If you struggle with productivity and focus as a developer, then you should consider hacking your productivity with the Pomodoro method.
The Pomodoro method can help you learn faster, code faster, and write more, without the common distractions that prevent you from doing the work that you need to get done.
What is the Pomodoro method?
The Pomodoro method helps you get more work done, while keeping you on task and focused.
It was created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980's as a way to boost productivity in highly creative fields of work.
In essence it's a productivity hack that harnesses the power of getting things done by eliminating distractions and adding accountability.
Learn how to apply the technique, and at the end I'll share 6 different tools that you can use to track your first Pomodoro on your Mac.
How to Do the Pomodoro Method
- Pick a task and break it down into chunks of work
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Work uninterrupted for as long as the timer is going
- Mark that you've completed one unit of work (tally on a calendar)
- Take a 5 minute break (Every 4, take a 20-30 minute break)
- Restart with a new task
Why It Works?
Doing tasks with total focus allows you to do deeper work (Read Cal Newports book: Deep Work). The timer is your accountability partner and keeps you focused and on track.
The challenging part of information work is that tasks are not always well defined, and they tend to take longer than we expect.
This can be frustrating for someone who just wants to finish a chunk of code, write the paper, or publish a new website.
The Pomodoro gives you a metric to use as you work on these creative endeavors, and it gives you a sense of accomplishment for a large task that might take weeks to complete.
The sense of accomplishment is the reason that you feel good, because you marked down a unit of work, and you got something done, even if it's just one small part of the big problem.
Breaking It Up
The breaks should not be looked at as interruptions, but instead as a way to recharge and activate your subconscious mind to continue working on the problem.
While you take a physical break from your work, your mind will continue to work on the problem for you, doing the heavy lifting, so that you can work faster and more effectively.
It's ok even if you don't finish a task within the 25 minutes.
Because your mind hates open loops, and it'll keep thinking about the problem, giving you new insight, creating ideas, trying to finish the work when you're not actively thinking about the problem.
Most creative people make their discoveries away from the work bench, when they're on a walk, taking a nap, or relaxing.
The One Rule
When the timer is going you have a rule.
You don't stop working if the timer is active. (unless it's a real emergency).
While the timer is going you don't check email . . .
. . . you don't respond to texts
. . . you don't get into a discussion with co-workers
. . . you don't refill your coffee cup
. . . you don't talk to your boss
. . . you don't do anything that isn't the one task that you decided to work on when you started the work session.
Prepping for Your Pomodoro
Starting the Pomodoro method can be a little awkward at work or around your family who are used to having you always available.
Before you start, you'll want to tell your co-workers, your boss, or your family that you'll be busy for the next 25 minutes.
When you're done your work session, you can chat with them briefly during your 5 min break. If you need to, bribe your kids to be quiet until you're timer dings.
Your Energy Levels Are Higher With More Breaks
You can burn out your energy if you just work straight for 4 hours.
If you don't get out of your chair, your body is going to be fatigued from holding your posture, from not moving.
Your joints will be stiff, and your eyes will be tired.
Any creative task that requires mental energy is going to be taxing as well.
After a long day of non-stop coding I can feel pretty drained.
Every Tally is a Victory
Instead of being bogged down with not making progress on a specific goal. Reward yourself with completing units of work: Pomodoro sessions.
It's more accomplishing to feel that you've done the work when you've crossed off 10 tally's on your calendar, than it is to say I've finished task X.
The problem with finishing task X, is that it might require tasks A, B, C, D, E, and F.
. . . and if you don't complete all those tasks in one day, then finishing task X is a failure . . .
. . . failure is not a good feeling.
Instead flip it around.
Feel accomplished because you completed the subtasks, even if that meant it took longer than you expected.
What should you do on your breaks?
Ideas for Effective 5 Minute Breaks
- Stand up and stretch
- Do some yoga poses (downward dog or touch your toes and hang for 30 seconds)
- Look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to reduce eye strain
- Blink 60-90 times over 1-2 minutes to prevent dry eyes
- Roll your shoulders and try to touch your elbows together to relax your shoulders
- Take a walk around your parking lot, trail, or side walk
- Go to the bathroom
- Read a 3-5 pages from a book
- Eat a fruit or vegetable snack
- Refill your water or coffee (just dont' get sucked into a conversation)
Ideas for Effective 20 - 30 Minute Breaks
- Go for a 20 minute walk (do it around noon to maximize your vitamin D)
- Read a book in your favorite chair or couch
- Eat your lunch outside of your office
- Do a 20 yoga routine
- Meditate and journal
6 Mac Apps for the Pomodoro Method
Finding a good Mac timer app is hard. Many on the App Store are out of date, buggy, or are hard to use.
To make it easy for you to start with the Pomodoro technique I'm going to share 6 different timers apps that you can use.
I wasn't satisfied with the current minimalist timers on Mac . . . so I designed my own countdown timer app (my first Mac app).
Super Easy Timer for Mac
If you want a timer that is easy to use, and one that gets out of the way, without any complex features. You should try Super Easy Timer for Mac.
- You can quickly restart a previous timer
- You can use natural language to create timers by typing "25" or "25 minutes"
- You can minimize the timer so it's less distracting
I wanted to create a timer that would be fun to use, and one that would be easy to use without having to fiddle with knobs, dials, sliders.
If you want to try my simple Mac timer app, grab the beta from Super Easy Timer for Mac.
It supports the menu bar, minimized timers, full-screen, and has a mini-mode (that I use daily).
5 paid and free Timer Mac apps for Pomodoro
There are things I like in each of these timer apps, but none of them work like I wanted, which is why I created Super Easy Timer (you can try it for free during our beta test).
- Tomato One (Free with ads, Disable ads for $1.99)
Minimal pomodoro timer app with Menubar support for starting, taking breaks, and tracking sessions
- BreakTime ($4.99)
Need something to lock your computer after 25 minutes? Try this app.
- Good Timer ($0.99)
Another minimal timer that you can customize
- Be Focused (Free trial, $4.99 for full version)
A more full featured pomodoro timer, but it's user interface is more complex (hard to use)
- Red Hot Timer (Free trial, $4.99 for full version)
The timer that inspired me to create Super Easy Timer, somewhat buggy, and a little clunky.
What timer app are you currently using?