About 18 months ago when I started working on my own, I learned about the pomodoro method.
Its is startling in simplicity. You can say it in a sentence:
Set a timer for 25 minutes to do a task or set of related tasks, then set a time for 5 minutes to take a break.
Like so many things that sound simple, it quickly gets nuanced. Golf? Just hit the ball into a hole. Profit? Just sell for more than it costs. Bitcoin? It is just an encrypted distributed ledger that solves the double spend problem of digital currency. Ok, ok, so some things just start out complex.
For the pomodoro method, some of the nuance is how you spend the breaks. I find the best days are when I basically stop working when the timer goes off. I struggle with how to incorporate the technique when I have lots of meetings, travel time, or many tasks scheduled. The classical approach calls for 15 minute breaks every three pomodoros, but I rarely do that. I’d like to incorporate it on days when I have continuous deep work.
Why I love this technique:
- It forces some accountability about the time I spend on things. Those 25 minutes are pretty small but long enough to be productive in deeper work, and it is amazing how quickly my internet-enhanced-ADHD monkey mind jumps off task. The ticking timer is the reminder: Oh yeah, I set out to do something.
- I get better at estimating time for tasks. Email in 1 hour? Sure. Easy. Then I measure the pomodoros. Yikes! Four pomodoros! Some days it takes six when I think it will take one. At least I know where my time goes.
- I love the breaks. The idea for breaks is: do anything but work. Walk, exercise, daydream, stare out the window like a spring-struck teenager… anything to allow the mind to be free of the intensity of the deep work. Before, I would castigate myself for taking too many breaks. Gotta be maximally productive! But I find days with pomodoros are more productive in doing the things that matter. And I feel better and more accomplished at the end of the day. I’m pretty sure the breaks are the reason why. They allow me to refresh and reset deeper intentions.
Pomodoros are a great foundation for productivity. They are also a great habit to improve the satisfaction of your day and week. I’m happy I found them and incorporated them into my daily life.