The Pomodoro Technique: It's Not for Everyone

Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the more popular time management systems used today. While the process is simple, professionals are quickly discovering that this method is not designed for everyone. It seems that for every Pomodoro enthusiast there is a Pomodoro critic. Is the Pomodoro Technique right for you?

THE PROCESS:
For every project throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically. You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes.

Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal timer, and thus the method’s name.

After four “pomodoros” have passed, (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of break time) you then take a 15-20 minute break.

Every time you finish a pomodoro, you mark your progress with an “X”, and note the number of times you had the impulse to procrastinate or switch gears to work on another task for each 25-minute chunk of time.

The Pomodoro Technique is said to help you:

1. WORK WITH TIME - NOT AGAINST IT

The Pomodoro Technique teaches you to work with time, instead of struggling against it. Breaking down your projects into 25 minute increments makes it feel more manageable, reducing overwhelm.

2. ELIMINATE BURNOUT

The Pomodoro Technique is based on taking short, scheduled breaks which eliminates the “running on fumes” feeling you get when you’ve pushed yourself too hard.

3. MANAGE DISTRACTIONS

From social media to shopping lists any distracting thoughts and events come up when you’re at work. The Pomodoro Technique will help you log your distractions and order them according to priority levels.  

4. CREATE A BETTER WORK / LIFE BALANCE

Procrastination = guilt.  When we are unproductive at work it becomes more difficult for us to enjoy free time. Using the Pomodoro Technique can help you enjoy your free-time more.

There are hundreds of thousands who have jumped on board with this system.  From Apple executives to Wall Street Journal writers, people are claiming that the Pomodoro Technique has increased focus, decreased anxiety, and created more efficiency.

However, a few professionals have found that it actually impairs their time management.  Colin T. Miller, a Yahoo! employee and blogger, said, "Pomodoros are an all or nothing affair,” he says. “Either you work for 25 minutes straight to mark your X or you don’t complete a pomodoro. Since marking that X is the measurable sign of progress, you start to shy away from engaging in an activity if it won’t result in an X. For instance…meetings get in the way of pomodoros. Say I have a meeting set for 4:30pm. It is currently 4:10pm, meaning I only have 20 minutes between now and the meeting…In these instances I tend to not start a pomodoro because I won’t have enough time to complete it anyway."

In addition, some have claimed that it is downright silly to have to set a timer to be efficient. Mario Fusco, creator of the Lambdaj Project, said, "Aren’t we really able to keep ourselves concentrated without a timer ticketing on our desk?…Have you ever seen a civil engineer using a timer to keep his concentration while working on his projects?…I think that, like any other serious professional, I can stay concentrated on what I am doing for hours…Bring back your timer to your kitchen and start working in a more professional and effective way."

While the Pomodoro Technique is not for everyone, it is easy for you to try and discover if it is right for you.  You only need a timer to get started.  Visit the Pomodoro Technique official site for more resources.