I use this tool often to help me manage time and focus on tasks requiring attention to detail, such as reading, writing or editing a longish document. It is highly effective, and I often recommend it to others. In essence, the tool keeps track of time so that you focus on a task for 25 minutes, and then gives you a 5 minute break. Repeat as required till the task is done. By building in the 5 minute break, I find I can focus on a task for that 25 minutes, knowing that I will have a moment to check my email, get a cup of tea, take a bathroom break, or whatever. Interruptions happen – someone knocks on the door, you spill your coffee, you realize you don’t have all of the document you need to review – and so you pause your Pomodoro and start again when you’re ready. And 25 minutes is just long enough to make some real headway on a big task without getting bogged down or feeling the need to isolate oneself more than closing the door. Be sure to also turn off your email, so that little “bing” or flashing envelope symbol doesn’t distract you.
Recently, a colleague suggested a similar approach to using cellphones during social gatherings. It is tempting or even a habit to keep your phone in your pocket or on the table during a lunch or dinner, ready to check it at every buzz or flash. But really, that’s quite rude. Most people at the table are in the same boat – busy folks, needing to be available to spouse/work/kids – so how to stay focused on the folks in front of you while still being available to the world? Why, Phone Pomodoro of course!
Using the same timescale, everyone puts their phone away (or at least face down on the table) for 25 minutes. At that point, it is socially acceptable for everyone to check their phone for messages, email, whatever. After 5 minutes, phones down and back to conversation. That way everyone know they’ll have a chance to check in, and 25 minutes is not so long that they’ll miss out on anything. Of course, interruptions happen – the boss calls or an expected or overdue message comes in – but these can be dealt with and should be the exception rather than the rule.
I’ve tried this a few times now at lunches and it works well, for me at least. Not sure that everyone will buy in, but trends have to start with someone.
* Update 2020: the original app is not longer available, but Focus Keeper works just the same, and now includes a longer break after four Pomodoros.