Elaheh Nazari

Posted on 25th October 2022

Is Pomodoro Technique Actionable for Software Developers?

news-paper Inside Flexiana | Management | News |

After I published an article about GTD, Dan Pomohaci, one of our awesome Clojure developers, introduced some more time management techniques that I believe he is happy using. This time I want to talk about Pomodoro Technique which as I researched is mostly used by students. But if a senior software developer says that it works, how could I dare to contradict it? xD

What is Pomodoro Technique?

Francesco Cirillo needed a time management method, so he decided a tomato oven timer can help him! He started breaking large tasks into small time-based tasks so he could manage them much more efficiently.

Here are the steps:

  1. Choose what task you want to do
  2. Set a 25-minute timer
  3. Work on the task
  4. After 25 minutes take a 5-minute break (let’s call steps 2 to 4, 1 Pomodoro)
  5. Have 4 pomodoros and then take a 25-minute break
  6. Get back to work

If something other than the chosen task takes your focus, write it down to sort it out later, not at the moment. 

If the task is completed in less than a Pomodoro interval, the remaining time should be used fruitfully, like:

  1. Review your work
  2. Review what have you learned, what learning outcome did you accomplish, etc.
  3. Review the list of upcoming tasks for the next Pomodoro intervals, and update them.

And well there might be more rules related to it, but let’s just think about the basics there for now.

Who Mostly Use It?

If you google Pomodoro Technique, you will see lots of people who say “how to use it for a better study?” so yes, it is mostly used probably by students, but they are not the only ones. Some say it can do good for people with ADHD, as it asks them to focus shorter times on a certain time. And of course, as Dan is using it, software developers! 

Is Pomodoro Technique a Good Method for Software Developers?

Let’s be honest. The Pomodoro technique can help you with things like measuring the amount of work done, learning to stay focused on one single task, planning, and having some breaks. It also gives your control over your responsibilities.

But at the same time, Pomodoro can be stressful! You should stop the timer every time someone or something distracts you! You should learn to not be too much in the control. And Pomodoro is not a good measure of productivity and efficiency, and it ignores multitasking.

Pomodoro is ideal for those types of work which require short focus, and do not require collaboration or flow”

Now let’s see, developers have to stay in “the zone” to be able to be focused, and maybe it takes more than 25 minutes to even get into the zone. And at the same time, they cannot only write codes! They have to consider lots of things at the same time.

Everyone knows that developers mostly sit behind their systems for more than 4 or 5 hours in one go. Now can a developer ever get into the zone, and multitask while using Pomodoro? Can having breaks make you efficient?

Of course, not every technique is for everyone, but even for the developers who use it, it was a hard thing to do in the beginning.

First of all, you should not only consider coding the task. You have meetings to attend, you should help your colleagues, there are times that you have to check your codes with others, and there are times that you even have to search for a solution for a certain problem. These are also parts of your work and lots of other matters. Please consider everything and also talk to your colleagues about your technique, so that when you are on your breaks they would not expect an answer from you. But you can stop your timer for your meetings if they take more than 25 minutes.

Then regarding your break time. Please don’t just use it to check your Facebook. Get off your chair, go for a short walk around your place, do a bit of exercise, and talk to your roommate. For heaven’s sake do anything other than sit still in your chair. You will have a poor body and mental condition as you grow older.

Working only for 25 minutes might sound crazy, but you can challenge yourself to do the most you can during that short interval. Now imagine what you might be able to do in 16 25 minutes! 

If you want to start, you can start on setting short intervals, like starting your working day with only one Pomodoro which would be about planning your day, week, and month. And maybe you could even mix it with the Getting Things Done technique and from your list do the things that can be done in less than 2 minutes, to a batch to be done in one Pomodoro! You can write down your to-do list and consider how many pomodoros each task will require, and challenge yourself to get at least some of them done. Please consider if a task would take more than 5 pomodoros you should break it into smaller tasks to be manageable. Don’t go over 16 pomodoros a day.

Also, you can customize your pomodoros to work on 1 Pomodoro at a time or buffer 2 to 4 pomodoros in one take. The buffer is for tasks that will need more time than you anticipated, this way you won’t stress out. 

Another thing is the customization of the length of one Pomodoro. You can make one Pomodoro with 90 minutes and like a 30-minute break, or if you are for example tired, make the intervals 15 minutes. Consider your level of energy, type of work, and the number of tasks to be completed, to anticipate the length of your intervals.

Last Word

A lot can be said about the Pomodoro technique to make it a good method for developers. But it won’t be true if you don’t try it you won’t know. Even if you don’t want to try it or if you are not happy with Pomodoro, it’s ok just keep in mind that having sustained attention and focus for too long can lead to mental fatigue which results in impaired cognitive function and an increase in errors. So try to at least take breaks from time to time!