Maintaining Energy with the Pomodoro Technique

(The below is an extract from the “Time Management and Motivation” chapter of my book Keeping Software Soft)

The Pomodoro Technique is a simple time management system developed by Francesco Cirillo.

A "Pomodoro" is an indivisible, all-or-nothing unit of time that is exactly 25 minutes long. A Pomodoro is ether completed or not, for example there is no concept of a completing a half-Pomodoro.

The basics of the technique are:

  • Work for a 25 minutes (one Pomodoro)
  • Record the completion of a Pomodoro
  • Take a 5 minute rest break
  • Repeat
  • After every 4th Pomodoro, take a longer rest break of between 15-30 minutes

The splitting up of time into 25 minute chunks helps to focus the mind on what small tasks(s) can be accomplished next. If a Pomodoro is horribly interrupted to the point where it is considered void, then a short break can be taken and a new one started. The recording of every completed Pomodoro contributes to the feeling of a sense of progress and can further enhance motivation and energy. During the 5 minute rest break  the mind should be allowed to rest; the current task should not be thought about but rather: go for walk, get a drink, stretch, gaze out of the window, etc.

On top of this basic idea, the technique also suggests recording the number of interruptions that occur during a Pomodoro.

Interruptions are classified as either:

  • Internal: things that pop into a person's head that are unrelated to the current task, e.g. "what shall I have for lunch today"
  • External: things that occur from outside influences such as phone calls, instant message notifications, etc.

By recording the types and number of interruptions, the data can be used to reduce or eliminate them over time. This can involve turning off telephones, email, and instant messaging during a Pomodoro and having dedicated Pomodoro(s) to responding to emails, etc.

The technique, when applied correctly can result in less tiredness while programming and an overall increase in productivity. There are some programmers who do not like the forced "interruption" of a rest break every 25 minutes and feel that it interrupts their concentration. It is a technique that should be trialled by each individual for a reasonable period of time to see if it can be of benefit.

There are many electronic Pomodo timers available for a whole host of platforms to help time the 25 minutes.

For more detail about the technique, see the official website.


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