The Pomodoro Technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo. It's an
incredibly simple concept:
- Start a 25 minute timer.
- Work for 25 minutes straight with no distractions.
- Stop for a few minutes and do something else.
- Work again for 25 minutes
- Repeat this cycle, and after 4 sessions of work, take a longer break.
That's it. There are tons of articles and books about the subject, most of which are going to overcomplicate everything. Can you imagine reading an entire book about setting a timer?
I've never had trouble focusing on tasks or paying attention to anything in my entire life. However, when the pandemic entered full swing, I found myself unable to get ANYTHING done. I was working from home with an active, loud 10 month old who just started walking. I kept changing the room my office was located in and shuffling the layout around. Even once the office was settled, I was consumed with anxiety about everything that was going on in the world. So, how did adhering to this system help me?
I can't count how many times I've started a task, seen something in the code, and transitioned into doing something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. To avoid this, I started to write down exactly what I'm working on or trying to accomplish before I start a timer:
- "Create model, view, and controller for sign up screen."
- "Write the logic to conditionally render check-out screen text."
I'm not a robot, so I still get lost in the sauce. Now though, I only lose a maximum of 25 minutes when it happens.
About two thirds of my time at my current job is spent writing code. If I actually spend that portion of my day coding, and I get through around 10 cycles, I've had a fairly productive shift. It's not a perfect measure. Some days are spent in meetings, exchanging emails, or working on things that don't make sense to break up into time blocks. Tracking the cycles has at least allowed me to put something quantifiable behind what an average, productive day looks like.
Setting a timer really helps keeps me on task. I might check a text message to make sure it's not urgent. I might even reflexively check twitter. But I remember that I'm in the middle of a cycle and I get back on track. There's almost never a message or tweet that can't wait 25 minutes.
People solve problems with the slow-thinking portion of their brains. If I work for long stretches without pausing however, it becomes easy to slip into fast-brain thinking. That results in me writing code without thinking up front about what the best solution might be. When I break up my work flow, I'm able to think slowly for the entire cycle, and I'm usually able to come up with better
Sometimes I get so hellbent on trying to fix something I become tunnel-visioned in my approach to trying to solve the problem. Whatever path I started down is the path I continue down until the task is done. However, if I break up my workflow and take a minute to breathe, I'll often come up with a much better solution to the problem at hand.
I know a lot of people who like to get into the zone and code for hours as time flies by. After working in restaurants for a decade and having my entire shift whiz past me in the blink of an eye, I really enjoy a slower, more deliberate approach to my work. If you're more like me, give the method a try for a week and see how you like it.
Let me know if you decide to give it a shot @TonyCimaglia.