A Classic Pomodoro Timer - Defeating the Dark Side of Procrastination
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlpeixoto/5351547427/

A Time Management Technique That Just Works

Do you ever have trouble beginning a task? Starting to write? Or completing any number of chores that seem to suck the energy out of you?

     Then you're in luck - there's one incredibly powerful time management technique that will banish procrastination forever. It's called the Pomodoro Technique and it was invented by Francisco Cirillo in the 1980’s.

     What's a Pomodoro?

     First of all - what's a pomodoro? It's Italian for tomato. For us, however, it's a plastic kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato. You know the one, the type your mum or grandma had in their kitchen (or that could even be sitting in yours right now).

     How Does It Work?

     This technique is deceptively simple. It consists of just five steps.

    1.  Choose a task to work on
    2. Wind up your pomodoro to ring after 25 minutes.
    3. Work until it rings (that’s one ‘Pomodoro’)
    4. Take a 5 minute break. Repeat steps 1 – 3.
    5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer 15-20 minute break.

     It's that simple.

     There's only one more rule: during a Pomodoro, no other action is allowed. No getting up and going to the bathroom, no making a cup of coffee, nor any other time-wasting actions that eat up your day. Feel the beauty of single tasking once more, of concentrating fully on one task alone.

     Why Does It Work?

     Well, for thinking people, creative types, and perfectionists, we get so caught up in analysing our actions that we end up not taking any action at all.

     Having an external timer that dictates our actions lifts a weight off of our shoulders and releases our 'inner brake'.

     Tell Me More

     As with all productivity techniques, there's more detail to help you get the most out of the technique.

    First, have a notepad handy to record two things:

    1. Any distractions or thoughts that come up during the Pomodoro
    2. Use a separate page to record your Pomodoros during the day

    Recording the number of Pomodoros can give you an amazing feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day, when you look back on your achievements. I know it does for me! Draw a box for each Pomodoro you intend to complete, and mark it with a check when it's finished.

     You have to be strict though - if something important (genuinely urgent) comes up and you have to interrupt the Pomodoro timer, then you must cancelthat Pomodoro. You must begin again.

     Useful Tips on the Pomodoro Technique

    •  When you're starting out, set the timer for shorter periods, perhaps 10, 15 or 20 minutes. Until you're used to it, focusing fully for 25 minutes can be a long time.
    •  When you have five minutes of rest at the end of a Pomodoro, you must stop work completely. You can go and turn cartwheels for all I care, but don't be tempted to keep going, even if you feel that you're going to finish in the next few minutes. Leave it to the next Pomodoro, and spend the rest of the time reviewing, or move on to the next project.
    •  If you consistently spend more than 5 or 6 Pomodoros doing something, try and break your tasks down into smaller chunks. It'll help give you more 'small wins' which helps motivation.
    •  You can also use desktop software instead of a physical Pomodoro if you choose. Pomodairo and Focus Booster are good examples. You can't beat a good old-fashioned Pomodoro though, in my opinion.

     Have fun with the technique, and see what works for you. Play around with it, adapt it and most of all, be more productive!