The Time Masters

pomodoro cow timer

Distractions. Distractions everywhere! Social media. Smartphones. Google Glass coming up. And you just want to get things done.

And the biggest culprit – the office itself. Fancy a coffee? Let’s go for a lunch? Have you seen the rocket dog?

Screw you. Pomodoro in progress.

Short bursts of furious work

Work for 25 minutes. Relax for 5 minutes. Repeat. Simple?

That’s how some of us, including myself, work at Lunar Logic. We set kitchen timers and  work according to the Pomodoro technique‘s rules. ‘Pomodoro’ means tomato in Italian and the name comes from the shape of the first kitchen timer its creator used.

We’re laser-focused and distraction-proof.

A pomodoro a day keeps the doctor away

But why use some fancy technique and not just sit and slam at the keyboard?

My previous boss once said that programmers should work 5 hours a day at most. Strange? Might be. Our industry values quality over quantity – one working feature is always better than three broken ones. And you work way better when you’re rested (#cptobvious).

Pomodoro technique can make that happen. If you think about the actual working time, it’s ‘just’ 12 pomodoros. Compare 5h spent on working features with 3h of short breaks in between TO 8h of chit-chatting, drinking coffee and intermittent coding.

Next will be better!

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try doing more work sessions – I remember noting last Friday that I could do more than 10 pomodoros. By finishing my day with a work session, for example. After all, you shouldn’t worry about having a break after you leave the office, should you?

You’ll also notice how emotionally rewarding working in pomodoro is. You Get Things Done (R). Stop wasting time. Get rid of that soul-eating feeling of guilt when a day passed and you haven’t produced anything palpable. The sun starts shining. People smile at you. Oh, wait…

The Good, the Bad and the Pomodoro

This technique has some possible drawbacks. Firstly, it’s not for everyone. I’m not a programmer and express myself in words, not code. I found it hard to yield and harness my time into little time boxes.

Secondly, there’s a problem with the “bigger” breaks, i.e. the 15-30 min after every fourth pomodoro. It’s not that easy to have a dinner under 30 min, especially if you cook by yourself. One possible solution is to devote every fourth pomodoro – preferably the 8th one, for cooking. The 25 min + 30 min of a break should suffice. After all, making a dinner is a productive activity, isn’t it?

Pomodoro is flexible, yet working for 10 and relaxing for 5 minutes isn’t the best idea. I’ve started with 20/5 and soon moved up to 25/5, because I just felt that I had too much free time! I sometimes have shorter breaks – 3 minutes, when I really feel I’m in the zone. However, skipping the break session doesn’t pay off – you’ll most probably feel tired and less productive during the next pomodoro.

One thing about the kitchen timer: I jumped up in my chair a few times when it rang. Make sure that you and your coworkers don’t… or get a digital timer.

You rule.

With Pomodoro technique, you’re the master of your fate. The tick of the clock means efficiency, not running out of time. You can stretch pomodoro over whole teams, use it to work or study.

So… how many pomodoros have you done today?

P.S. Of course, there is much more to this technique, including information on braving the distractions, to-do lists and whatnot… see for yourself! And check this post about Ping Pong Pomodoro Pair Programming by Adam Pohorecki, who used to work at Lunar Logic and pioneered the technique here :)

  • Excellent article! I especially like the using of a pomodoro to cook.

    • Mirek Wozniak

      Thanks LJ! Yeah, breaking pomodoros in order to eat is something that we struggle with. It’s easy to lose your focus and find out that you might’ve done 2 more pomodoros instead of having that post-dinner coffee.