The Pomodoro Technique: Three Years Later

A few years ago I posted about my use of The Pomodoro Technique. I’ve been asked more than once for an update on if I still use it and how. Answers are here.

So the short answer is no; I am generally not using The Pomodoro Technique anymore. I do use it every now and then, but certainly not as much as I did before (probably 80% of my day or more.) At ZipRecruiter I have used it maybe five times in the year I’ve been here. The problem, in my mind, is that the entire idea is predicated on having a todo list. We do have an issue tracker at ZR and I can pull from that and often do, but for better or worse, a lot of what I do at ZR is reactionary.

I think this is because the team I am on (Core Infrastructure) by it’s very nature is on the hook when it comes to many emergency type situations. And while you can pull stuff out of the issue tracker and only work on that, many times the stuff in the issue tracker is just not as important as the thing you just discovered when you got back from lunch.

Another reason that The Pomodoro Technique is hard for me at ZR is that we have an open office plan. At Mitsi I had an office with a door that closed. While I didn’t close the door much of the time, it was easy for me to get into the zone and knock out some tasks. At ZR deep work typically happens early in the morning when no one else has arrived at the office yet. It’s not that people interrupt me, it’s more the general fear that they will. I suspect the way to get over this is to either move to the couches where I’m more secluded, or get better at telling people I’m working. Either way interruptions at least appear to abound.

Something I’ve realized is that, for me, The Pomodoro Technique is a way to compensate for low to medium grade ADD. What that means is that if I can focus “normally,” The Pomodoro Technique is unnecessary. For whatever reason, I can manage my ADD better at ZR so far. I suspect part of that is novelty, and part of that is that I have fallback tasks that are both worth doing and ok if I’m stuck doing while my ADD goes away (documentation, helping people, etc.)

Finally, at Mitsi I tended to have a lot of small tasks that were well suited to me as the lead developer; I could knock something out in one pomodoro that would take another engineer a whole day. It wasn’t because I’m smart; it’s because I’d learned the system and it’s history inside and out. At ZR I’m not even close to that, so estimation is not only often wrong, and things will take way longer than a pomodoro.

Posted Thu, Aug 18, 2016