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GNDN and the Pomodoro Technique

GNDN is a favorite acronym of mine which stands for “Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing”. That’s kind of how I feel when I don’t have any specific set goals or timeboxing set in place. Instead, I wander around the internet for a bit and effectively don’t get anything done until I hit crisis time. I’m someone that really needs a set time to work on things, otherwise I often wander about without accomplishing anything useful.

Enter the pomodoro technique and Focus Booster.

What is the pomodoro technique? Well, simply stated, it is a technique in time management where periods of work are broken down to 25 minute chunks, with a short break in between.1 There’s more on Wikipedia here. There’s also an entire website devoted to the technique, including their own timer, but I don’t think there’s any need to get that complicated. Just find a cheap (free!) and simple timer and get to work. The less complicated the better the process works, as you’re not wasting so much time setting things up and planning your time.

My preferred pomodoro tool is Focus Booster.2 The time is set into nice default chunks of 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break time. I find this to be the most suitable for my needs, and haven’t adjusted the time. The 25 minutes actually goes by pretty quick–and it’s hard to believe I’ve been working straight for so long with no distractions! The only downside is I often end up working into my break time, and sometimes need to make up for it (I feel this break time is important to keep your energy up for another 25 minute session).

When I first heard about the pomodoro technique, I figured it wouldn’t really work, and if I’m dedicated enough I should be able to focus on getting the task at hand done. Turns out I was quite wrong, and with a very busy schedule, this technique keeps me focused.

Has anyone else tried it? Does it work out well for them? Any other methods you’d recommend instead? Let me know in the comments below!


1. You’re also supposed to take a longer break after four or so sessions, but I end up continuing through as usual, oftentimes because I rarely have four hours to devote to pure focused work.
2. Focus Booster has recently had an update. I still prefer the older version, and while the new version is shiner, it still gets the job done. There’s also a huge slew of browser add-ons and websites. Of course, any old fashioned egg timer works just as well.

19 thoughts on “GNDN and the Pomodoro Technique”

  1. Pingback: A little look into my schedule | brushtalking

    1. Really! I’ll have to try that. I’ve just been keeping it to the default numbers, mostly because I guess when I am writing I feel it gives me more time to work on stuff. Maybe I can vary it by activity.

  2. Hi Greg

    I’ve been messing around with Pomodoro techniques too. There is a really simple but flexible app called PomodoroApp on Mac which I use. The other thing that is good – a real side benefit for learning Chinese – is that from the official site you can download the free Pomodoro book in many languages, including Chinese – plenty of reading practice 🙂

    Some tasks are short, but my risk is that I just carry on doing them because they’re light & easy – so I use the timer to be strict with not wasting time. Some tasks I can do for a long time (and they need a long time!) but not particularly mentally draining – then I allow myself 55 minutes with a 5 minute break. However, whatever I do, I am trying to use the timer – I’m just being smart about how many minutes I allocate.

    See ya

    1. Hi Greg!

      Thanks a lot for your comment! I hope you’ve been doing well recently 🙂

      How has using the Pomodoro techniques been helping you? Thank you for suggesting PomodoroApp, I’m downloading it now and will be checking it out in a little bit! I definitely feel like it is one of the unsung heroes of language learning, and even just productivity in general. Of course it all depends on what works best for you too!

      I usually stick with the traditional 25min~5min break format, does adjusting the times help you more, especially as the activity you need to get done varies? I might have to play around with it myself and see!

      Thanks again for the comment!
      Best wishes,

      1. Hey Greg

        The Pomodoro helps me in two main ways:
        – Firstly, it prevents me messing around on tasks that can waste lots of time, taking hours when I really should limit myself. (For example, if I want to catch up on some blogs, I might limit myself to 25 minutes – and anything I don’t read in that time has to wait until next time – else I will end up reading for 3 hours 🙂
        – Secondly, by knowing there is a time limit on stuff, I can really focus and not worry about anything else, because I know that I don’t have to wait long until I finish this task, and then get onto the next. It takes the pressure off.

        But I do need to adapt it. For example, I do flashcards every day – usually this takes 20 minutes, but can range between 15 and 30 minutes. There is no point in using a time limit – I need to finish all today’s cards, and they’re over when they’re over. Another example is reading news sites – I really don’t need 25 minutes to do this – I give myself 15 minutes, and then it’s done, no point allowing 25 because it’s the standard pomodoro unit – I only need 15 mins.

        Hope that helps. Good luck! Let me know if you learn some new tricks along the way that I can use.

        1. Hi Greg!

          I hadn’t thought of using it for activities that you want to limit yourself on. That’s actually pretty smart! I will have to look into doing something similar myself, such as looking at Twitter in only blocks (my current timesink) instead of every 5-10 minutes :p

          How are your flashcards going? When you do them, will you do it in one huge block or spread them out during the day?

  3. Started to do the pomo a few days ago. Reason was a huge translation project. I know the GNDN feeling quite good, and the tomatoes helped me a lot. I am using TimeWise on my Android Phone, don’t know if it’s available on iOS. I also started to note the 30 minute chunks (including the 5 minute break) in an Excel-Sheet. Good to see at the end of the day.

    Planing makes life much easier!

    1. Thank you for your comment!

      I found the pomo technique really good for translation projects! I will have to check out TimeWise to see if there’s an iOS version, I’m always interested in checking out these kinds of apps. So do you track your progress everyday, and split it up by activity? That’s a pretty smart idea, then you can see how your work is going and how much you get done using pomo!

  4. To answer your question, I do them in slices – based on opportunity rather than time-chunks. So I will do as many as I can while on the bus in the morning, then I might do a few more in the queue at lunch, then finish them while walking to the train station in the evening. That kind of thing. If I have a busy/rushed day, I make sure I finish the allotment before I go to sleep – so it’s always done by the end of the day.

    1. Makes sense, and I think it’s easier (and less tiring!) to them in chunks that way, otherwise it becomes more of a hassle to go through them. Are you still using Anki, then? Oh, I was also wondering if you ever ended up giving Skritter a go?

  5. Pingback: A little look into my schedule | En Route To Fluency

  6. Thanks for posting this, I’ve been trying some similar techniques recently without much success. Namely setting up the work I have to do for that day in Google Calendar, and setting a 5 minute notification for the start of the next task. I ended up working through the first notification and then kept bumping the tasks back, making it all redundant.

    I usually try to avoid GTD systems that are complicated as I spend more time configuring the system than actually getting things done (kind of like the episode of Red Dwarf were Rimmer is trying to pass his exam and spends all his revision time setting up a revision system, not actually revising.) I’ll give this a shot, though as it seems really simple, using the app that ‘the other Greg’ above mentioned, which has been renamed to Team Viz now.

    1. That’s a pretty interesting way to use Google Calendar! I guess it’s nice because ti syncs across all of your devices, so you can follow it whether or not you’re at home.

      I agree–GTD systems and even some apps end up making the process more complicated then it really needs to be! You spend so much time setting things up then you do actually GTD.

      Have you tried this out yet? Let me know if it’s been helpful for you!

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