Do you find yourself at the end of the day wondering where all the time went or find it hard to get everything done that you need too?

If so, then you should try the pomodoro technique. I have used it for 4 weeks now and found it extremely effective.

Let me tell you some more…

What the hell is it?

The pomodoro technique is a time management technique created in the 80’s by Francesco Cirillo.

At the same time when Top Gun was in the cinema and U2, Bon Jovi and Guns and Roses were at their greatest. Yes I am that old 🙂

You break your day up into 25 minute focussed iterations called a pomodoro.


It is called a pomodoro because Francesco Cirillo timed his iterations using a tomato shaped kitchen timer. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato.

Between each pomodoro you get a 3 – 5 minute break and after 4 pomodoros you get a 15 – 20 minute break.

A lot slacking time I thought, but I find it keeps my mind fresh and more focussed.

As an infamous colleague and friend of mine always said at work to his team –

It is not a holiday camp you know

Is it really a compressed agile scrum?

I think the whole technique is like a compressed agile scrum.

  • Each day you prioritise and estimate items of work that need to be done that day and make a commitment. Sound familiar?
  • You then perform many pomodoros moving items of work from Not Started to In Progress and then to done.
  • At the end of the day your perform a mini retrospective to see how you can improve.

I actually use a physical agile scrum board to manage my day using this technique.

I tried using, but I just find it so much easier with index cards and a sharpie.

For those who can use electronic boards, kanbanflow comes with a pomodoro timer built in. I use the Pomodoro Keeper app on my IPhone.

My review of the pomodoro technique

Well I have followed this technique for 4 weeks now and have noticed an improvement on my ability to get things done.  I have even stopped procrastinating and just get on with it.

I am more focussed and definitely feel more satisfied at the end of the day when I throw away the completed index cards.

I followed the technique to the letter and have found that 25 minutes is too short for me, but I have not yet changed the iteration duration.

As an agile coach kept saying to me as I lead the 18 month transition of 150 developers to agile scrum –

Get good at the process first and then adapt it to your circumstances.

As I learnt, wise words!

So when I am feel competent, I will start playing with the iteration duration.

Like agile, the process is full on and I have found it quite exhausting at times, even with the breaks. It may not suit everybody, but I would give it a 2 week trial to see how you get on.

I will definitely be continuing with it.

My recommendation

If you want to give it a try, I would highly recommend a book I brought to learn the technique in detail.

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated (Pragmatic Life) by Staffan Noteberg.

I picked this book because as it had good feedback on Amazon, it was in kindle format and Staffan is a fellow software developer 🙂

When I analyse it, the book is really broken down into 2 big sections

Section 1

Staffan gives you a laymens explanation of how the brain and the technique work hand in hand. I find it important to understand why a technique works before I commit time and effort to it. I even found out why I can solve coding issues when I am a asleep, I used to think the coding fairies did this 🙂

Section 2

Staffan describes the process in minute detail

  • How to plan you day
  • How to estimate. What you do if you underestimate, what you do if you over estimate and how to batch items.
  • How to manage internal (your mind) and external (other people) interruptions. I like the examples he gives of how to manage people interrupting you. I am using this today.
  • What you can and cannot do in your breaks, personally I walk about, look out the window or grab a coffee. In one of the 20 minute breaks I actually do a body weight workout. I know I am weird.
  • How to do a retrospective and what you should be measuring.
  • The symbols to use to easily manage your work items and lists.
  • How you can take the process forward.

He also shows you how to manage meetings using the pomodoro technique and how to work with others, teams and even paired pomdoros.

It is fun to read, engaging, easy to understand and quick to help you get the technique going.

I have read it and flipped back through it many times to make sure I am still doing it right.

Check out other reviews on Amazon

Categories: Productivity


Valentina · October 16, 2015 at 1:08 am

I’m going to look into it. I’ve been stuggling to manage my personal time as my deadlines are far too relaxed. I have loads of things to do – important ones, but my list doesn’t get smaller. And I’ll certainly try to apply it at work.

    Nick Foster · October 16, 2015 at 6:01 am

    great to hear Valentina, I would be really interested to know how you get on.

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