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The Pomodoro technique suggests that internal and external interruptions of a task should be annotated (e.g. with a ' or -).

What is the purpose of doing this? The only reason I can imagine is that it's useful to show the number of interruptions, which will help illustrate the value of trying to reduce them. However, if I'm already an experienced Pomodoro user, and if this is the only (and right) reason to write down interruptions, does this practice still have any use or purpose?

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Well, for the same reasons you might want to track your performance in a certain situation, it might be a good insight to track down the interruptions you're facing while using the Pomodoro technique. Even if you are an experienced user.

For this technique to work well, the less you interrupt the 25min or so minutes, the better you will perform in those bursts. Any interrupts, you might be better doing at the 5min pause, if capable. Or even better in a big pause after 4 or 5 cicles.

The difference, though, of the internal and the external interruption is that the first is related to how you work and if you can focus on that particular activity during the burst, like not checking email, facebook or twitter during it. And that's what you can train to get better of. But the late one, might be more related to the environment you work. If it's too noisy or people call you all the time, than you could need another approach to your task, such as changing rooms, notifying people you are busy or just wearing headphone (in my case, that help a lot because people know that it's an extra effort to reach me).

So, the basic thing is being aware of how much you are being interrupted in the middle of the Pomodoro burst. And that might happen even if you are used to it, because sometimes is just beyond your control. And that could help you to see what could be causing that and ways so you can reduce or avoid that.

Doing some more research, I also found that:

The real objective, taken from Pomodoro Technique official book (pdf):

The first objective to achieve in cutting down on interruptions is to be aware of the number and type of internal interruptions. Observe them, accept them, and schedule them or delete them, as the case may be.


The second objective to achieve in order to cut down on interruptions is to be aware of the number and type of external interruptions. Negotiate them and reschedule them depending on the real degree of urgency.

So, it's clearly for optimizing the quality of the Pomodoro cicles, as said: "(...) you can also include the total number of internal and external interruptions on the Records Sheet to observe them and try to minimize them over time."

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Good info here. This is why it is good to read the original source of things rather than picking up techniques solely from blogs and boards. – eflat Feb 24 '12 at 17:40
@eflat it's also very good the fact that the original source is available in the Internet for free. In many subjects, we have to rely on people writing of their experience or poor docs. – lucasarruda Feb 27 '12 at 16:54

Another useful reason for writing down interruptions is that it makes them less attractive; this is especially useful for internal ones.

Say you are tempted to interrupt what you are doing to check your email. You are likely to be doing so because email is easier than the task you should be doing. But knowing that you need to log the interruption makes it more onerous and less tempting.

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Because when we write — before we write, although indistinguishably so — we are putting some degree of thought into evaluating and ordering the information about interruption and what causes the interruption.

That process, and not the notes themselves, is what helps avoid interruptions.

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One of the things that they talk about in pomodoro is using the interruptions, especially the internal ones, as a trigger to keep up your motivation to complete the current pomodoro. Mark it on your sheet, log a new activity but keep working on your task. The assumption is that no interruption is so critical that it can't wait < 25 minutes for your pomorodo to finish.

The same with external interruptions. Also, for these, when people see you going over and marking something off when they approach you, they will learn that you are tracking your time.

I found both these to be very useful.

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Yes, I know that interruptions are (almost) never that important. The issue is why would I want to note them? I could imagine that showing people the amount of interruptions and the unportance of those interruption has a benifit. However, the use is only limited to starting users. If you have accepted the fact that interruptions are not that important there is no added value for noting the interruptions? – Roel Nov 9 '11 at 10:58
To note something, no matter what it is, gives a stronger weight and connection to the current thought. – hellectronic Nov 15 '11 at 13:45

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