Saturday, August 21, 2010
Hang On Little Tomato: the Pomodoro Technique
Okay. So. Wacky graphics aside, allow me to introduce you to the Pomodoro Technique. I know, this might seem esoteric, geeky, or irrelevant in light of the context - but it is a time management technique that matches up to my current practice and I hope to use to wring more value out of the workroom hours I have set aside.
I was chatting with my brother and very casually mentioned that I had set a timer at home with the intent to work for half an hour on a little housework project. He exclaimed, "you have successfully used a unit of time called the Pomodoro!" and gave a two- or three-sentence rundown of the concept. I promptly came home and looked it up on the InterTubes.
Some years back, a student was trying to figure out how to manage his time, made up his mind on a reasonable time and set a kitchen timer for that length of time. His timer happened to be shaped like a cheery red tomato - or a pomodoro in Italian, as he also happened to be in Rome. Since that time, Mr. Francesco Ferillo refined the idea and has developed a time-management system that is elegantly simple and effective, based on the idea of time-boxing and distraction management. Since the publication of his book in 2006, the technique has garnered some serious attention amongst geeks and lifehackers, especially those who are wary and weary of other systems that are ponderously complex (and can eat up a significant amount of time and attention in and of themselves).
The book is worth a read - and it's available for free under Creative Commons license. If you don't feel like bothering with the 40 page book, the one page "cheat sheet" PDF is well worth a look and describes the basic principles better than I have or could in this post.
I have long understood the value of time-boxing and have even used a timer, as I mentioned earlier. I like the minimalist system and the ideas of distraction management and avoiding time-related anxiety. I have already set out blocks of time that are Pomodoro-friendly, so it's a natural fit to try using the technique to squeeze the most value out of my 100 hours of workroom time.