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Tony Cimaglia
Tony Cimaglia

Posted on • Originally published at tonycimaglia.com

Why I Use The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique

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?

Why Did I Start Using This Method?

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?

Staying on Track

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.

Measurable Productivity

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.

Focus

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.

Finding Better Solutions

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
ideas.

Solving Problems When I Take Breaks

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.

It's Not For Everyone

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.

Discussion (4)

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rwalroth profile image
rwalroth

Great post! One thing I used to do was find 30 minute long youtube videos of video game soundtracks. Video game music is meant to keep you entertained but not distracted so it works well as coding background music, and there are frequently "extended" versions that loop the same track for 30 minutes. With autoplay disabled, I knew when the music stops it's time for a break!

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tonycimaglia profile image
Tony Cimaglia Author • Edited on

I used to listen to the Skyrim soundtrack all the time. Now I'll use noise cancelation sometimes, listen to music, listen to something like what you're talking about, or not have headphones in at all. It really just depends on the day / setting I'm in.

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samlegge profile image
Sam Legge

Do you use any pomo or time tracking apps?

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tonycimaglia profile image
Tony Cimaglia Author

Originally I was using my phone or a browser tab. The browser tabs kept getting closed. I used my phone, but then I was always seeing my notification when I checked the timer. So I bought a little analog kitchen timer that I can set to 25 minutes and leave on my desk.