My Pomodoro Project

August 2012

in Productivity & Organization, Self-mastery

The Pomodoro Technique

Update: Added weekly log, and updated some project details.

The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity technique which can be summarized thusly:

Work for 25 minutes. Take a 5 minute break. Repeat. Occasionally take longer breaks. 

There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the core idea.

I first heard about it at my recent CFAR minicamp. I was skeptical.

I’ve tried similar techniques before, and settled on doing 90 minute work segments, followed by 30 minute breaks. I thought this worked best for me, but I was definitely wrong. Switching to the Pomodoro Technique almost literally doubled my productivity overnight. I can’t believe how effective it’s been! Here are a few more details on the Pomodoro Technique, and my pomodoro project.

How to Get Started

For the short and sweet crash-course, read the pomodoro technique cheat sheet. You should be able to start implementing the Pomodoro Technique within fifteen minutes.

If you want more info read the actual book, which is available online for free—but don’t read it just to procrastinate trying the technique.

My Pomodoro Project

In short, it is this:

Use the Pomodoro Technique as strictly as possible for four weeks two months. At the end, assess the value, brainstorm modifications or changes, and adjust accordingly. The goal is to do “as much work as possible,” though after the first few days two weeks I adjusted this to aiming for 12 16 pomodoros a day—the equivalent of 6 8 hours of solid work.

What I’m Tracking

There are several key things to track in this project:

  • Number of Pomodoros completed.
  • The category each pomodoro belongs to (see the Weekly Pomodoro Log below).
  • Number of internal interruptions.
  • Number of external interruptions.
  • Number of estimated pomodoros vs actual pomodoros per task.

I stopped tracking interruptions after the first two weeks; it was too time-consuming and too much of a distraction in itself. I still mentally track interruptions, avoid them as much as possible, and wait to address them until the current pomodoro is completed.

Daily Pomodoro Log

Weekly Pomodoro Log by Category

I’m also scheduling all of my pomodoros into four general categories. The associated percentages represent my targeted pomodoro distribution between the categories, as follows:

  • Basics (50%) – Hourly paid work which I must do to make enough money to survive.
  • Income Projects (20%) – Other income-generating projects—such as Anki Essentials—that lack the certainty of income from the Basics work.
  • Learning (20%) – Everything related to personal growth, reading cool books, life meta, and writing blog posts.
  • Miscellaneous (10%) – Everything else. This mostly includes things like work around the house, cleaning, organizing finances, and planning pomodoros.

Pomodoro Weekly Log

Work Environment & Other Notes

  • I work from home on various projects, in an empty house. At around 4:30pm my partner comes home, and I strive to avoid working after then for several reasons.
  • I started on a Thursday, simply because that was when I decided to start, and I had no reason to wait until the “start of a new week”.
  • I’m not using the official Pomodoro To-Do List or Activity Inventory because I track my to-do’s and next actions digitally in mind maps.
  • I’m not using an actual Pomodoro timer—a Pomodoro Technique sin, I’ve been told. If this project pans out, I’ll consider investing in one. In the meantime, I’ve been using a pomodoro app on my Mac (which I’m sort-of enjoying).