The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time!

In the every new year, every new month, every new week and in the every new dawn, we all have certain plans to achieve or finish something. Obviously, all most none of us ever achieved anything as we planned. Whether it’s about finishing a report or finishing a code, we usually procrastinate and at the end of certain time frame we regret ourselves and filled with guilt and grief. The main reason for such a failure is due to the improper time management. There are many proposed techniques and methods which are expected to increase the individual productivity and satisfaction.

The pomodoro technique is one such a method followed by many all over the world. It was proposed by Francesco Cirillo in 1994 and from then many workshops, seminars and papers are conducted and published to spread the effectiveness of the technique. Of course, it seems many people benefited by the technique. The idea is to split your work into many pieces of time frame (a pomodoro), say for example 25 minutes. You just have to focus on one work in that time. After 25 minutes you can take a break for 3–5 minutes, then you back to another pomodoro and a pomodoro cycle continues up to 4 such pomodoro’s. After that you can take a long break which can lasts up to 15–30 minutes.

In order to follow this technique, all you need is a timer, few papers and a pencil or pen. For to be more efficient, first make a time table, which may like, working hours: 8:30 to 1:30 and 2:30 to 5:30. So, you should use this technique only during the working hours and it is inefficient for leisure time activities. Now you have to time-boxing your to do’s which is supposed to be done with in the working hours. Usually, as I said earlier, a pomodoro time can be of 25 minutes (it is considered as the most effective). But you can vary it between 15–40 minutes or even higher or lesser. The rule is once you fixed your pomodoro time you shouldn’t change it for different pomodoro’s. For example it is not valid that first pomodoro is about 30m and second is about 45m. The time should be a constant. Now you can allot number pomodoro’s to finish a particular task.

For example you have to finish a article and for that you may need 2 hours. So, you can allot 4 pomodoro’s (if it is 30m) and every 30m you should take break between 3–5m. In the break time you shouldn’t neither think about the work which you’re currently doing nor allotting that time for some other tasks like calling someone. The break period is especially to recreate yourself. In such a way, once four pomodoro’s (a session) are completed you should take a break of length 15–30m. An important rule is that, your task shouldn’t exceed not more than 5–7 pomodoro’s. If it exceeds, split it to fit less number of pomodoro’s. For example, to complete a report you may need 20 pomodoro’s. So split the work into your to do list like, for introduction 4 pom’s, for methods 2 and results and conclusion 5 and so on. It makes you more efficient and productive. Note down the number of pomodoro’s required to complete the work by an ‘X’ mark (or by some other mark, that you like). For example, your to do list make look like this:

Jan 10, 2016

1. Write introduction	RP: X X X AC: X X X
 2. Check for references RP: X AC: X X
 3. Finalize the intro part RP: X X AC: X X

Here, RP is required or alloted pomodoro’s where as AC is the actual number of pomodoro’s taken to complete the task. It could be very useful to analyze your productivity at the end of the day.

A pomodoro should complete without any interruption. If it interrupts, the pomodoro is not valid and you have to start your timer from the beginning. If your task is about to complete in a minute and if the timer rings, you have to stop your work and should take a break. In a case like, the things can be done within few minutes of a pomodoro, you start the timer at the right time finish your work and go through it again and look for some improvements. Remember, a pomodoro should always be completed. Else, if you’re pretty sure that work is completed, you can abandon the pomodoro and shouldn’t mark X for the completion in the to do list. So, take few minutes break (again!) and go to the next pomodoro.

Of course, there would be distractions. It may either internal or external. When you start a work, you, yourself think that you forgot to do something, like you supposed to send a mail to your boss and something like that. In such a case, write down those things under your to do list and go back to the work which you have started and focus on it. The point is in real life up to 99.99% there is no such a thing called immediate urgency. The interruptions that you have added under the to do list can be considered during your long breaks. If they really seems valid (most of the times not!) you may add them to your to do list and can add some pomodoro for them. Or even you can postpone to next day or to the weekend. If there are many small tasks which can not constitute a pomodoro you can sum up them all and allot a single pomodoro for them.

In the another case, externally some may come to meet you for some discussion and may be for some collaborative work. In that scenario, use The Inform, Negotiate, Call Back Strategy. When you approached by someone, inform them that you’re bit busy and depending upon your pomodoro cycle status you can tell them, I’ll catch you after 30m or so. And the important part is after the cycle (during the long break) call them, and depending upon the situation you could either allot them a pomodoro or allot some other time in that week (or in that year!).

At the end of the day, you should analyze your pomodoro’s and estimate your productivity. You may have qualitative or quantitative estimation error. i.e., your allotment may not enough to complete the task or you may have extra time. By analyzing your chart you could make better estimations. It is always better to use simple tools like a paper and pen for the list and chart preparation. For somebody its hard to note down everything. They may try to remember the things at the end of the day and to evaluate their productivity.

Of course you may look for some digital assistance, like a spread sheet or even a simple notepad. Some softwares like gnome-pomodoro are available for desktops and laptops (apt install gnome-shell-pomodoro in Ubuntu Gnome) and many mobile applications like Pomodoro timer is also available. But in the end, the idea is that you should have a time table, you should have a to do list and you should have split your to do’s into many pomodoro’s. And you have to mark down each and every pomodoro (even the abandoned ones) and have to analyze the things at the end of the day. This technique can also be effectively used for a pair, group and even by organizations. For more details look here.

Rules and Glossary

  1. A Pomodoro Consists of 25 minutes Plus a Five-Minute Break.
  2. After Every Four Pomodoros Comes a 15–30 Minute Break.
  3. The Pomodoro Is Indivisible. There are no half or quarter Pomodoros.
  4. If a Pomodoro Begins, It Has to Ring: If a Pomodoro is interrupted definitively — i.e. the interruption isn’t handled — it’s considered void, never begun, and it can’t be recorded with an X.
  5. If an activity is completed once a Pomodoro has already begun, continue reviewing the same activity until the Pomodoro rings.
  6. Protect the Pomodoro. Inform effectively, negotiate quickly to reschedule the interruption, call back the person who interrupted you as agreed.
  7. If It Lasts More Than 5–7 Pomodoros, Break It Down. Complex activities should be divided into several activities.
  8. If It Lasts Less Than One Pomodoro, Add It Up. Simple tasks can be combined.
  9. Results Are Achieved Pomodoro after Pomodoro. If not, The Next Pomodoro Will Go Better.

Pomodoro. Kitchen timer used to measure 25-minute intervals. The name of the Technique comes from the first timer used which was shaped like a tomato (pomodoro in Italian).

Time-boxing. With this technique, once a series of activities has been assigned to a given time interval, the delivery date for these activities should never change. If necessary, the unfinished activities can be reassigned to the following time interval.

Qualitative estimation error. This error occurs when all the activities needed to reach a certain goal haven’t been identified.

Quantitative estimation error. This error occurs when the estimation of a single activity (or set of activities) is higher (overestimation) or lower (underestimation) than the actual effort.