Do your pomodoros.
- Keep track of if you get distracted and how many pomodoros you do.
- Anything that doesn't get done put/leave on the grand list.
- Reflect on your process and how to improve it.

In a sense, the process is more than "set your timer to 25 minutes and get shit done." It's more of an ever-building process of hashing out the things you need to do and breaking them down, then reflecting on the things you did and the things you need to continue to do and how to do it better. One of the most important components is learning how to break down tasks and estimate how long they will take you, it will take time and practice to estimate accurately what will take 25 minutes exactly, but part of the process is learning how to tackle large tasks by breaking them down into workable components. And that's a big reason why it's a great technique because it trains you how to break things down and do it efficiently, which leads to a lot of self satisfaction because you are getting shit done.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - The_CEO - 06-05-2015 08:22 PM

http://pomodorotechnique.com


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - The_CEO - 06-05-2015 08:32 PM

supposedly a good timer to use:

https://www.focusboosterapp.com/the-pomodoro-technique


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - XII - 06-05-2015 09:20 PM

For me the Pomodoro method is indispensable for concentration. Before implementing I couldn't study or work on anything for longer than an hour; now I regularly do >6 hours of work a day, broken up into many 25 minute chunks.

There's a pretty good, 2 dollar app for the iphone called Pomodoro that I use. Install SelfControl on your computer to block timesuck sites, set the app for 25 minutes and put down your phone down, and get to work. Highly recommended.


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - Deepdiver - 06-05-2015 09:40 PM

Am I reading this price correctly?

The Pomodoro Technique Hardcover – 2013
by Francesco Cirillo (Author)
8 customer reviews
See all formats and editions
Hardcover
from $999.10
3 Used from $999.10
1 New from $999.11

Over 2,000,000 people read the first version. Now, for the first time ever, Francesco Cirillo's "deceptively simple" time-management method is available in a newly updated and revised hardcover book! Filled with incredibly powerful time-management advice, The Pomodoro Technique Third Edition is a godsend for procrastinators. The Wall Street Journal says the method can "help anyone to focus." The new version of the Pomodoro Technique includes a chapter on how to make the Technique work for you. You'll also learn how to predict the time it takes to complete a task,monitor your productivity and set personal goals. Newsweek listed the Pomodoro Technique as one of the best ways to "Get Smarter in 2012" and it was voted the "Most Popular Productivity Method" by the Lifehacker community. With the Pomodoro Technique, you'll learn how to boost your productivity drastically and consistently in a way that will stay with you forever.

I am curious to know if the first 2 million readers paid $999.10 per book - that would be nearly $2 Billion - do you at least get a N:LP programming DVD you can listen to in your sleep? - either way that is one heck of a business and pricing model - better than Tony Robbins cheer leading believe in yourself seminars.

Being a frugal businessman I have to wonder if you can buy a gently used copy on ebay for $25.00 ?? Just saying...


RE: The Pomodoro Technique - the very best productivity method I have found! - CleanSlate - 06-05-2015 10:25 PM

^ Good lord! I saw the same price on Amazon. I seriously doubt that 2 million readers paid that much for it. That can't be right.

Onto the topic: I just tried the Pomodoro technique, 2 sets of 25 minutes with a 5 minute break in between.

It really works. I'm able to focus 100% and get a lot reading and coding done. Word of warning - those 25 minutes sure do pass by really fast.