Yesterday I started using the Pomodoro technique to increase productivity. If you don’t know what Pomodoro is apart from being Italian for tomato, you can read all about it at http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/. I’ll be tracking my experience with it on this blog over the next month. First, a little background.
I’m a pastor. I’m trying to finish a dissertation for a New Testament PhD by the end of the year. I have four kids ages 6 months to 5 years old. Needless to say, time is at a premium in my life, as I’m sure it is in yours. I’ve found it difficult on occasion to balance all of these areas, and part of that is related to failing to maximize my efficiency when I am working. Any number of distractions can derail a study or writing session, from a text message to an email to a walk-in visitor to mental fatigue to just plain laziness. I’ve read a number of things about time management, but they all seemed to apply mostly to the macro-level of time management, how to manage your whole life. But what about how to manage just a work day? Just a writing session? Enter Pomodoro. Your work day, 30 minutes at a time. So, how’d it go on day 1, which was Thursday?
I won’t lie. It started out pretty tough. As I got going, the typical distractions came my way. After the first pomodoro, which had about 8 handled interruptions (5 internal, 3 external), I took a 5-minute break. During the break, I had someone who wanted to meet with me, so that 5-minute pomodoro break extended much longer and changed the morning plan. I was glad the interruption happened during a break so it did not nullify a pomodoro. Nevertheless, I was discouraged and thought that this technique might not work. After just 30 minutes, my plan was already in jeopardy! Overcoming discouragement, I got to the next pomodoro, which went much better. The third pomodoro also went well, for the most part. But in the second and third pomodoros, I began to feel angst as I was concerned I would not finish my tasks in time for lunch. The pomodoro technique is supposed to alleviate such angst, and much to my delight, I noticed my efficiency increase, especially in the third pomodoro, so that the morning tasks were completed in as many pomodoros as I had hoped. I faced an especially tempting interruption during the third pomodoro as an email came about the house we are buying. It took all my self-discipline to let it sit for the last 13 minutes of the pomodoro, but I made it, the world did not explode, and all is well. It was a good exercise for me for many reasons.
In the afternoon, my pomodoros were mostly uninterrupted. I did not finish my last pomodoro due to an interruption that could not be informed, negotiated, and deferred. I also failed to get a pomodoro that evaluated the day. In the afternoon the one thing I noticed was that taking breaks was more difficult. This was partly because writing sermons is something that flows pretty well for me and I don’t sense the need for breaks as much. Nevertheless, I took the breaks, and I think they actually were a great help to my overall clarity, productivity, and writing. My mind stayed sharp without the typical mental fatigue that comes from uninterrupted writing for 90-120 minutes.
Overall, day 1 was a success, though not perfect. Some unexpected and unavoidable things changed my daily plan, but thankfully the pomodoro technique factors such incidents into its method, so they do not derail the day like I thought they might. My mind seemed to be getting into rhythm by the end of the day. I look forward to day 2 on Monday.