Jen Against the Machine (If the machine were an egg timer) Part 2– The Test

So! Previously, I discussed a time-management method called the Pomodoro Technique.  In part one the blog went over the book and my initial thoughts on how this process would work for me.  If you didn’t read it, part two might not make any sense, so definitely check it out here. Now, let’s get in to how it actually worked (or didn’t) for me.

The Tools:

I used a small notebook and labeled my pages as such: Week 1 Activity Inventory Sheet (a list of the things I would like to complete that week), To Do Today (one for each weekday with the task items listed in order of importance and a section at the bottom of the page for “Unplanned & Urgent Activities” and then a Records Sheet (which ultimately remained blank).  A second set of these pages was created for week 2.

Because the thought of a ticking timer would drive me insane, I looked through Google Apps for an appropriate app to use and found the aptly named “Tomato One”.  Tomato One is an online timer that ticks down from 25 minutes and then automatically switches to a 5-minute break count down.  After the four sets (pomodoros), it then times down from 15 minutes as recommended in the book. I have my laptop screen and then a secondary screen, so I placed the timer where I could see it counting down.

Week 1:

I felt pretty optimistic when I completed the inventory sheet of what I wanted to complete. This was easy to do since I already bullet journal and had my week spelled out for me.  I ended up with a pretty long list on my to-do today sheet, and my first lesson of the process was that I completely over-estimate how quickly I can complete things. I got through four pomodoros and felt okay, but a little concerned at how little I was checking off my list.  Then I got to some client work and started to get really frustrated because not only was I having to monitor Tomato One, but I was clocking in and clocking out for each client.  I will tell you my clients got a few minutes of free work from me several times.

InterruptionsI also noticed that my “Unplanned & Urgent Activities” list got very long.  These came from “Internal Interruptions” such as checking my budget and scanning a stack of business cards to get them off my desk to multiple “External Interruptions,” i.e. clients.  Or, in this case, one particular client who came in through multiple channels (email, a text, and a phone call) which made me make a note to myself to evaluate the way I work with that client.

Day 2 had similar instances plus several occurrences of my just needing a few more minutes to finish something and that flipping timer would click over to break. By noon on Wednesday, I had abandoned the process.

Week 2:

Deep breath and here we go. Felt good about my inventory list, and developed a weird tactic for dealing with just a few more minutes needed to complete something with the Pomodoro going to break.  I would actually stop for break, then finish the item in the next Pomodoro and start the next task during the same Pomodoro. I recorded the “shared’ Pomodoro by drawing brackets on my list.

I also was more detailed on my task list because I was not accounting for the little things, such as reading/returning emails, checking social media pages I manage for comments or anything weird, sending out invoices, etc. These little things occur around the big tasks I have to complete. By Thursday I did not have any unplanned and urgent activities on my list. Score!What it starts to feel like.

I did develop a deep-seated hatred of the Tomato One app. That stupid, ticking time bomb caused me, on more than one occasion, to rush to finish something before it flipped to break which resulted in my messing that task up and having to work on it during the next Pomodoro. I also began to dislike the color change (red for work time, green for break) and actually made fun of it by asking it why it was Christmas colors and who did it think it was to tell me how to manage my time. I believe once I told it to “piss off.”


And I used to like tomatoes

This process does not seem suited for a free-lancer with multiple clients who needs to track worked time for a specific client on a specific task and ends up taking 5-minute breaks all the time. As I mentioned in part 1, I do think this is probably a great idea for students and school work or studying. Having said all that, I do think there are probably people this method would work for, but since I usually get on a roll when I’m working, I feel that my efficiency dips using this method. And if I never see another tomato timer, it will be too soon.


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