Friday, June 22, 2012

Pomodoro Technique

I was reading Robert Martin's excellent "Clean Coder" and he mentions a productivity tool called the "Pomodoro Technique". The premise is simple. Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. During a 25 minute period (called a Pomodoro), you concentrate on one and only one task. If you are interrupted, you deal with it once the 25 minutes is up. Sounded simple and I was looking for a way to increase my productivity.

The first day that I tried it, I was enlightened and shocked. First, I was amazed how much progress I could make on a task in 25 minutes. I loved the 5 minute breaks for short walks. But, I was shocked how little productive time I got done in that first day. I only got through four Pomodoros. The rest of my day was meetings and helping my team mates. But, in that time, I got more accomplished than the previous day.

I kept doing my work for the rest week using this simple technique. I discovered that I loved working this way. First, it was an effective way to manage interruptions. Instead of addressing an interruption immediately, I would simply delay until the end of the current Pomodoro. After a few days, everyone got the swing of it and supported me. Another one was taking the break in the middle of a task that spanned multiple Pomodoros. At first, it was hard and wanted to keep on working. But, I decided to stick with the program. What I found was that a lot of times, just the 5 minutes to walk away when I came back, my work would take surprising turns. It forced me to evaluate where I wanted to go at the beginning of the next Pomodoro. By the end of the week, I was getting more work done, tracking better on my estimates, and felt better about the work I was getting done even the number of Pomodoros was low. I was marking more tasks off my to do list than ever before.

The next week I decided to read Pomodoro Technique Illustrated and the free ebook. And I made adjustments to how I was doing it based on what was in those books. When I got in the morning, I looked at my to do list and prioritized what I needed to get done that day. Next, I estimated how many Pomodoros it would take to complete the task. If the task was longer than 4 Pomodoros, I broke it up into smaller tasks. What I found out by doing this is that I could make head ways via 25 minute chunks on multiple projects. I could spend a Pomodoro on a bug as a break if I wanted to to help break up the monotony of a long task. I also noticed that I was getting more Pomodoros done because I wasn't jumping up at every interruption.

Every day I'm tweaking how I work within such a simple constraint of working for 25, break for 5. In conclusion, the Pomodoro Technique will forever be something that I do to track work. I've been amazed how much it has helped me thus far. I love that it's easy to track time on my projects, forces me to take mental breaks and exercise, breaks my flow in a good way, gives a graceful way to handle interruptions, allows me to reassess my work, and is simple. I've even started to using it on my spare time projects, so I can better allocate time to the things that matter to me. I've even playing around with the 30/30 off-shoot as well to handle free time and working on household chores. But, that is another blog post.

2 comments:

Stephen Haberman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Haberman said...

Hi Blaine! Thanks for rekindling my interest in the pomodoro technique.

I'd tried it before but for some reason didn't stick with it.

It seems like such a good idea though, I'm going to try it again and see how it goes.

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