Pomodoro technique and other simple ways to get focused... now!

Today I quite a productive day... but at one point in time I was so swamped with small tasks that I couldn't get myself to do the big rocks for the day... I had two very important and quite big tasks related to Nozbe to do today... and the small tasks just seemed more appealing to me... sounds familiar, doesn't it? I just needed something to get going... and I remembered hearing about a "Pomodoro Techinique" and decided to give it a try:

It basically goes like this:
Turn off all distractions. Set a task to do and set a timer for 25 minutes. Do it until it rings. Take 5. Read more about it here.
Well, it did the magic. I just started digging into my big task and because I had my timer ticking and counting down, I needed to rush and do the task. It's like having a deadline and thinking "I can't blow it!"
And guess what? I did a task in 25 minutes! The whole thing... and I had it scheduled for 3 hours!
OK, maybe I wouldn't have done it in 3 hours anyway but faster... apparently... but anyway, doing what I thought would be a very tiresome task in just 25 minutes blew me away.
Then I rested for 10 minutes, had a glass of water, and set a timer for the second task.
Again, I did it in record time - it took me around 20 minutes to get it done... again, it was a big thing and it was meant to take me like 2 hours.
I was blown away. And tired. Doing two big things in just one hour was tiring... but felt great.
Why did I manage to be so effective?
1. I embraced the constraints. I knew I had 25 minutes and wanted to get it done in this record time. I stopped worrying about tools I'd use for the task, about how to approach it, about anything... I just headed straight to the heart of the matter of this task and got it done.
2. I didn't think about details or distractions. I focused on the task only, I turned off my email, twitter and other stuff. I didn't have time for these things.
What do I use as my "Pomodoro Timer"?
I use free software called MacTimer - it works great, I set it for 25 minutes, it runs and screams when it's done. Perfect for this technique.
These quick and dirty productivity techniques like Pomodoro are awesome
My friend Ivan Hernandez talks about two more simple productivity techniques, so head over to his blog for a full review of them.
Did you try any of these? Did you try Pomodoro? Does it work for you? I'm going to be using more pomodoro from now on!

Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2010 (productivity)

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Etienne Segonzac
Jun 16, 2010 00:09
Oh yeah I'm a big pomodoro user.
I even use it as an indicator of how productive my day was.

If I've done 8 pomodoros or more in a day : I'm doing good :)

Michael Sliwinski
Jun 16, 2010 09:58
8 pomodoros a day gives 4 hours of very focused work. Great benchmark. Just scheduled my pomodoros for today as I really want to finish something very important today. Thanks for your great comment Etienne!
Paul Krefta
Jun 16, 2010 10:29
I think that Concentrate app would also be good for those who are on Macs : )
Jun 16, 2010 10:57
Hi Michael,
Thanks for sharing the link to my post. Highly appreciated!
I totally agree with you. Total focus and embracing the constraints are key for these techniques to work.
Knowing that you are EXTREMELY productive already ... it is great to find out that you are now even more productive ... wow! :)
All the best,
Michael Sliwinski
Jun 16, 2010 16:04
We're just human and even the most productive ones sometimes struggle to get focused. This is when Pomodoro comes in handy. And I strongly believe in embracing constraints and try to generate them in every aspect of my life... to get focused :-) Thanks for your comment and useful link, Ivan!
Alec Clews
Jun 26, 2010 10:20
I use an evolving a bastard marriage of a simplified Pomodoro workflow and a simplified GTD workflow called GSD. See http://alecthegeek.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/gsd-and-pomodoro-technique-hacked...
Michael Sliwinski
Jun 28, 2010 12:33
Actually that's also me - I'm using Pomodoro to maintain focus, Inbox Zero to keep my email clean and simplified GTD with Nozbe to get a lot done. Very similar approach there, Alec. I really like your Mind-map and workflow :-)
Stephan Cox
Oct 6, 2010 20:31
You should integrate the Pomodoro Technique into Nozbe. You could start a timer for a task, and keep a record of Pomodoros, interuptions, etc for each task. Hopefully it goes without saying that this should be an optional setting, since not everyone uses Pomodoro. Being able to keep a record of your Pomodoros like with the product PomoTime would be very beneficial.
Michael Sliwinski
Oct 7, 2010 20:59
I use pomodoro technique every day to stay focused. It works great when the weather is bad and motivation is dropping. It's a great idea to integrate it to Nozbe and I'll definitely see how this can be accomplished.
Nov 23, 2010 17:00
Well, I've been trying Pomodoro, I've used my own similar idea in the past 15 min on and 15 off, but this is cuter and more organized. So I would like a tomatoe icon on Nozbe, in addition to the star. Then I could mark the most important action tasks for Pomodoro for the day.
Michael Sliwinski
Nov 25, 2010 10:45
I just schedule 30 min tasks on my Next Action list in Nozbe and I know they are my Pomodoro tasks so I set up my pomodoro timer and get them done. Hope it helps Susanna and thanks for your comment!
Robert Swirsky
May 31, 2011 16:52
Are there any Pomodoro timer apps that integrated with the "next tasks" on Nozbe? That would be great?
Michael Sliwinski
May 31, 2011 17:05
We are thinking about integrating pomodoro timers to Nozbe and probably we'll have something like this - thanks for your suggestion and comment, Robert!
Lukasz Dorosz
Jul 13, 2011 17:08
Hi Michael
I use a pomodoro to stay focused on specific task. Additionally synchronizing the app with calendar I've got a clear history of my productivity.
Michael Sliwinski
Jul 13, 2011 19:03
I'm using pomodoro these days as the weather is strange here... hot and low air pressure which is not helping me get focused... and pomodoro helps a lot! Glad it works for you, too Lukasz - I like your idea about synchronizing it with calendar :-)
Lukasz Dorosz
Jul 13, 2011 22:21
The synchronization allow to look backward and ensure how many time did you spend on specific task. For me it's important information.
Best Regards