Good Habits: Pomodoro Technique
Hello everyone. Let me share a productivity tip that I’ve been using for years. It’s called the Pomodoro technique. The one sentence summary is that you work in blocks of 25 minutes at a time, resting for five minutes in between. After every four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break (typically 15-20 minutes).
I’ve been using this technique since I started actually programming professionally. It’s really helped me over the last 5 years. You can read the official site documentation, as well as other blog posts on the topic, but here are my tactics on how I use it as a software developer.
Those are not easy tasks at all. Based on experience, I’m cooked after about 5 hours of difficult programming tasks. I can still code light tasks after, but any more than 1 hour excess of focused work would leave me drained the next day.
I’ve found that maintaining a strict schedule, guided by the Pomodoro technique’s split of focused work and rest, has allowed me to get more done in a shorter amount of time.
This is done by splitting the day into Easy and Hard activities.
- Easy: Morning Routine + Read Self-Improvement book. 2 pomos (Pomodoros).
- Easy: Eat lunch. (For the past few weeks, I’ve been eating outside, but this week, I’ve started cooking again. It’s therapeutic.) 2 pomos.
- Hard: Study/code back-end (Ruby/Elixir) programming. 4 pomos.
- Exercise: Bike. 1-2 hours. I can watch videos while on the bike, so it’s hard physically, but okay mentally.
- Medium-Hard: Writing. 1-2 pomos.
- Medium-Hard: Do a back-end task (programming something I know already, reading servers). 2 pomos.
- Easy. Evening routine, write down how I improved in coding/writing/nutrition/fitness, and plan next day.
I rinse and repeat most days. Sometimes I move the programming blocks around, but I generally try to get 10 pomos of programming each day. It’s my primary objective, after all.
I’ve found that this structure really helps me guide how I get work done.
- Because it’s insanely hard to get all that in a day, I have to be very deliberate with things. Am I a workaholic? Potentially. Is it because I have lofty ambitions? Absolutely. I just want to make sure each days counts.
- Because of the gamified nature of wanting to get perfect days, and because I was a big-time gamer, I’m constantly paranoid of not putting in an empty day. “Hey, have I done this?”
- In the middle of the Pomodoros, I can do mini-exercises. I do squats, pushups, core exercises. I also get time to do chores such as washing dishes and putting my clothes in the laundry.
- While I did Pomodoros before, it’s only in 2018 that I decided to keep track of each Pomodoro by putting them into a computer program.
- Keeping track of things via writing is extremely important. In 2014, when I was in a mad hunt to get a job, I logged every minute of coding practice, which resulted in me getting a job I wanted. In 2015 and 2016, I didn’t diligently update that Excel document, and so I got into some bad habits at work. I was producing, but not really performing at my highest level.
- When I got a project where I was the only back-end developer, I had higher accountability/work ownership. I created a program to help me log my productive hours. This program has been really helpful, and I was able to have a higher work performance again.
- It comes to a point where you’ll feel really bad when you put in a very low number on hours worked.
- I use the Marinara Chrome extension to start and stop the time. I can bind a keyboard shortcut to start or stop it (mine is Cmd-Shift-S).
- Freedom Blocklists are key. When I’m into those programming blocks, I activate the secondary blocklist, so essentially I’m blocked from Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Twitter, Reddit, Youtube, Slack, and Hacker News. I think I have to take Slack out of that blocklist when I get a remote job.
- Actually listing out what you’ll be doing helps you prevent doing semi-productive things. For example, I can probably view the history of Ruby, which can be construed as productive, but it isn’t the most optimal way of moving me towards my goals.
- The evening routine is very important. You have to sort of force yourself to write down what you did that day. While I skipped this frequently at first, this was just me fooling myself because I knew that I didn’t do crap that day. Writing things down really makes you honest.
- Along with writing what happened, planning the next day also helps you offload tomorrow’s mental processing/prioritizing to today. That’s one less thing to worry about.
- If you’re burned out, then set aside blocks of time to play. I play basketball in the garage (honestly it’s just dribbling and practicing some rebounding), take a walk, and watch stand-up comedy (Bill Burr!).
- It can become a time game. When you log time, are you really working? Well, it’s a results thing. In the focus phase, were you able to get something of value done? Sometimes, I spend part of the rest phase writing down what I learned in the focus phase.
- It’s okay to take off-days. You don’t have to hit all the Pomos in a day. Just focus on getting better, one pomo at a time.
Still thinking about this part, but I know that everyone has a routine. It might be a crappy routine (wake up, play video games, go to sleep), but it’s still a routine. I’ve found that pomos really help me put times to things and increase my sense of urgency.