Can a tomato shaped timer enhance and improve your productivity? For Italian software designer Francesco Cirillo, it made all the difference in the world. In designing his “Pomodoro Technique” time management system, Cirillo developed a way to stay focused, lessen the severity of interruptions, and get more done during his work day.
I heard of this system last week when a Twitter friend directed me to a time management piece written by the Wall Street Journal. Columnist Sue Shellenbarger tried out three time management systems and then reviewed the pros and cons of each one. Included in the three were the venerable favorites, GTD (Getting Things Done) by David Allen and Stephen Covey’s “Focus” method. Sandwiched in between was “The Pomodoro Technique”. The system is named after a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian) and has its roots in the fact that it was through the use of a tomato shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo developed and perfected his system.
In a nutshell, the system breaks down into managing your time in short bursts of productive time with a brief interval of recovery (A Pomodoro). This isn’t unlike the recovery methods discussed in the book “The Power of Full Engagement” that I reviewed last year. And it’s very much like the “Power of 48” method I’ve discussed where you work for 48 minutes and take a 12 minute break.
The real beauty in a system like this is its simplicity and the way it can integrate with methods you might already feel comfortable with. The technique, like any time-management system, requires you to keep a log of your tasks (an inbox to process), a list of activities to accomplish each day (a results or to-do list) and a record of your achievements that you can keep either on paper or through a spreadsheet so you can manage projects more effectively and budget the right amount of time for them in the future.
I particularly liked Cirillo’s method of handling both internal and external interruptions to your work day. This has many applications depending on your employment situation but is adaptable to any method.
You can purchase a bound copy of the book describing the method or you can go to Cirillo’s site and download a free copy of the eBook for “The Pomodoro Technique”. It’s 45 pages long and took me less than two hours to read after I downloaded it. It also includes sample forms for you to use to get started measuring your projects and actions in “Pomodoros“.
One observation from my first read: This system would seem like a no-brainer for people working in offices and tied to their desks all the time be it home office or work office. For a pastor like myself, I can see the benefit in timing out the administrative and study time I need by budgeting my mornings and/or afternoons and thus, freeing up other time for visitation or meetings. Since the nature of my work has me out for several hours at a time some days, it makes sense to minimize distractions when I’m at my desk to get things done in a timely fashion so I can move on to activities that involve people, which is my main business!
All in all, I like the idea of the “Pomodoro” technique. Cirillo has found a way to simplify tracking your tasks and getting more done with less distraction and the fact that he has made the system free for downloading is quite nice indeed. Download a copy of the eBook and share your thoughts on this new way of looking at time management.
And I wrote this piece in one Pomodoro! So now, I’m taking a break!