I hear a ticking sound. Not the keys, but an ordinary, wind-up kitchen timer. In this case, a virtual one. It’s counting down from 25 minutes.
When the timer rings, I’ll stop working. I’ll take a five-minute break to compete one 30-minute work cycle. Then I’ll start the timer over at 25.
If this post is complete and edited in the first 30-minute cycle, I’ll start a new task. If not, I’ll continue work on this post until it’s complete.
It’s all part of a remarkable productivity technique called The Pomodoro Technique.
The greatest difference between this productivity technique—describe almost in its entirety in two short paragraphs above—and all other techniques is work. The Pomodoro Method focuses on working, not on planning, organizing, or theorizing.
A little background
I “discovered” David Allen’s Getting Things Done method in about 2002. It was brand new, and it truly changed the way I planned. It didn’t really change the way I worked, except to add quite a bit of organizing to my routine.
In 2008, I discovered Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. Leo extended David Allen’s methodology and brought it much closer to actual work. But not close enough. The biggest lessons I learned from Leo were minimalism and habit change. Both useful, but they don’t get everything done more efficiently. Instead, Babauta taught me how to do less unimportant stuff, leaving more time and energy for the stuff that matters. (I still read Zen Habits every week, and I strongly recommend Leo’s book, The Power of Less.)
A couple of weeks ago, I found the Pomodoro Technique on Lifehacker’s 5 Best Productivity Methods survey. Lifehacker said:
The Pomodoro Technique was created by Francesco Cirillo back in the early 90s as a way to harness the power of focused work and frequent breaks to be more productive.
I visited the Pomodoro Technique website, downloaded four files—the guide, the cheat sheet, an inventory log, and a daily to do list. After reading the simple, one-page cheat sheet, I dug in.
After just three days, the results were astonishing. Two weeks later, I’m true believer. The Pomodoro Technique helps you get more work done faster with fewer interruptions and very little time spent planning and organizing.
When I started using the technique, I was overwhelmed with too many big projects and too little time.Within three days of the Pomodoro Method, one of the projects was on the shelf. This gave me confidence that I could compete the other projects on time as well.
And I did.
In one week, I became proficient at the Pomodoro Technique, and I’ve spent exactly zero dollars doing it. There is no mindset to adopt, no Zen to master. You don’t have to throw away the photos of your son on his third birthday just to process your inbox.
With the Pomodoro Technique, you work for 25 minutes on a single task, then take a five minute break, then start another cycle, or Pomodoro. After three or four Pomodoros, you take a 25 minute break. That’s about it. It couldn’t be simpler.
Best of all, as I said before, the Pomodoro Technique is about actual work, not planning. It gets stuff done, period.