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Software Craftsman: How effective is the pomodoro technique?

 
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First of all, amazing book you seemed to have put together. I went through the index and was pleasantly surprised to see all the topics that are something which I've struggled myself. Also the topics appear to cover issues that are likely to cause heated arguments and discussions.

Coming to my question, I didn't expect to see something as personal (and not on a team level) as the Pomodoro Technique over there. I personally am looking for ways to improve my focus in any possible way.

Has the Pomodoro technique proven to be effective generally? Is the technique grounded in Science as such or is it a purely subjective manner in which one can do high quality work with a hit-or-miss result?
 
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I'm not sure there's any scientific 'proof' that the pomodoro technique works, but given my own experience of using it and the extensive anecdotal 'evidence' I've observed from others, I'm sold!

I think it's the small time box that works really well. To say to yourself "I'm going to do nothing but X for 25 minutes" sounds like a very achievable thing to do. If you were to say "I'm going to do nothing but X for the next 2 hours" sounds quite daunting and much less achievable. In fact, many people would view that as just plain impossible and talk about having to check email, or phone, or whatever.

Of course it doesn't guarantee high quality work, I personally can produce rubbish at any time, but it does increase your focus on the one thing that you are doing at that time. Therefore you are more likely to have really thought about the problem you are working on.
 
Ahsan Bagwan
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To say to yourself "I'm going to do nothing but X for 25 minutes" sounds like a very achievable thing to do. If you were to say "I'm going to do nothing but X for the next 2 hours" sounds quite daunting and much less achievable.



Sounds reasonable enough. I'm convinced that cutting down the time limit to as minimum as possible makes a task seem less intimidating and reducing the possibility of getting bogged down.

In fact, many people would view that as just plain impossible and talk about having to check email, or phone, or whatever.



Even I would not shy away in admitting that.
 
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+1 to what Tim said.

There are caveats: as with many techniques that are promoted for agile development, this requires a lot of discipline and practice. It also goes hand in hand with practices like TDD, where your work is naturally broken down into very small increments. If you are the kind of engineer who does big up front design or spends days to weeks banging away at the keyboard in a dark back room before emerging with some working software, then pomodoro will quickly feel like you are micromanaging yourself and you will not want to continue using it. It's just way too much overhead. Pomodoro works; Pomodoro in that context doesn't.

Even in my practice, I have had limited success in using it because of the nature of my role. I am a tech lead and I have to bounce around a lot and it's difficult to timebox myself. Most of the time my calendar already does that with several meetings a day and one or two code reviews and collaborative development sessions. I don't consciously count Pomodoros any more, at least not in recent memory. But when I did, I found it had the same kind of psychological effect as seeing that green bar when doing TDD: you get a sense of accomplishment and that's always a good thing.
 
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@Ahsan Bagwan: Thank you.

Different people find different ways to focus. I have a very short attention span and a lot of context switch in my day-to-day work. Pomodoro is a a technique that works really well for me. It's also very useful when pairing. We can set goals for each Pomodoro and force us to have regular breaks while we can check emails and just chat a bit about other things.

Pomodoro reduced interruptions as well. People would approach our desks, see the timer on the screen and say "Sorry, I'll come back later" or "Can you come to my desk during your break?"
 
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I don't use Pomodoro at work. Meetings interrupt my day quite nicely there . I have used it successfully at home and it definitely makes me more productive.

It also stops me from burning out. At home, I could easily sit and code for X hours without looking away from the screen. Then I'd get a headache and not be able to do anything. The Pomodoro approach lets me sustain a much longer day at home because I'm breaking it up with breaks twice an hour.
 
Ahsan Bagwan
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote: I have used it successfully at home and it definitely makes me more productive.



That's wonderful that Pomodoro can be adapted to other tasks involving daily routine as well.

Sandro Mancuso wrote: People would approach our desks, see the timer on the screen and say "Sorry, I'll come back later" or "Can you come to my desk during your break?"



Nifty way to avoid distraction during pairing I would say.

Junilu Lacar wrote: If you are the kind of engineer who does big up front design or spends days to weeks banging away at the keyboard in a dark back room before emerging with some working software, then pomodoro will quickly feel like you are micromanaging yourself and you will not want to continue using it. It's just way too much overhead. Pomodoro works; Pomodoro in that context doesn't.



Very deep insights into situations that would not lend itself well to the technique.

Thank you everyone for your helpful responses! Thank you Sandro for taking the time to coming to the Ranch and engaging in a meaningful way!
 
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