Using the Pomodoro technique

How do people get stuff done? Well, one common approach is that you muster a bunch of willpower and “power through it” to get the task done, no matter how long it takes. This might be great on days when you are super-motivated, but what about days when you aren’t? How can you be consistently productive? Well, many really smart and effective people have suggested using the Pomodoro technique, as part of the plan (including John Sonmez and Scott Hanselman).

The good part is, this is just a general way to accomplish work. It works something like this:

  • A pomodoro is :25 minutes of work with :05 minutes of rest.
  • You do your planning on “how many pomodoros” the activity is going to take. If it’s more than perhaps 4, then you are doing too much. Break that task into smaller pieces first.

Getting the right tool – “30/30”:
Regardless of your favorite platform (Windows Phone, Windows Store, Android, iPhone, iPad, web, etc) – there are close to 10 gajillion pomodoro apps. These are typically apps that just have a timer. Of all of the ones I’ve looked at, exactly one really stands out. It’s not necessarily a pomodoro timer – you can configure it how you want, but I use it as a pomodoro timer. It’s “30/30” for iOS: (direct link to the App Store)

Now, you might notice this is only available for iOS. If you read the website, you’ll see that this was written by developers who pray at the alter of Apple. They are proud that they will never release this app on any other platform. (insert huge eyeroll and heavy sigh)

Despite that, if you are on iOS, it is a REALLY well-done app.

Setting up some common pomodoro configurations:
The first thing I did was create some common scenarios for me – which is having 1, 2, and 3 hours of dedicated work time (I mean “work” outside of my day job).


You can create as many different “timers” as you’d like, name them what you like – and then configure as many elements of the timer as you like.

Configuring one timer:
Let’s take a deeper look at the “1 hour / 2 pomodoros” timer configuration:


You can have as many “steps” as you like, you can name them, set the duration, set the icon and set the color. So, I set my break times to be green (as in, you are free), and a coffee to represent break time. The working time I set to be a darker color and it’s set to be 25 minutes.

Using the timer:
Now the two best features of this particular timer is that it changes/fades the screen to the color of the task when the task changes – and secondly, it gives a loud (but not alarming) notification when you are switching tasks. Here is how the screen looks while you are in a pomodoro, versus when you are in a break:


It shows you are working on Pomodoro 1, there are 24:48 minutes:seconds left, you can mark it complete (the check at the top), add or remove time from the current task, etc. You can tap the center to pause or press and hold the center to reset the timer.

Then after 24 minutes you’ll hear the alert, and the screen fades from blue to green:


After you’ve completed all of your pomodoros (all of the defined tasks in 30/30), then the timer goes back to idle mode:


I have the iPad positioned underneath my monitors (which I have mounted high)


So that it’s in my line-of-site, in the corner of my eye. And yes, I’m in a pomodoro right now, writing this blog post!

I’ve found this to be a pretty effective way to stay productive and still have reasonable break times while I’m doing work. This works quite well for me so I thought I’d write it down!

Posted in Apple Stuff, Computers and Internet, Development Tools, General, Organization will set you free, Professional Development, Uncategorized

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