Practical Ways to Use the Pomodoro Technique as a Developer

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As we continue to work through ways to hack the developer’s mind, the focus of this guide is going to be on increasing productivity. Specifically we’re going to analyze practical ways to use the pomodoro technique.

I’m constantly researching new ways to improve my personal productivity. And through my journey as a developer a popular approach that I’ve discovered is the pomodoro technique. This is a process that I’ve utilized and I credit it with allowing me to focus on a large number of tasks each day.

Pomodoro Technique Definition

Don’t let the weird name scare you away. The pomodoro technique is a dead simple productivity system that focuses on splitting tasks into timed intervals throughout the day.

Practical Ways to Use the Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro Technique Process

practical ways to use the pomodoro technique

One of the greatest strengths of the pomodoro technique is how easy it is to implement. The process that I follow is:

  1. Each morning I pick out the tasks that I want to accomplish that day.
  2. I then decide how long each task will take. The pomodoro technique works on point system. Each time you work through a 25 minute task you earn a point.
  3. Typically I try to earn 10 pomodoro points each day. This means that if I have 3 tasks that I know will take an hour each, I will earn 6 points for those tasks. And it means that I have 4 additional 25 minute slots available for the rest of the day.

Taking a Break

Did you notice how I kept saying 25 minute time slots? There is a reason for the odd number. The pomodoro technique places a high priority on taking scheduled breaks. After completing each 25 minute task, you take a 5 minute break. During this free time you can do anything you want. You can get on social media, you can take a walk around the block, or anything that you want to do. Just make sure that your break does not exceed 5 minutes.

Also, after you’ve completed 4 tasks it’s recommended that you take a 15 minute break. However you can tailor your breaks and intervals to what works best with your schedule.

By planning breaks throughout the day you will decrease your chances of burn out. And I’ve noticed that I no longer feel bad about doing things such as checking my Instagram account or Hacker News throughout the day, because I can fit my guilty pleasures into my scheduled free time.

This is one of the aspects that I truly love about the pomodoro technique. Many of the other productivity systems I’ve tried in the past tend to lead individuals towards burning out. However the pomodoro approach allows you to have a sense of balance.

Lifestyle vs Fads

Have you ever tried dieting before? When I was younger I struggled with my weight and to help fix it I tried a number of intense diets. This included nutrition strategies such as dramatically decreasing calories, or killing off carbs. However I noticed that I’d stay true to the diet for a few weeks or even a few months. However eventually I would fall back into poor eating habits. Once I recognized this trend I moved to having a balanced approach to eating. I stopped trying nutritional fads and I transitioned my focus into eating in a way I felt I could eat the rest of my life.

I made this change in my nutritional approach a few years ago and it’s completely stopped my roller coaster dieting and weight loss and weight gain.

A Lifestyle of Productivity

In the same way when I was younger I fell into the same pattern with working on tasks. I’d get excited about working on a project or learning a new programming language. And I would spend countless hours working on what I wanted to accomplish. However this approach inevitably led to burning out and large stretches of time where I didn’t want to work at all.

I look at the pomodoro technique in the same way that I look at having a balanced diet. By limiting the number of tasks that I work on each day and by implementing planned breaks between each task, I no longer burn myself out. Additionally, after I have finished my work for the day and have earned my 10 pomodoro points, I feel a sense of accomplishment that I never felt before. And after work I don’t feel guilty spending time with my family and friends, because I know that I completed every task that I set out to work on that day.

Practical Implementation

So how can you implement the program? There are a few ways.

To start off you can simply use the timer on your phone and then count up each of the tasks/points that you achieved each day. That’s how I started off working with the pomodo technique.

Additionally there are a number of smartphone apps that have pomodoro timers and even allow for creating a task list that you can use as a pick list for your tasks each day. I like these types of apps because they also give you historical analytics so you can see how many tasks you’ve completed each day. The pomodoro focus app is my personal favorite (and it’s free).

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