Using the Pomodoro Technique

I recently started using the Pomodoro Technique to help me focus. I find it a useful productivity tool to fight distractions. The technique is a rather simple process:

  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes,
  2. Work focused on your task,
  3. When the timer goes off, take a short break (5min)
  4. Repeat

After completing a few sets, take a long break (15min).

As you see, there is nothing particularly brilliant about Pomodoro. I can hear my inner critic: "What's the big deal, setting a timer and working? How about just work without a timer?"

The problem with just sitting down and doing the work is the openness of it. First I need to check in with the team, check Github notifications, anything happening in Slack, any emails or important company discussions. Finally, I'll line up my tasks and get started, but all of those external factors still tug at me.

This is how Pomodoro is helpful; it's not the timer per se but the focused time. If I'm going to start a set: I close Slack, close email, move my phone to the other room; I plan what task I'm going to work on and only have open the apps, windows, and tabs that support this task. All this happens prior to starting the timer.

With a fixed amount of time, I know all the other things can wait until the break. So for just 25 minutes, I'll be focused on the task, and during the break, I can check the various notifications.

This is the power of Pomodoro, focus without distractions.

Instead of just trying to apply willpower to avoid distractions, I use Pomodoro as the tool to shield and block the distractions. The act of setting a timer and the clock is ticking is my motivation. Plus, 25 minutes is long enough to get some work done, but short enough to gut out any distraction.

Just because there is a break doesn't mean you have to get distracted. If I'm in a groove: I might just stretch, get a glass of water, or go to the bathroom and then back to it. I try to not let the break trigger checking notifications that could bump me out of the groove. Once you start ignoring distractions, it is easier to keep ignoring, since you know they can wait.

I welcome you to try out Pomodoro and see if it helps you focus.

Pomodoro Tools

I use the GNOME Pomodoro timer that is available in the Ubuntu repository. If you're not on Linux -- which I don't know why you wouldn't be -- you can find numerous apps for all platforms. The original Pomodoro Technique simply used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, hence the name, it means tomato in Italian.