Pommodore technique: variations and observations

I left my phone on my desk last night because I’m an absent-minded dumbass. This post, therefore, deviates slightly from the proposition stated on the introduction to this blog. I went old-school this morning and scrawled this post out on a yellow legal pad. Some argue that the medium used changes what’s written. I would agree. I searched for a link to that proposition, but couldn’t find it. If any readers have information of where I can find it, please comment. But I digress…

Last week, or 2 weeks ago, or whenever, I learned about the Pomodoro technique. The basic idea is that you work for 25 min, take a 5 min break, then take a longer (15-30 min) break after the 4th work session. I find that this technique works quite well for small administrative tasks that can be done in 25 minutes or less, but not so well when the tasks take longer. Because I have the good fortune of being able to bill in 6-minute increments, I often modify the length of my work session to 24 or 30 minutes. That modification seems to work well because I’m usually able to obtain a tangible result within that time.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that the way the 5 min breaks are used matters. Surfing the internet usually fucks things up because it leads to distraction and because I can’t usually find and finish an interesting article within 5 minutes. Some good activities for break time include:

  • urinating,
  • having a snack,
  • stretching,
  • meditating (probably, I haven’t actually tried it yet),
  • writing this blog, and
  • going for a short walk.

I think the common thread among these activities is that they are simple enough to be relaxing, but still require a singular focus. These characteristics make the break activity meaningful, but not so engaging that I have to pry myself away from it.

The next observation I had is that it takes ruthless discipline to make the Pomodoro technique work properly. If a 5-min break turns into a 10 min break, then a 10 min break will become a 15 min break. Multiply that sequence by 3 and that’s 45 minutes pissed away. This reality, in-turn, forces the Pomodoro user to plan his or her day carefully. If you have a meeting in 2 hours, then you can just barely squeeze in 4 sets (and probably use the last one to prepare for the meeting). Additionally, this forces estimation of how long a particular task on a particular project will take.

One last observation is that the Pomodoro technique gives insight into the methods being used to work towards a larger goal. If 25 minutes pass without tangible progress towards the desired outcome, then it’s probably time for a new approach.


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