I have not worked outside of my home office since mid-April. There are lots of benefits to this change. My commute is really short, I run a lot more, I get to hang out with my wife more, and I have lost 42 pounds. But not everything is unicorns and rainbows — time feels a bit wonky.  For example, Friday comes and it no longer the demarcation between the workweek and weekend it once was.  TGIF does not have quite the allure it once had. I also miss the stimulus of meeting new people and seeing new situations directly.  The missing stimuli has lead me to rediscover Pomodoro.  Pomodoro is a technique that is useful for attacking productivity killers: procrastination and multitasking and it is useful for more successful time slicing. The technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. It combines strategies of fixed blocks of time, cadence, and focus which limits work-in-progress to get work done. As a reminder the basic Pomodoro process is fairly simple and straightforward:

  1. Decide on the task or batch of tasks to be done
  2. Set a timer to 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task until the timer goes off
  4. Take 5-minute break
  5. Repeat for four Pomodoros then take a 20-minute break
  6. Repeat until the end of the day

The rules are fairly simple, but one I have struggled with over the years is the reminder once started a Pomodoro can’t be interrupted. I have to remind myself to hide or put my phone in airplane mode to minimize interruptions. A second hard part is that every once in awhile I achieve flow state and at the end of my twenty-five-minute time frame, I would rather keep going. Tackling both of these issues helps deliver a better handle on the flow of time by connecting my backlog to outcomes.  

In my opening paragraph, I used the term ‘rediscover’ because I have been using Pomodoro off and on since 2015 to help me focus. But when I started working from home I stopped. Being home and doing Pomodoro did not go together in my mind. I was wrong, and interestingly I have found that Pomodoro is even more useful in my COVID-19 workplace. The short bursts of effort focused on an outcome and a range of tasks keep things real during this time when reorganizing my office is one my favorite ways to pretend I am traveling (watching Rick Steves is another). I have always felt that variety is the spice of life; Pomodoro helps manage queues and reduce the number of context switches to a level that matches an attention span that helps me be effective.