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A book report!  Today’s book falls more along the lines of a reference book, so this is more of a review of what it’s trying to teach you than it is of the actual book.

A friend recently pointed me to a new time management technique and book called The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo, the PDF of which is available for free on the website.  I have tried it out some, and I’ve found it to be rather interesting and definitely warrants more investigation.  The basic idea of it, but maybe not the whole technique, could prove to be very useful to me in the long term.

The basic premise is that many of us are not very productive in our work times because we spend too much of that time stressing and worrying about the things we need to do.  This is partly because we have an abstract idea of time in terms of the way we measure it and the way we view it on a temporal axis.  The book and technique tries to change your perception of time, at least while you are actively trying to work on something, back to a more basic definition as a series of concrete tasks or events, more like how you used to view time as a child (i.e. wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, etc), that you can do over a set time interval, usually 25 minutes.  It also tries to help reduce the interruptions interfering with your work flow.

To do this,  the technique utilizes a kitchen timer, originally a tomato (pomodoro is Italian for tomato), and a list of tasks and activities that need to be accomplished.  At the beginning of the day, or whenever you start to applying the technique, you list the activities that need to be accomplished for the day or larger period of time.  You then further separate the activities into what you plan to do for the day in order of priority.  You work only when the timer is counting down and then take a brief break at the end.  Unexpected tasks or interruptions that occur while you are working also are tracked and dealt with.  After four intervals with the timer, you take a longer break.  I’m not much inclined to write out the whole technique, so here is the handy cheat sheet that they provide.

I haven’t gotten that far into the technique, having time only really to test it out according to the book for one day.  I can say using the technique did cut down on the anxiety of needing to accomplish a lot of things because you only need to focus on one thing at a time in blocks of about 30 minutes.  I am less distracted by things as I know that I have a timer counting down and the intervals of time in which you are actively working is easy to manage.  Concentrating on what you are doing is easy enough when you know at the end of 25 minutes you can take a small break.

I do have a lot of difficulty dealing with distractions.  Currently at my workplace, a lot of information needs to funnel through me before it can be used by other people.  This means that interruptions are fairly constant and some are urgent and take quite a bit of time to deal with.  I haven’t done too well trying to defer the urgent tasks to the next time interval and finish what I am doing first.  I have a tendency to just abandon whatever I’m doing to help the other person.  Obviously, I need to figure out how to tell people that I’ll help them at the end of my 25 minute interval.  Generally even the urgent problems can wait about 30 minutes.

I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m tracking things long term and trying to improve on time.  I suppose I might try that later as I get used to the whole technique.

Overall, I would recommend that you try the pomodoro technique if you have issues with procrastination and sometimes feel overwhelmed by your schedule.  If nothing else, taking away the 25 minute work time intervals could be very helpful and it gives you some a sense of accomplishment and progress as you complete them.  Sometimes it’s all you need to get a handle on your day.

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