You don’t have a single clue about the stem leafs and ketchup of The Pomodoro Technique® (created by Francesco Cirillo) — but you like agile software development and you do have five minutes to spend on a general introduction? Read how I implemented this methodology in the following Pomodoro Technique® for dummies recipe.
- Kitchen timer
- To Do Today Sheet — today’s date, my name and a list of my activities planned for today
- Activity Inventory Sheet — my name and a unordered list of my upcoming activities in the near future
- Records Sheet — my sampled process metrics to be used for my process improvement
One Pomodoro Technique® day
- Planning — I start the day by extracting the most important activities from the Activity Inventory Sheet and write them in a list on my To Do Today Sheet
- Tracking — after every 25 minutes iteration (a.k.a. a Pomodoro) I collect a small amount of process metrics
- Recording — at the end of the day I assemble my daily observations on the Records Sheet
- Processing — after recording I renovate the raw data into information
- Visualizing — finally I present the information in a way that helps me to improve my process
One Pomodoro iteration
I start my Pomodoro iteration by choosing the most important activity from the To Do Today Sheet. If only one thing will be accomplished today, then I want it to be this particular activity. Next I wind up my kitchen timer to 25 minutes and start working on the selected activity.
When the kitchen timer rings, it means that I have completed one Pomodoro. I immediately mark an X next to the activity on my To Do Today Sheet and then take a break. For 3-5 minutes I totally detach from the activity and everything else mental challenging. I might drink water or dream about what to eat for dinner tonight. I take a 15-30 minute break every four Pomodoro iterations. The long break isn’t used for work or mental activity either.
After a break I decide if I should continue with the same activity or switch to another one. The switch could have been initiated by either a change in priorities or else by the simple fact that I have completed the last activity — it’s done.
I never switch activity in the middle of a Pomodoro iteration. If I’m done with an activity half through a Pomodoro, then I overlearn: I repeat what I have done, I review my results, and I note what I have learnt – until the kitchen timer rings.
Deal with interruptions
Interruptions during a Pomodoro iteration come in two flavours:
- Internal interruptions: I feel hungry, I realize that my current activity has sub activities, I need to make a phone call, or I have an outstanding question to my room neighbour – whatever it is: I don’t do it now! I note it on the To Do Today Sheet and then immediately continue with the interrupted activity. I never switch activity during a Pomodoro iteration.
- External Interruptions: Someone’s calling me, my room neighbour is asking me a question, or my e-mail program constantly beeps – whatever it is: I don’t do it now! I inform the other person that I’m in the middle of something, I negotiate when I can call back, I note it on the To Do Today Sheet, and then I call back later. I never switch activity during a Pomodoro iteration.
- Regulating complexity — Activities are broken down. They are not allowed to last more than seven Pomodoro iterations. And working hard for 25 minutes is the result. I don’t need to think about the complete solution upfront.
- Inverting the dependency on time — Anxiety about not being done before some point of time is eliminated with Pomodoro Technique®. One completed Pomodoro is the result. One more X marked next to the activity proves that I’m climbing higher. And the systematic reducing of interruptions gives me the opportunity to plan what used to be event driven actions.
- Detaching — Recurrent mental breaks make me focused when I’m working. After a break I come back with new eyes, ready to see the whole picture.
- Feedback and improving process — The easy metrics are tracked every 30 minutes and recorded at the end of the day. This is the decision point for improving my process. I want to identify what Lean Software Development calls waste.
- Sustainable Pace — Short iterations maintains my motivation. Small breaks let me re-interpret the activity. Interruption elimination keeps me focused. Process improvement takes away demoralizing waste.
- Decision awareness — The human brain is not optimized for multi tasking. During a Pomodoro I focus on the activity. Before a Pomodoro I select the most important activity on the To Do Today Sheet. In the morning I choose the most important activities from the Activity Inventory. At the end of the day I look for process improvements. These are important things that will be done frequently, but not in a mixed mess.
Pomodoro Technique® practices not mentioned here
This is just a short introduction. Read more about the full process in my book “Pomodoro Technique Illustrated”. Some Pomodoro Technique® practices explained there, but not here, are:
- Activity effort estimation
- Processing and visualizing process metrics
- Ring anxiety
- Optimizing the structure of the Pomodoros
- Pomodoro length (25 minutes) and sound
- According to FAOSTAT, 125 million tonnes of tomatoes are produced in the world in one year. China is the top producer, accounting for about one-fourth of the global output followed by USA (9%), Turkey (8%), India (6%), and Egypt (6%).
- United States Patent 4070820 is a double kitchen timer: a spring driven timer with primary and secondary time selection knobs rotating on a common center. Orest and Barbara Lewinter invented this killer app already in the seventies.
- Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines overlearning as “to continue to study or practice after attaining proficiency”. Personally I see it as: practise your martial arts kata until you master it, then practice it two more times.
- According to Petroski the system of pencil hardness might have been developed in the early 1900s by Brookman which used “B” for black and “H” for hard. A pencil’s category was described by a chain of Hs or Bs, e.g. BB and BBB for successively softer leads, and HH and HHH for successively harder ones.