How to use the Pomodoro Technique while programming

How the Pomodoro Technique can help you while programming?

A hourglass standing on rocks
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Today probably, everyone is familiar with the Pomodoro technique.

Let me quickly summarize it for those of you who were lucky and somehow avoided indoctrination by time-management gurus and "gurus."When you follow the Pomodoro technique rules, you divide the work into 25-minute-long sessions. After every session, you have a 5-minute-long break. Every four sessions, you deserve a longer break - usually, 15 minutes instead of five.

Why does it work? It works before working in short sessions, and taking breaks often helps you focus on the task at hand. If you try working for four hours without any breaks, it would be difficult to stay attentive and motivated. The same four hours divided into Pomodoro sessions get easier to bear.

On the other hand, the people who get easily distracted may use the Pomodoro technique to stay focused. After all, every distraction is no longer than 25 minutes away. Do you want to check Facebook or make a phone call? Wait until the break.

Pomodoro technique for programmers

Why should you use Pomodoro while programming? It protects your focus time. For the 25 minutes, you focus on the work. You will answer the Slack messages and emails during the break. However, I think this is not the ideal setup.

I suggest spending 20 minutes of the Pomodoro coding, writing documentation, or whatever you must do uninterrupted. The last 5 minutes of a Pomodoro you can spend answering the messages. In this approach, chat apps don't steal your break. Also, people who need your help will never need to wait longer than 20 minutes for an answer.

Why should you protect the breaks?

The breaks are essential for programmers because we sit all day. Don't sit during the break. Stand up. Walk. Jump. Refill your glass of water. Do whatever you want but keep moving during the break.

What if you need to answer the messages fast?

Perhaps, people can't wait 20 minutes for your response. Maybe, you spend most of your day helping other teams. However, protecting the coding time makes no sense when you are responsible for communication between developers and getting people "unstuck." You are not coding anymore (at least, not full-time). You are here to help others code better. You can still use the Pomodoro technique to remember about breaks.

What about "The Flow?"

The Flow is overrated. You don't think about the big picture when you are in the Flow. You feel productive, you finish a lot of work while being in the Flow, but perhaps not all of the work needed to be done in the first place. Maybe, you have ignored some aspects of the architecture that will make it harder to maintain the project in the long run. The Flow doesn't help you think long-term.

Using the Pomodoro Technique helps you to avoid being in the Flow. You may miss the Flow. Nevertheless, being focused without getting detached from reality is better for you and the project.

What to do when others don't respect my focus time?

Tell them about the Pomodoro Technique and explain what you are doing. Seriously. We, programmers, do tons of stuff that seems weird to people outside IT, yet we accept those practices among ourselves. Yes, we do. Try explaining sprints, daily standups, and sprint retrospectives to someone who doesn't work with programmers. People will accept the Pomodoro Technique and respect your focus time when you are open and don't try to hide it.

The only time it may not work is when you are the on-call person or responsible for keeping production running. Most likely, a bug affecting the clients cannot wait until you finish your current Pomodoro. A programmer working in a dev team can easily use the Pomodoro Technique. Realistically, is there anything stopping you? Besides egos of people who think that their question cannot wait for a response longer than 10 seconds.

What do you think?