Productivity and GTD

The Pomodoro Technique, in detail

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez

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Pomodoro

Some time ago I started using the Pomodoro Technique routinely to perform tasks that require a certain amount of time and focus (mainly programming and writing, in my case). I found it really useful, so I wrote an article in which I told you the basics of this technique and my very first impressions.

I know there are people who do not like it and that its acceptance will depend very much on the way you usually work, and on the kind of environment in which you work. Well, after five months, I can tell you that this method have helped me very much to get focused on my work and avoid distractions. In fact, as I keep track of my time, I can say that my productivity has raised a 14% in the latest five months with respect to the previous five, which means 84 more hours of pure work.

If you need to give an immediate boost to your productivity, I recommend you to continue reading and give it a try.

What you need

  • A clock or a timer. Better a real Pomodoro than a digital one. It need not be exactly a tomato (I use the one you can see in the picture). Why? It turns out that the fact of making the physical movement to set the timer (rotating the moving part), along with the sound it produces, sends to your brain a much clearer order to acknowledge that it is starting a period of time in which it has to avoid distractions. Similarly, the background ticking you can hear during the 25 minutes that a pomodoro lasts, will keep you more focused on what you are doing.
  • A sheet with your tasks for today. At the beginning of the day (or the night before) select the tasks you want to do. If you use GTD to get organized, you should choose the ones in your Calendar and some of your Next Actions.

to-do today sheet

  • A sheet to note down new tasks as they come up. Here you will write down the new stuff. Some of them will be done and checked off along the day (a call, an email…, something urgent). The remaining will be processed at the end of the day.

The method

  • Start your first pomodoro. Set the timer to 25 minutes and place it so you can always see the time left. Start your first task. It is 25 minutes of pure work that can not be interrupted. If someone or something interrupts a pomodoro, it will be considered void.
    When the timer rings, mark the task with an X and take a break for about 5 minutes. You must not keep working even if you think you can finish the task in a few minutes. During the break you have to “disconnect” from the work, so your brain can get relaxed and assimilate what you have learned in these 25 minutes. Stand up, walk around, drink a glass of water or think about what you would like to do the next weekend, but do not do anything related with the task.
    When the break is over, set the timer for the second pomodoro.

Rule: The atomic unit of time is a Pomodoro and it is indivisible.

to-do today sheet, marked

  • Every four pomodoros take a longer break, from 15 to 30 minutes. Have a coffee, check your email or go out for a walk. It is important not to do anything complex during that time, so your brain can integrate the new stuff and get relaxed. This way you will be fresh for the next round of pomodoros.
  • Task completed. If you finish a task then cross it out on the list. But the pomodoro has to end. You can use the remaining time to review, tweak or improve what you have done. If you finish a task in the first 5 minutes and really think the job is absolutely finished, you can abort the pomodoro (but this does not count).

Rule: If a Pomodoro begins, it has to ring

to-do today sheet, task completed

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