I've just finished to read The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated. And I'll try to do a mini review of the technique described in the book.
This book explains a time management technique called The Pomodoro Technique.
This technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in 1992. It basically helps to focus on one task only and getting things done.
The quick basics, from what I understood in the book, are :
Build an inventory list (a classical todo list). Then first thing in the morning, make up a "today todo list" from the inventory list. This list must contain only what you think that can be completed today, with time you should be able to estimate better the number of activities you can do every day. If an activity is too long to complete within 3 hours, try to split the activity in more tasks.
Establish a priority for the tasks. Select one task, highlight it, or put it on a paper in front of you, wind up a timer to 25 minutes. And work that task out, until it rings.
When you finish the pomodoro (25 min of focused work) write an X beside the task. If you get interrupted and you cannot concentrate for 25 min straight and you fail to finish the pomodoro, just write a box or a different symbol beside the task on the today todo list. When you get interrupted, for long enough that you lose the focus, you need to start a new pomodoro from the start, and mark the one you were doing as failed.
After the 25 mins, take a 5 minutes break. After the break, check if the priority of the tasks have changed (for example in case you added unplanned activities during the last iteration), and decide if you continue with the previous activity or continue with another one. Then select a task, and wind up the clock for another 25 minutes of focused work.
Every 4 iterations, take a longer break (15 to 30 minutes)
At the end of the day, wind up the clock for 15 minutes and do the retrospective of the day.
Record on a different sheet of paper the outcome of the day. What was your velocity (number of completed iteration) ? How many iteration you haven't completed today. What was the number of interruption per task. How many unplanned activities you've added today. Try to draw a mind map of what you did today what was the "Theme" of the day.
After two weeks or so, you can review your record, and do an average of your velocity, it will help you to evaluate how many pomodori you can do per day. You can also re-adjust the technique to make it suits you better.
This technique is very similar to Agile methodologies, but it is applied at the personal level with very very small iterations. It sure look very interesting. I definitely think that it can help to stay focused, and it helps to get things done. However I still have a lot of interrogations on how to deal with some situations at work.
You don't need a lot of tools to implements this technique : pencil, paper, and a timer.
If you are a geek, you might want to try some applications, here are some suggestions :
It's a web based timer, it has a very simple interface and if you are using Chrome, you can enable Desktop Notification. I'm using it right now to write this blog.
It's a stand-alone application written in Java (swing).
I use it at work. I plan to contribute to this project after finishing my coffee pod ordering system.
Doing! is a J2ME application that can run on Java enabled phone.
I've downloaded it, but I didn't try it.
If you want to lean more about this technique, you can download Francesco Cirillo's book for free from Scribd. The cheat sheet can be found here.
P.S. Writing this blog took 4 pomodori and I had two interruptions (received 2 quick phone calls).