The Pomodoro Technique

Mallory Merrill

Agile Product Development

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Pomodoro = Productivity! Find out how I use this simple time management technique to check-off my goals and meet deadlines. When work demands the best from you, this technique will help you use every minute productively.

As I write this post, a simple, stainless-steel timer is quietly ticking away across the room from me – not too loud, but audible enough for me to know that I’m under a tight deadline and have a number of tasks to complete today before I move on to my next project.

If you've ever struggled with time management or meeting tight deadlines, I would like to introduce you to a simple technique that's changed the way I work...

It’s called The Pomodoro Technique and it has been vital in increasing my productivity.

From my experience as a coder and CEO of a software development company, I have learned that small, fast bursts of work works better than slogging it out all day behind my computer. I now utilize the time management method, invented by developer Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, to get most of my stuff done. I don’t think I could live without it now.

The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, usually around 25 to 30 minutes, broken up by short breaks of around five minutes.

I push myself to finish tasks in these short bursts of work.

The timer constantly reminds me to power through distractions and meet small self set challenges. In a job where time is nearly always of the essence, it helps me move forward steadily, and meet the most important deadlines. You know, the ones you have set with clients...

Why Pomodoro?

If you're wondering why the technique is called "Pomodoro," the system is named after the tomato-shaped timer entrepreneur Cirillo used as a student – much like the one ticking away next to me now.

The Pomodoro philosophy works on the idea that your brain can concentrate better if it is focused on smaller tasks. So if one has a big task, or series of tasks, they should be broken down into the timed slots. Each segment of time is called a Pomodoro.

After each four Pomodoros, the breaks become longer – usually around 15 to 30 minutes. The shorter breaks help you stay motivated and less-distracted and allow me to focus on other things.

And since employing this technique, I’ve found I’ve dramatically increased my productivity.

One thing to bear in mind is you cannot move from the task in hand. So when a co-worker tries to talk to me or calls me for a last-minute meeting while I’m trying to make sense of a new JavaScript framework, I can do one of two things. Either stop the Pomodoro, or attend to the distraction when the timer is up. If I’ve left the task in hand, I return to it re-starting the timer.

It’s a great way of prioritizing. It teaches you what really matters, and what can be put off until later. Think how paired developers often work on key tasks in two week sprints. It’s just simply easier to work in bursts.

So next time you feel your motivation waning or have a tight deadline to meet, give Pomodoro a try. You won’t look back. Click the following link for related information on how to improve your software development process.

If you use this or other time management techniques, tell me how it they work for you!

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