I typically clock eight to nine Pomodoros a day. You can easily calculate, that even with nine Pomodoros a day, that is four and a half hours of work. With the break time excluded, on an average day, I manage to stay focused for 3 hours and 45 minutes. Out of an eight hour working day that doesn't seem too much, does it?
The difference is in the quality of the time spent working on the tasks, the planning of that time, the tracking of my progress, recording what I have achieved and reviewing how accurate my planning was. When I'm starting a Pomodoro, I know I am ready to focus for the next 25 minutes and most importantly I know exactly what I am supposed to focus on in those 25 minutes. No running back and forth, reading emails, chatting to Skype contacts, making coffee or anything. It's the pure concentration of focus that makes you realize how different the quality of your work has become.
Probably the most important change is the clear and measurable progress. No more is the task either not yet attended, or being worked on, or finished. Now I can clearly see the list of 1-4 Pomodoro long subtasks I have planned for the project, the one I am currently working on, as well as those finished. Day by day, I can clearly see myself moving forward, making progress with my projects. What a boost of motivation!
And what is cool, too, is that my boss -- without even knowing that I had started using the Pomodoro Technique -- acknowledged the change in my productivity and expressed his satisfaction with my work results, believing the critique at the December review was a good step. Another motivation boost!
A very interesting observation is what I call reversed time flow. Instead of the usual perception of time flowing from now into future -- in which somewhere there is the end of what you're currently doing, -- in the Pomodoro Technique the time seems to go no further than 25 minutes from here. Even better, the timer is counting backwards, showing how much there's left of the current Pomodoro and when you're going to have another break.
The benefits of the Pomodoro Technique, or any other time management or productivity technique put in action, are not only in the increase of productivity, but the change of your attitude. Starting with a productivity technique is the manifestation of your willingness to do something about the way you work, how you spend time working and how you value your time.
Apart from the time management the Pomodoro Technique provides, the planning, tracking and recording parts are of equal importance. The rituals of planning the day, winding the timer, crossing out a Pomodoro, and recording the progress all make you feel you are in control of your tasks, and not overwhelmed by them. I can literally feel how this all brings in a decrease of stress and procrastination. Maximizing the focus while at work and putting everything work-related on a paper and removing it from your head makes you think about your job much less outside the working hours and brings better quality to your leisure time, too.
Like with everything, there's a couple of issues with the Pomodoro Technique. First of all, I don't believe it's a good one size fits all technique, perfect for everybody, regardless of the position, team size, work environment or working habits. I have not yet tried any other productivity technique and probably will not, because so far, I'm very happy with the Pomodoro Technique as it seems to be working pretty well for me.
One of the major issues I have with the Pomodoro Technique is that I can only use it for the research and coding part of my job. Maybe it's just the meetings' anti-productivity nature that makes it impossible to put any productivity technique into place. Even starting a meeting usually means voiding my current pomodoro without even being given a chance to protect it.
Applying the Inform, Negotiate and Reschedule procedure is just another part of the technique which hardly ever works for me. There is no way I can ask my boss not to interrupt me while I'm working on something. There is no way I can ignore random people entering the office asking for directions to the eye clinic (which is just around the corner). Or when a colleague asks about where that good sushi place was I went the other day, I can't ask her to come back in 20 minutes. Not only it would be rude, but by that time her lunch break would be over.
Sometimes it's quite difficult to even tell what the interruption is. When I need to ask a colleague programmer about the location of a file I'm going to need to be able to keep working, not only I am interrupting him, but I am not sure if it's not an interruption for myself.
After a week of using the technique, trying to find out the answer in the book or on the Internet, I am still not quite sure what I am supposed to do when I have urgent tasks which are too short to even add up. Can I just squeeze a 5 minute activity in the middle of a Pomodoro session dedicated to an entirely different task? I don't know. Currently, I feel this lack of knowledge keeps me back since I just don't complete the short tasks until there's enough of them to fill a Pomodoro.
On a similar note, what to do with two minutes left of a task which would be otherwise get finished, had this Pomodoro been two minutes longer. May I finish the task at the beginning of the next task, or am I then supposed to spend the rest of the Pomodoro reviewing those two minutes of work? Or, again, should I wait until I have enough short tasks to fill a Pomodoro? I don't know.
And there's a couple more issues with the fundamental Pomodoro rules, which I'd be happy to follow whatever way there was to deal with them. Unfortunately, I haven't found answers to some of these questions. Let me know if you have the answers or similar questions, I'll make sure to keep this space updated as I go and learn more about the Pomodoro Technique.