The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It uses a timer to break work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used as a university student.
The technique has been widely popularized by dozens of apps and websites providing timers and instructions. Closely related to concepts such as timeboxing and iterative and incremental development used in software design, the method has been adopted in pair programming contexts.
The original technique has six steps:
- Decide on the task to be done.
- Set the pomodoro timer (typically for 25 minutes).
- Work on the task.
- End work when the timer rings and take a short break (typically 5–10 minutes).
- If you have fewer than three pomodoros, go back to Step 2 and repeat until you go through all three pomodoros.
- After three pomodoros are done, take the fourth pomodoro and then take a long break (traditionally 20 to 30 minutes). Once the long break is finished, return to step 2.
For the purposes of the technique, a pomodoro is an interval of work time.
A goal of the technique is to reduce the effect of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. A pomodoro is indivisible; when interrupted during a pomodoro, either the other activity must be recorded and postponed (using the inform – negotiate – schedule – call back strategy) or the pomodoro must be abandoned.
After task completion in a pomodoro, any remaining time should be devoted to activities, for example:
- Review your work just completed.
- Review the activities from a learning point of view (ex: What learning objective did you accomplish? What learning outcome did you accomplish? Did you fulfill your learning target, objective, or outcome for the task?)
- Review the list of upcoming tasks for the next planned pomodoro time blocks, and start reflecting on or updating them.
Specific cases should be handled with common sense: If you finish a task while the Pomodoro is still ticking, the following rule applies: If a Pomodoro begins, it has to ring. It’s a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity for overlearning, using the remaining portion of the Pomodoro to review or repeat what you’ve done, make small improvements, and note what you’ve learned until the Pomodoro rings.
The stages of planning, tracking, recording, processing and visualizing are fundamental to the technique. In the planning phase, tasks are prioritized by recording them in a "To Do Today" list, enabling users to estimate the effort they will require. As pomodoros are completed, they are recorded, adding to a sense of accomplishment and providing raw data for subsequent self-observation and improvement.
The creator and his proponents encourage a low-tech approach, using a mechanical timer, paper and pencil. The physical act of winding the timer confirms the user's determination to start the task; ticking externalises desire to complete the task; ringing announces a break. Flow and focus become associated with these physical stimuli.
There are many variations on the Pomodoro Technique, allowing people to tailor its principles to suit their working styles. Some of them include:
- Skipping the reflection periods and continuing to work in blocks of the same length.
- Working in time periods natural to one's life and circumstances—for example, the time between meetings, until one's kids or partner come home, until the dishwasher finishes, until the laundry finishes, etc.
- Monitoring periods of naturally high productivity, and from this data deducing the best productivity system.
All of these approaches preserve the core Pomodoro principle of working in specific time blocks, adjusting the periods to better suit individual needs.
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4. WHEN THE POMODORO RINGS, PUT A CHECKMARK ON A PAPERClick the "how" link and see step 4. Presumably, the piece of paper can be one's task list or similar. In any case, four check marks indicate a longer break (step 6).
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