This post examines the Pomodoro Time Management Method, or Pomodoro Technique – an approach to improve personal productivity for optimal personal concentration and sustained focus. Going beyond the personal, it identifies how the Pomodoro Technique can bring better results for strategy and project management.
What Is the Pomodoro Time Management Method?
The Pomodoro Time Management Method, or Pomodoro Technique, is a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It is designed to improve focus and productivity by breaking work into manageable intervals. The method is named after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, “pomodoro” meaning tomato in Italian.
The steps of the process are:
- Pick a task – Select the specific task or project that you want to work on. This can be a complicated and crucial step. It involves prioritizing – and personal portfolio management.
- Set your timer – Target a time of 25 minutes, known as a “pomodoro.” Make sure your environment is set up to enable you to work exclusively on your task without distractions.
- Work on the task – Focus on the chosen task and work diligently until the timer goes off. Commit to avoiding distractions and multitasking and remain dedicated to the task.
- Take a short break – When the timer rings after 25 minutes, take a short break of about 5 minutes – ideally timing it – to give your mind a short rest.
- Repeat the process – After the break, start another pomodoro – same process – and continue working on the task, or start a new one if the first is complete. Repeat for a total of 4 pomodoros, or roughly 2 hours.
- Take a longer break – After completing four pomodoros, take a longer break – about 15-30 minutes – to provide a more substantial rest period.
- Repeat the cycle – At the conclusion of the longer break, start another cycle of 4 pomodoros again, completing a continuing task or choosing another.
The idea is to break work into manageable intervals, promote sustained focus, and prevent burnout. It reminds me of the old factory model of a mid-morning break, but without the formality of the 5-min break every half hour.
Benefits and Personal Variations Base on the Pomodoro Technique
You can customize the above formal steps to your own situation and preferences.
Here are some things to consider:
- Organizing your time – Your day will likely have its own routine activities, which include meetings, having to be somewhere, expected interruptions, and required activities. I find that certain parts of the day – early morning, late in the day, and sporadically during the day – there are times when I can control my environment to accommodate pomodoro cycles.
- Optimizing your concentration – You may find that 25 min is not optimal for you – and that you may want to keep going for a longer time. Try to look at the big picture of the end result so that you do not burn yourself out. But you may find that longer pomodoros are more fitting for you, perhaps followed by longer rest periods or a planned different activity to rest your mind.
- Managing distractions – This is a big challenge. Other people, ‘stuff’ in your environment, and allowing yourself to be distracted by things like social media or news can be the biggest detractors. As you work the technique, try to remove little distractions from your environment as an improvement. Accept that you won’t get it perfect – but keep striving to remove distractions each time.
- Identify tasks requiring intense focus – Not all tasks require the same degree of focus. Deep study of new topics requires a high degree of focus. Executing familiar tasks requires less intensity. Organize your time and cycles to accommodate the different types of tasks, optimizing for the most intense.
While the Pomodoro Technique has clearly defined parameters, tweak it and optimize for your own situation.
The Pomodoro Technique and Strategy
Strategic thinking is big picture thinking. It requires concentration and focused work, which can certainly benefit from the Pomodoro approach.
One area to keep in mind is to create strategic situations which lend themselves to using the Pomodoro Technique. Keep the idea of optimizing for personal concentration in mind. Design activities and jobs that have the possibility, or probability, of being able to incorporate the Pomodoro approach to optimize concentration and productivity.
Strategic capabilities often lie in how the organization is structured. The following are some strategic models and frameworks that focus o organizational structure:
- McKinsey 7S Framework Model – Organization – and people – are ready to implement a strategy.
- Digital Transformation Strategy Framework – Facilitates creative thinking to identify areas for digital transformation.
- 80:20 Strategic Work Breakdown Structure – Prioritization of strategic considerations – and tasks to focus on.
- Resource Based View – Identifies human resource (and other resource) strategic capabilities.
- Business Model Innovation – Think creatively and innovate on the business model.
- Economies of Scope – Expand the scope of activities and gain economies for competitive advantage.
- Network Effect – Build networks strategically, innovatively, and efficiently for competitive advantage.
In the application of each of these frameworks or models, it can be helpful to set the stage to people to be able to optimize their focus, concentration, and productivity through using a variation of the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique and Project Management
The Pomodoro Technique, being primarily an implementation tool, has wide application for project management:
- Task prioritization – A big part of managing projects is breaking down tasks into manageable chunks – like a Work Breakdown Schedule. The Pomodoro Technique requires smaller, manageable chunks – specifically 25 min chunks. Many, if not most, tasks will require multiple pomodoros.
- Portfolio management – Portfolios are a form of work breakdown, but into chunks large enough to be designated as projects. While projects themselves cannot be considered in terms of pomodoros, keeping the concept in mind will enable management of the projects more efficiently by enabling individuals to easily apply the Pomodoro Technique.
- Time estimation: Using the Pomodoro Technique can allow individuals to become more efficient and consistent in executing tasks. This includes tracking time actually spent, since you are already monitoring and timing work. Individuals can benefit, but discussion with other team members can lead to a better overall understanding of how long different types of tasks take. This can lead to a stronger sense of time estimating and improve accuracy.
- Focus and concentration – Project work can be demanding for all team members. The Pomodoro Technique is a perfect implementation tool. Help people to design and dedicate uninterrupted periods of time to specific project tasks. Strive to minimize distractions, improve concentration, and enhance productivity.
- Meetings – The Pomodoro Technique can also be useful in managing project meetings and collaboration sessions. It can be used for group and team productivity – not just personal! Setting predefined time slots – pomodoros – for discussions or brainstorming sessions. Ensure that participants stay focused and that meetings stay within time frames.
- Monitoring progress – As you work through project tasks using the Pomodoro Technique, you and your team can track the number of completed pomodoros for each task. This provides a visual representation of progress, helps maintain motivation, and provides the ability to identify and adjust for tasks that are taking longer than anticipated.
- Agile project management – The Pomodoro Technique has a curious parallel to agile approaches. In a very real sense, pomodoros are like mini-sprints! Selecting the tasks is like backlog management. Getting good at pomodoros means becoming more agile. The two can feed each other.
Conclusion and Further Resources
This post has examined the ins and outs of the Pomodoro Time Management Method, or Pomodoro Technique – an approach to improve personal productivity by enabling optimized sessions of personal concentration for sustained focused work. It reached beyond personal productivity and identified ways the Pomodoro Technique can bring better results for developing strategy and managing projects.
Here is a good 5-min video overview of the Pomodoro Technique: