Time Management

Tomatoes and Time Management

September 7, 2010

I’ve written more than one post about the evils of interruptions and multitasking.  Interruptions steal your time.  In fact, recent brain scan research shows that it can take our brains up to 20 minutes to recover from an interruption.  Multitasking, or as Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking, refers to it – “switchtasking” – only serves to shorten our attention spans and make us more susceptible to interruptions – both internal and external.  Interruptions and multitasking create a sort of self-induced ADD.

As a practice advisor with Atticus, I’ve coached my clients for years on the importance of “Power Hours.”  Power Hours are blocks of “focus time” that are scheduled in your calendar and allow you to work, uninterrupted, on your most important tasks.  Blocking focus time is one of the most valuable things you can do to improve your productivity.  But for some, the idea of working, uninterrupted, for an hour or more can be intimidating.  So, we look for ways to interrupt ourselves.  And the more we interrupt ourselves the more difficult it becomes to focus.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Enter:  Francesco Cirillo and the Pomodoro Technique.  The Pomodoro Technique is a simple process that combines 25 minute blocks of focus time with five minute breaks as a means of managing your time and powering through your tasks and to-do lists.  The technique gets its name from a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato – a Pomodoro tomato.  – Sort of silly, but very effective.  (If you don’t want to use a kitchen timer, download a Pomodoro timer, such as FocusBooster, for your computer.) Some of the goals of the Pomodoro Technique are to:

  • Enhance focus and concentration by cutting down on interruptions
  • Increase awareness of your decisions
  • Boost motivation and keep it constant
  • Bolster the determination to achieve your goals
  • Refine your ability to estimate the time it takes to complete a task, both in qualitative and quantitative terms
  • Improve your work or study process
  • Strengthen your determination to keep on applying yourself in the face of complex situations

Here’s how it works:

1. Write a list of tasks for the day.
2. Choose a task to be accomplished.
3. Set the Pomodoro timer to 25 minutes.  This 25 minute block of time is referred to as “a Pomodoro.”
4. Work on the task – no interruptions! – until the timer rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper next to the task.
5. Take a 3-5 minute break.
6. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

If you’re having trouble focusing during your Power Hours, or if (heaven forbid), you don’t think you need uninterrupted production time or don’t have the control over your calendar to schedule Power Hours, why not try a Pomodoro instead?  Start with a 25 minute block of time and a 5 minute break.  Maybe you can work up to four Pomodoros in succession as a way to really power through your production time.

For more information on the Pomodoro Technique and to download a free e-book and other resources, visit www.pomodorotechnique.com.

P.S.  It took me two Pomodoros to write this post.