If you’re like me you just wrote down some New Year’s resolutions. I was on the site 43Things, and I noted that someone had listed using the Pomodoro Technique as one of theirs. I looked it up and was intrigued. I’ve tried Getting Things Done and a few other list-making methods that promised to make me more efficient, but I found it very hard to incorporate any of them sustainably into my practice. Pomodoro, on the other hand, has been an immediate win. It works like this: First, you list all the things you want to complete in the day. Then, you break your day into 25-minute time chunks, and assign the tasks you want to complete across them (estimating, in 25-minute intervals, how long it will take to complete each). Time chunks are indivisible. If something takes longer than 25 minutes, you break it into multiple 25-minute time chunks. If a task takes less, you aggregate the task with another in that takes less so to make a 25 minute chunk. On your task list, these chunks of time are called pomodoros, after the tomato-shape of the kitchen timer that the originator of the technique used to keep track of the 25 minutes cycles.
During that 25-minute chunk, the pomodoro, you focus intently on the one task you’ve assigned to that time. Distractions, whether self-created or external, are brushed away, duly noted on your list of things to do, or assigned their own pomodoro to complete.
You then race to complete each task within the 25 minutes allotted. No more “5 minutes more.“ If something takes longer than the 25-minute chunk you allotted, you then allocate another 25 minutes. The system focuses your efforts on completing parts of tasks, breaking it down into digestible chunks. You give things their due. The net result is that you end up being either really efficient and getting things done within the allotted time, or, spending more time than you ordinarily would and increasing the quality of the work.
The biggest difference I noticed is the change from a rollercoaster of guilt, fear, shame and elation as burdens are taken on and lifted off. Instead, you launch a series of sprints with clear deadlines that give continual satisfaction of continual progress toward a worthy goal.
I have made a commitment to do Pomodoro for a week. We’ll see how it goes. For someone like me, with the attention span of a cracked-out hamster, this kind of atomic organization is very helpful. I’m all checked out on lists. I have an extraordinary ability to focus. I have 360-degree awareness. What I have a hard time doing is staying in the moment. Perfectionism and fear of doing less than the best possible job can be paralyzing. Pomodoro is looking promising enough to get me over these hurdles.
Perhaps this blog post is the best example of what I am talking about. It usually takes me about 3 hours to write a blog post. I do three drafts. I agonize over the grammar. This blog post, on the other hand, was completed in 25 minutes.