Planning at the start of the day to decide on the day’s activities.
To implement the Pomodoro Technique, all you need is the following:
! A Pomodoro: a kitchen timer
! A To Do Today Sheet, filled in at the start of each day with the following: ! A heading with place, date, and author ! A list of the things to do during the day, in order of priority ! A section labelled Unplanned & Urgent Activities where any unexpected tasks that have to be dealt with should be listed as they come up. These activities could potentially modify the day’s plan.
! An Activity Inventory Sheet, consisting of: ! A heading with the name of the author ! A number of lines where various activities are noted down as they come up. At the end of the day, the ones that have been completed are checked off.
! A Records Sheet: this sheet would include the date, description, and the number of Pomodoros worth of effort needed to accomplish a task. This sheet is updated at least once a day, usually at the end of the day.
The traditional Pomodoro is 30 minutes long: 25 minutes of work plus a 5-minute break. At the beginning of each day, choose the tasks you want to tackle from the Activity Inventory Sheet, prioritize them, and write them down in the To Do Today Sheet.
Set the Pomodoro for 25 minutes and start the first activity on the To Do Today Sheet.
A Pomodoro can’t be interrupted; it marks 25 minutes of pure work. A Pomodoro Is Indivisible. If a Pomodoro is definitively interrupted by someone or something, that Pomodoro should be considered void, as if it had never been set; then you should make a fresh start with a new Pomodoro. When the Pomodoro rings, mark an X next to the activity you’ve been working on and take a break for 3-5 minutes.
When the Pomodoro rings, this signals that the current activity is peremptorily (though temporarily) finished. You’re not allowed to keep on working “just for a few more minutes”, even if you’re convinced that in those few minutes you could complete the task at hand.
The 3-5 minute break gives you the time to do something good for your health, you can stand up and walk around the room, have a drink of water, or fantasize about where you’ll go on your next vacation. You can do some deep breathing or stretching exercises.
During this quick break, don’t start talking about work-related issues with a colleague; don’t write important emails or make imperative phone calls, etc. Doing these kinds of things would block the constructive mental integration that you need in order to feel alert and ready for the start of the next Pomodoro. You should include these activities in your Activity Inventory, and earmark specific Pomodoros to do them. Clearly, during this break you shouldn’t continue thinking about what you’ve done during the last Pomodoros. Once the break is over, set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes and continue the activity at hand until the next time it rings. Then mark another X on the To Do Today Sheet.
Every four Pomodoros, stop the activity you’re working on and take a longer break, from 15 to 30 minutes. The 15-30 minute break is the ideal opportunity to tidy up your desk, take a trip to the coffee machine, listen to voice mail, check incoming emails, or simply rest and do breathing exercises or take a quick walk. The important thing is not to do anything complex, otherwise your mind won’t be able to reorganize and integrate what you’ve learned, and as a result you won’t be able to give the next Pomodoro your best effort. Obviously, during this break too you need to stop thinking about what you did during the last Pomodoros.
Keep on working, Pomodoro after Pomodoro, until the task at hand is finished, and then cross it out on the To Do Today Sheet.
If you finish a task while the Pomodoro is still ticking, the following rule applies: If a Pomodoro Begins, It Has to Ring. It’s a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity for overlearning, using the remaining portion of the Pomodoro to review or repeat what you’ve done, make small improvements, and note down what you’ve learned until the Pomodoro rings.
If you finish an activity in the first five minutes of the Pomodoro and you feel like the task was actually already finished during the previous Pomodoro and revision wouldn’t be worthwhile, as an exception to the rule the current Pomodoro doesn’t have to be included in the Pomodoro count.
Once the current activity has been successfully completed, move on to the next one on your list, then the next, taking breaks between every Pomodoro and every four Pomodoros.
At the end of every day, the completed Pomodoros can be transferred in a hard-copy archive. As an alternative, it may be more convenient to use an electronic spreadsheet or a database, and delete the completed activities from the Activity Inventory Sheet.
What you track and record depends on what you want to observe and the kind of reports that you want to generate. The initial aim of tracking and later recording could simply be to present a report with the number of Pomodoros completed per task. In other words, you may want to show the effort expended to accomplish each activity. To do so, the following boxes can be used: the date, start time, type of activity, description of the activity, the actual number of Pomodoros, a short note on the results achieved, and possible room for improvement, or problems that may have come up.
With the Pomodoro Technique, it’s not essential to track the start time for an activity (or for every Pomodoro). What’s important is to track the number of Pomodoros actually completed: the real effort.
Recording provides an effective tool for people who apply the Pomodoro Technique in terms of self-observation and decision-making aimed at process improvement. How? What should I cut out? What activities are really useful? How can I reorganize them to be more effective? This is the type of question that enables people to improve, or at least to try to improve, their work or study processes. At the end of the day, the activity of recording and later looking for ways to improve should not take more than one Pomodoro.
Every time you feel a potential interruption coming on, put an apostrophe (‘) on the sheet where you record your Pomodoros. Then do one of the following: ! Write down the new activity on the To Do Today Sheet under Unplanned & Urgent if you think it’s imminent and can’t be put off. ! Write it down in the Activity Inventory, marking it with a “U” (unplanned); add a deadline if need be.
Once you’ve marked down the apostrophe, continue working on the given task till the Pomodoro rings. (Rule: Once a Pomodoro Begins, It Has to Ring.)
Clearly, as little time as possible should be spent dealing with interruptions, a few seconds at most. Otherwise the Pomodoro has to be considered interrupted, or void.
urgent tasks can be done during the next Pomodoro (but still measured by a Pomodoro), in place of other activities. can be re-scheduled sometime during the day, in place of other activities. can be moved from Pomodoro to Pomodoro if possible till the end of the day. This helps us gradually learn to recognize what’s really urgent.
If and when unplanned urgent activities are done during the day, the relative Pomodoros are marked down in the proper space.
If you have to interrupt a Pomodoro, either because you give in to temptation or something really urgent comes up, there’s only one thing to do: void the current Pomodoro, even if it’s about to ring. (Rule: A Pomodoro Is Indivisible.) Then mark down an apostrophe where Pomodoros are recorded to keep track of the interrupted Pomodoro. Obviously, you can’t mark the unfinished Pomodoro - which didn’t actually ring - with an X. So, take a 5-minute break and start with a new Pomodoro. The Next Pomodoro Will Go Better.
true emergencies that need to be dealt with instantly are rare in real life. A 25-minute or 2-hour delay (four Pomodoros) is almost always possible for activities that are commonly considered urgent.
The Inform, Negotiate, Call Back Strategy enables you to control external interruptions by simply rescheduling them in a later Pomodoro the same day or another day according to the degree of urgency.
Every time someone or something tries to interrupt a Pomodoro, put a dash (-) on the sheet where you record your Pomodoros, apply the Inform, Negotiate, and Call Strategy. Then do one of the following: ! Write down the new activity on the To Do Today Sheet under Unplanned & Urgent if it has to be done today, adding the promised deadline in brackets in the left-hand margin. ! Write it down in the Activity Inventory, marking it with a “U” (unplanned); add a deadline in brackets if need be. Once you’ve marked down the dash, continue working on the given task till the Pomodoro rings.
If a Pomodoro absolutely has to be interrupted, either due to human weakness or for a real emergency, there’s only one thing to do: void the current Pomodoro, even if it’s about to ring. (Rule: A Pomodoro is Indivisible.) Then put a dash where you record Pomodoros to keep track of interrupted Pomodoros, and record the description and the deadline for the activity in the Unplanned & Urgent section. Then start the first Pomodoro for the urgent activity.
set aside one Pomodoro a day (or more if need be) to take care of urgent interruptions.
you can include the total number of internal and external interruptions on the Records Sheet to observe them and try to minimize them over time.
The Activity Inventory lists all the activities that need to be done. These tasks come from planning. Some activities lose their purpose over time, so they can be deleted from the Inventory.
At the start of each day, estimate how many Pomodoros each activity in the Inventory will take. Revise previous estimates. Record the estimated number of Pomodoros on the relative line.
If an estimate is greater than 5-7 Pomodoros, this means that the activity in question is too complex. It’s better to break it down into several activities; estimate these activities separately, and write them down on several lines in the Activity Inventory.
If the estimate is less than one Pomodoro, similar activities should be combined till they add up to one Pomodoro of effort. Find and combine similar activities from the Activity Inventory until they add up to one Pomodoro of effort. Leave the activity without an estimate and indicate that you’ll combine it with another activity when you fill in the To Do Today Sheet.
Write the activities you’ve chosen in order of priority on the To Do Today Sheet. For each one, every estimated Pomodoro is represented by an empty box.
If you’ve used up the estimated Pomodoros and you still need more Pomodoros to finish the task you’re working on, you can Continue and mark down the next Pomodoros without taking into account new estimates.
the report could show estimates, actual effort and related error.
always keep recording activity as simple as possible.
The first three to five minutes of each Pomodoro can be used to briefly repeat what you’ve learned since the beginning of the activity (not just the last Pomodoro), and then to print this in your memory. The last three to five minutes of a Pomodoro can be used to quickly review what you’ve done (if possible, with an effect-cause procedure, starting from the last activities and going back to your initial motivations).
with the four-Pomodoro set, the first Pomodoro in a set of four, or part of this first Pomodoro, can be used to repeat what you’ve done so far. Likewise, all or part of the last Pomodoro in the set can be used to review what you’ve accomplished.
With the Pomodoro Technique, figuring out how much time is wasted isn’t important; how many Pomodoros we’ve accomplished is. The next day, keep that number in mind when deciding how many Pomodoros are available, and write down activities to fill only those Pomodoros.
When your work time is up, just like when the Pomodoro rings, all activity stops.
the first Pomodoro of the day to look over all the things did the day before, to skim over the Activity Inventory and fill in the To Do Today Sheet, which will also include this planning activity.
Choose simple tools for this activity: using paper, pencil and eraser serves as a useful mental exercise.