The pomodoro technique is a simple and effective way to get work done. I've used it successfully myself for several years.

What is the pomodoro technique

Pomodoro means "tomato" in Italian, named after a tomato shaped kitchen timer. The idea is that you work fully concentrated on some task for a given amount of time, then are allowed to relax for a few minutes. Typically you work for 25 minutes, then take a five minute break. After having completed a few pomodoro cycles, you may allow yourself a longer break.

Why you should try it

If you sit down at your desk in the morning, and expect to get eight efficient hours of work done that day, you will fail. It's so easy to get distracted by checking email, Facebook etc. Using the pomodoro technique, you do your very best to eliminate all disturbances around you, for 25 minutes, until your timer rings.

Without such a rigid structure to your work day, it's easy to start procrastinating. Email checks get more frequent throughout the day, and you get more and more easily distracted. If you only allow yourself to check email during the short breaks in between your pomodoros, at least you won't do it more than every half hour.

If it doesn't work for you

Not everyone has a work schedule that allows them to follow this technique as presented above. No worries. You're free to adapt it in any way you like. If you need to work for longer, or shorter pomodoros for some reason, then do it. And you don't necessarily have to always do pomodoros. I use it mostly when I do programming, and work on hard problems. Then I may take maybe 15 minutes to answer emails and do other minor tasks that won't fill pomodoros on their own.

The important part is that you dedicate fixed intervals of highly focused work. Not too short, or you won't get started properly before it's time for a break again. And not too long, or you'll run out of steam, and start procrastinating again.

Tools and apps

There are a lot of apps on both the AppStore for iOS devices, and on the Google Play Store for Android. A mobile app may work for some, but I prefer something that runs on my computer, or in my web browser. That's why I use KanbanFlow. In fact, I signed up for KanbanFlow in February 2012, and have been using it ever since. That's more than four years by now! Is it the best option out there? I don't know. It's convenient that it combines pomodoro with kanban (which is a topic for another blog post), but if you have any other favorites, please let me know. I have some experience with Jira (by Atlassian) as well, and while it feels more polished and featureful, it also has a lot of features I don't need. I'll be sure to write a new blog post if I switch to another time/issue tracker in the future.