Michael MacDonald

Pomodoro FTW!

In Business on December 29, 2009 at 8:00 am

Do you pomodoro? It seems to be all the rage. It’s simple but effective, and I highly recommend it.

The Pomodoro Technique is about focus and maintaining that focus. In a sentence, it is about focusing on a single task for 25 minutes straight, no interruptions. Can you do it? For a lot of people, it is pretty hard. Email, twitter, facebook, SMS, and IM all compete for your attention and distract you from your work. People also like to procrastinate. When faced with a difficult task, you’d much rather do something easy and fun. It is common to leave essays and reports to the last minute.

In recent years, I’ve got better at focusing on tasks. Unfortunately, I had swung to the other extreme and I often went “dark”. I would turn everything off and lock myself away. I would quit email and ignore the phone. I also stopped taking breaks. I would eat food at my desk or skip lunch entirely. I would keep working late into the night. I wouldn’t stop until I was done.

Now I use the Pomodoro Technique and it has been a real boon for me. Not in terms of focusing; I can do that. Rather, it helped me to work sustainably. The simple idea of working solidly for 25 minutes and then taking a break works a treat. Having forced breaks at regular intervals keeps me fresh and allows me to keep working and performing at my best. My old style of working continuously without a break would quickly left me feeling tired. My productivity would drop and I would start making mistakes. My enthusiasm would also wane as I soldiered on valiantly, hour after hour. Instead, by breaking down my work into pomodoros (25 minute blocks of focused time), I find I’m actually more focused and more productive.

I use Focus Booster on the Mac to time my pomodoros. It is an Air app that is simple yet effective. Click the button and it starts counting down. It rings when your time is up and then starts your 5 minute break. When I’m at work I keep it on the screen for the benefit of my colleagues so they can see that I’m in a pomodoro. The epitome of its effectiveness was when my boss came over to interrupt me and my pairing partner. He saw the pomodoro, stopped, then said he’d come back in 15 (when the pomodoro had finished). Excellent!

There’s plenty of resources about the Pomodoro Technique. You can really get right into it, however, all you really need to know is this: focus on a single task for 25 minutes without interruptions or getting distracted then take a 5 minute break. You can change the length of a pomodoro if you wish but go with the 25/5 for starters. If you drink water during your pomodoro you’ll end up needing to go to the toilet every half an hour anyway.

Respect the pomodoro!


  1. Just started using it. Haven’t finished reading the whole book yet. But really excited about it. Thanks for the nice article.

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