Productivity help with Pomodoro

I think I have mentioned too often about Pomodoro without really talking about what, when and how to use it. I first learn it from Ben’s post about stopping procrastination – one Tomato at a time. I was actually caught off with the word Tomato at that time which made me continue reading. Hehe! Then I googled more about this Tomato technique and learn even more.

Pomodoro is an effective technique to improve productivity, invented by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s. If you are more interested in its history, you can google it any time and I’m pretty sure there are a lot of write-ups out there about Pomodoro. Its technique is very simple. Just set a timer of 25 minutes and start working. When the timer buzzes, you set 5 minutes for rest. After that, set another 25 minutes to work and another 5 minutes rest afterward. One Pomodoro is a set of 25-minute work and 5-minute rest. You get to rest longer for 20 minutes after 4 Pomodoros. While working through the Pomodoro, you should have a task list on hand and record any unavoidable interruption that occurs, which I’m sure many (in my case) unless you work in perfect solitude. If interruptions are too many, the Pomodoro is considered void and it needs to be restarted. Interruption such as sudden thoughts that come up which remind you of another new task e.g. pay bill etc. should be put under Unplanned, so that you can schedule another Pomodoro for it. You can group up a few small tasks (that fit in 25-minute) into a Pomodoro or break up a big task into a few Pomodoros. Lastly, you measure your productivity by the number of Pomodoros you completed and the amount of interruptions occurred.

Having said that, I don’t really follow this technique to its core. I like to use Pomodoro for time awareness when I start a task. I always like to know how much time I spend on reading an article, for example. I usually use Pomodoro in the office while I have some idle time to spare. However, I have stopped keeping track of interruption because I just have so many i.e answering phone calls in the office or a colleague comes to talk to me which I cannot avoid totally. Sometimes I like to use Pomodoro for my office work so that I can concentrate on finishing the task and remember to take a break. My problem was when my mind was too into completing a task, I could spend hours sitting down without taking a break. That’s not healthy. With Pomodoro, you will never forget to take a break. The buzzer will buzz you off. Haha!

As I’m a geek, I’m so happy when Ben recommends a cool Pomodoro app called Pomodairo. I have been using it on desktop and netbook ever since. There’s an app on iPhone too but it’s not free, unfortunately.

This is how my Pomodairo looks like. You can add new task and put in how many Pomodoros you wish to complete the task. Once the task is finished, it will be strike-off.

To start a Pomodoro, just click start timer and it will count down to 25 minutes. A buzzer will sound when it’s time to take a break or the end of a break. Click stop timer if you feel you need to restart the Pomodoro. Click on Unplanned to record your unplanned task that suddenly come up. Click interruption to record any interruption that occurs.

I have just found a copy of Demystifying Dissertation Writing by Peg Boyle Single and I have set 4 Pomodoros trying to read a chapter or two of the book. I hope to share more good writing techniques later after the read.


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