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Tomatoes, single-tasking & innovation?

Pomodoro for new product innovationOkay, so a tomato can’t make your new product innovation move any faster, but a little concept called the Pomodoro Technique might help eliminate some of the bad multi-tasking that wastes time and can slow any new product project down.

I’ve written a lot lately about eliminating multi-tasking for personal and corporate productivity, but only recently ran across this concept from a link in the Knowledge Jolt with Jack blog. I think it makes a nice little adjunct to Personal Kanban which I’ve written about before.

It works like this:

  1. Break your work into small bite size tasks
  2. Set a timer and work only on that item
  3. After 25 minutes, take 5 minute break
  4. After doing this a few times take a longer break.

Why’s it called Pomodoro? Simply because the timer that is used looks like a tomato (or Pomodoro in Italian).

The upside – Pomodoro is an easy to implement tool, and by staying focused, most folks are going to find they get more done. Plus it’s simple, and I’m all about simplifying.

The downside – Okay, it’s a little redundant with Personal Kanban, which says you should limit work in process already. But it’s easy for most of us to get distracted dozens of times per day only to realize we haven’t pulled much through our Kanban. WIP limit or not, that this can be an easy way to force yourself to stay focused for a manageable chunk of time.

Also, not all tasks can be broken down into 25 minute bites. And even if they can, there are some tasks where immersing yourself and getting into a flow for a longer period can be very helpful. When I write, I sometimes find that I get into a flow state where I’m productive for hours. Stopping after 25 minutes would be counter-productive. I’d recommend adopting the discipline, but setting longer times for such flow tasks.

Simple Bottom Line:

Adding Pomodoro to Personal Kanban might be a powerful one-two punch.

I’m giving it a try – how about you?

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Bud Brown December 23, 2010, 7:12 pm

    Michael, I feel that this is an approach I can pass on to some construction executives who have been chafing at my admonitions about bad multitasking. Thanks for this.

    I notice your book Simplifying Innovation is available in Kindle format. You don’t happen to have it in PDF format do you? I have a non-Kindle reader but would love to get started on it ASAP.

    Bud Brown
    Making Constraints into Resources
    519 501 3286
    Kitchener, Ontario, CANADA

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