Where'd the Pom Go?
Coming back to and Sticking with the Pomodoro Technique
It's no surprise I'm a fan of the Pomodoro technique. Since I discovered it a few years back, it’s helped my workflow and productivity immensely. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a quick rundown:
- Work undistracted for 25 mins
- At the end of the 25 mins, take a 5 minute break
- Every 4 Pomodoros, take a 20 minute break
I try to use it daily, but every now and again, I fall off the great Pomodoro horse. Something comes up that has me knee deep in code and those 25 mins just fly by. (No time for a break, more code!) Or I'll start off great in the morning and a meeting will botch my flow. I'll end up cranking until EOD non-stop to catch up. Wheels spinning. Drained. Exhausted. Once I get back in the Pomodoro saddle, I wonder why I left? How do I not do this with everything I do? Bound and determined to not break my Pom streak, here's some things I've been doing to stay on track.
Distractions through out the day are inevitable. Our computers, phones, pads, watches are always buzzing, dinging, and singing the sweet song of the Sirens. It's tough staying away, but I've found it easier knowing that I can look, like or respond during my break time that'll be here soon enough.
This tends to stave of the cravings for the most part, but sometimes random thoughts will pop up that I don't want to forget. I've found it useful to have a list or note open that I can dump these thoughts into so I can reference them on my next break or off time. No need to distract me now, or worry that I won't remember later, it's sitting in a list for me to get to later.
Personal distractions aren't the only thing that will knock me off track. Work distractions are just as bad if not worse: Slack, quick video chats, the server is down, the site is on fire, etc. For any emergencies, I'll swap task context but keep the Poms rolling. I've also found the breaks tend to be more important than ever for these distractions. If fires are being put out, those five minutes help me to step back, reassess and confirm the approach is solid.
I can't escape work distractions, but I can sure Pom my way through.
I've found breaks to be the most important part of this whole process. At first they sounded like they would be more distracting than helpful. How would I get anything done stopping that many times a day? But trust me, those breaks are what's needed to fire on all cylinders for a prolonged period of time.
But here's the deal, when it's break time, it's really break time. Don't just start the break timer and work through it or skip it completely. Get up. Walk around. Flip the record. Anything! Get your eyes off the work task. I tend to check my favorite distractions, fill up the coffee cup, or even get outside for a few minutes.
The long breaks have become a treat unto themselves. A full 20 minutes that–if no emails or Slacks need a response–are all mine to do with what I want. This is a good time to get in some internet'n or get through some of the items on my distraction list.
Recently, I've started planning my long breaks for the day to help keep them productive. So I'll read my 20 pages for the day or get some writing in. I just make sure to get what I need to get done, done, so my next 2 hour block will be as distraction free as it can be.
I keep a Daily Work Journal in Evernote with a note for each day. At the end of the day, I map out my plan for tomorrow. I'll list out the tasks I'd like to get done for the day and then estimate the amount of Pom's I think each one will take. Then when I start working, I'll list out what I actually get done for the day and the amount of Pom's each one took. I'll also make some notes for any bugs, unexpected meetings or tasks that are dragging.
This has helped me to become aware of the amount of time tasks can take and improved my future estimates. It also makes it easy to go back and see what I did for a certain period. This is especially helpful during those weeks when it just feels like my wheels are spinning and nothing gets done. The work journal has proven otherwise.
There are no shortage of Pomodoro timers and I've tried my fair share. Here are the two I keep coming back to:
Pomodoro Time Pro
This has been my main workhorse recently. It has apps for just about every device you've got (atleast on the Apple side of things) but I tend to use the Mac version the most. It has the standard feature set—customize Pom time, breaks and long break–but it also has the ability to name the task that you're working on and maintain a todo list. This has been pretty handy and could eventually replace my Work Journal. It tracks Pom counts for the task selected and I'm able to complete the task as well. I can even create reports to see what days & duration a specific task took. I've been very happy with it and continue to use it as my main "work day" timer.
When you just want to run a timer and get to work, it doesn't get more simple and elegant than Pomodrone. Their design is the best of all the Pom apps I've tried. It has the standard feature set as well, and they give you a cute little quote and thumbs up when you complete the daily Pom goal. They have very basic reporting of counts for the day, but that's about it. The personality of this app is why I keep coming back.
Give it a Shot
The Pomodoro Technique has changed my work life forever. When I fall off the wagon, and come back, I wonder how I got anything done without it. It does takes a little effort at first, but once I get in the Pom flow, it becomes thoughtless to keep it up.
So whether you've tried it and quit or haven't tried it all, fire up a timer and give it a shot. Let me know how it goes!
Jan 15 2016