Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, entrepreneur, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.
Pomodoro Technique Illustrated - by Staffan Nöteberg

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated - by Staffan Nöteberg

Amazon page for details and reviews.

Pretty cool technique of working in 25-minute chunks. Better to start with a simple article about it, then read the book after if you love it. I do, so far.

my notes

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated - by Staffan Nöteberg

You get lots of stuff done, not by focusing on getting stuff done but by focusing on focusing!

"You can't dance at two weddings with one rear end." In other words, you should focus on one activity at a time.

You will always be doing the thing that matters most and nothing else.
You should change it every day to avoid doing unnecessary routines.

What makes you stop an activity before you are done?
Where is the best place to read to help you really focus?
What do you do to avoid starting on a boring task?
What type of activities usually take more time than you initially estimated?
Are you bound to do administrative activities that steal time from more important activities?

Since I brush my teeth every night before I go to bed, I am now sleepy already when I put toothpaste on the toothbrush. Similarly, when using the Pomodoro Technique, I have trained my brain to start to focus as soon as I wind up the kitchen timer and to drop the focus when it rings. Even the ticking sound now reinforces my concentration.

Thinking, planning, and calculating future time as a duration is very unpredictable - at least when it comes to doing things that we haven't done before in the same way. For me and for most people, this property of unpredictability produces anxiety. Anxiety will most certainly lead to lower productivity and may even spoil the result. If we can treat our work effort as a chain of events, it will increase our productivity.

Flow: clear goals, concentration and focus, a loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, a distorted sense of time, direct and immediate feedback, balance between ability level and challenge, a sense of personal control, intrinsically rewarding, the merging of action and awareness.

Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.

There are three outstanding sources of procrastination:
That other people force you to do something against your will
Your own pressure for making a perfect performance
Fear of making mistakes or receiving criticism

These are the five stages that you'll follow:
1. Planning:
You start the day by extracting the most important activities from your backlog - called the Activity Inventory - and writing them in a list on your To Do Today sheet. This is your commitment for the day.
2. Tracking:
Once you've decided on your activities for the day, you wind up the timer for 25 minutes and then start in on the first one. During every 25-minute timebox - called a Pomodoro - you collect a small amount of process metrics. You may, for example, count the number of times that you get interrupted.
3. Recording:
At the end of the day, you file your daily observations on the Records sheet. If you tracked the number of interruptions, then this number is saved here.
4. Processing:
After recording, you convert the raw data into information. For example, you might calculate how many interruptions you get in an average 25-minute timebox.
5. Visualizing:
Finally, you organize the information in a way that helps you see how to improve your process. This is basically a daily retrospective and when you acclimatize your working habits to your reality. Every day starts with the Planning stage and ends with Recording, Processing, and Visualizing stages. In between, there is an iterative loop of 25-minute Tracking sessions.

Plan: You define your goals and the processes you need to deliver the expected results.
Do: You implement the new process.
Check: You measure the new process and compare the results to the expected outcome in order to find discrepancies.
Act: You analyze the discrepancies and try to understand the root cause of them.

Select the most important activities from the Activity Inventory sheet and write them in a list on my To Do Today sheet.

Choose the highest-priority activity on the To Do Today sheet, wind up the clock to 25 minutes, and start focusing on that

Select only the number of activities that you realistically stand a chance of completing today.

Selecting activities for To Do Today sheet also means that you refuse all activities that you don't write down on this list.

To develop motivation, you need to extract an activity set from the inventory that is adequate for a timebox that you can foresee. If you extract this set yourself and you believe that it's an attainable goal within the timebox, then you will be committed.

Rating 25 minutes of effort as a success gives us immediate feedback.

Every four Pomodori, I take my set break. Typically, a set break is 15 to 30 minutes of recreation.

You can even glance at your email inbox. But don't start to write any important replies. That task should be scheduled like all the other activities.

Ideally, the goal of the break should be light sleep for five minutes.

You should be answering these questions every day:
Do I need smaller activities?
Am I bothered by a recurring distraction?
Do I have unnecessary overhead in my standardized activities and personal process?

Doing the improvement work in a scientific way helps me remember to do it. First I standardize a practice. Then I measure the standardized practice in some way. Then I compare the metrics to the requirements. Maybe I have to change how I work to meet the requirements. Then I measure again, and finally I standardize the new, improved way of working.

You can't see the big picture and focus on details at the same time. Your focus will benefit from a process where you minimize the points where you have to sort and allocate priorities.

Writing the apostrophe is essentially tracking. It represents one internal interruption. At the end of the day I can count the number of apostrophes and reflect. This number is a cold hard fact of how many interruptions I had, not just a hectic feeling of forgetting something.

The strategy when you get an internal interruption is to first accept it, then record it, and then immediately continue with what you were doing before you got interrupted.

Take the time to look back. Then you'll see how what you thought you could do maps to what you actually achieved.

Try looking at each new activity on your Activity Inventory sheet and estimating the number of Pomodori it will take to complete it.

Psychologist Edward Vul showed in an experiment that averaging multiple guesses from one person about a fact provides a better estimate than any single guess.

Since a Pomodoro is atomic, you can't use numbers like 1/2 or 2.2 Pomodori.

A national weather service spent a gigantic amount of money on a new forecast system. All the emerging technology was included, and it had an accuracy rate of almost 70 percent. Then a clever person challenged the super machine with a much simpler algorithm. It was called Yesterday's Weather, and it said, "Tomorrow will be like today." Guess what? It had the same accuracy as the super machine. Estimating future achievements is basically guessing. So, why not use the history and assume it will repeat itself?