I’ve first heard from the Pomodoro technique a couple of years ago from a friend at work. You can find details on the official website, but in short : it’s a focusing technique where you work in short intervals (25 minutes), separated by 5 minutes breaks. A timer is used to “wake you up” when your interval is finished. The idea is that focused period of work (with no interruption), separated by short break improves mental agility, increases productivity, prevents burnout, will end starvation in the world, solve the middle east conflicts, etc.
You get it, I first found this method ridiculous. I couldn’t help thinking “How could you be a real developer if you need a timer to help you stay focused and can’t work for more than 25 minutes straight ?”. Moreover, if you checked the official website, you probably noticed the heavy marketing behind it : you can buy the book, attend a training, even become a certified Pomodoro master !!!
Looks that the guy behind the Pomodoro technique, Francesco Cirillo, found a way to make himself some money. I still think most of this is rubbish, but I have to admit that the base idea can be very useful.
When can it be useful ? When you are not motivated by a task. When working on something interesting, you usually don’t need anything to keep your focused. But work isn’t always fun, and there’s always this boring task that you’re trying to escape from. Recently, I had to write a bunch of Word reports : detailed analysis, blah blah. I don’t hate that, but that’s boring as hell. And boring means that I have a lot of more interesting stuff to do, like checking my emails, Facebook, then Slashdot, Feedly, news sites, then my email again in case a message just got in, etc.
Starting work thinking “I’m going to spend all my day on this” is demotivating. And that’s when Pomodoro comes into play. Just like Agile does, you break your time and work in small chunks. I can’t imagine spending my day on this f***g report, but I sure can focus on it for the next 25 minutes, and then I’ll do something fun. And suddenly, the day goes faster. Because the most boring thing is not to write this report, it’s to procrastinate thinking I have to write it. Pomodoro helps start the engine, and once the engine is started, eventually, why stop it ?
So, don’t be fooled by all the marketing around the Pomodoro technique. But next time you feel unable to do anything, give it a try, you may be surprised by the results !