In my continuing quest for new productivity skills and techniques, I happened upon a website that mentioned something called the Pomodoro technique. This instantly grabbed my attention because, let's be honest, it's quite a cool word - and I like cool words. And I love tomatoes. Although there isn't a tomato in sight with this methodology.
So I researched this technique a little more and realised that there was actually room for this in my life because there is certainly one area in my working life that needs improving and that is the constant interruptions when I'm in a workflow. It happens all the time and I bring it on myself in truth.
Pomodoro says that you should work for a 25 minute period without any interruption whatsoever, followed by a 5 minute break. Now this break can be spent doing whatever you like, whether it's going to make a cuppa, check your latest Flipboard articles or Twitter feed. Once this 5 minutes has passed, you will then start another 25 minute session. And so the pattern rinses and repeats.
I've been trying this out for two weeks now and I can say that it definitely makes a difference. In order to help achieve this, I've done the following:
- Purchased an OSX app called Eggscellent which is, pardon the pun, an excellent Pomodoro timer which links to Reminders, OmniFocus or Things. I personally have it integrated with OmniFocus so my tasks for the day are listed. It can also link to your Calendar as well - certainly worth the £1.99 I paid for it, although there are free options available.
- Notifications were turned off on my MacBook and iPhone. In truth, notifications should be off on your MacBook anyway if you are going to achieve full productivity in my opinion. Do Not Disturb is an excellent feature. A notification is the equivalent of a shoulder tap and nobody can achieve anything when they are getting 50 or so shoulder taps in an hour.
- I worked on this task in an office or a room with no-one else there. My iPhone was set to Do Not Disturb mode however I adjusted the settings to ensure that if anyone in my VIP list tried to ring more than once, I would receive the calls as all the VIP's on my list know that they are to phone me if they urgently need to communicate with me on something that needs to have same-day attention. Otherwise they get hold of me by email, which I check twice a day (yes, twice a day. I commit time in my Calendar to do this so that I can deal with each email efficiently and effectively once. I don't like reading things twice, no email is that good)
Obviously there are times when I haven't been able to implement the above. It isn't, in my eyes, a one size fits all approach. There are days when you are going to get interrupted. You can't always lock yourself away to work. Socialising with colleagues is a very important part of your working life and you could be seen to be slightly aloof if you followed the above to the letter.
Therefore, I set one day aside a week where I dedicate the day to the above technique. Everyone knows what day this is and it's usually a Thursday, meaning I can spend Friday wrapping up, closing to neutral (another productivity technique I will post about at a later date) and doing my OmniFocus review.
I will also use the Pomodoro technique if there is an urgent task I have to complete for a stakeholder.
Give it a try. It won't work for everybody - it certainly doesn't work for me all the time. However I do believe that there is a time and a place for Pomodoro for everyone somewhere.