Getting Pomodoros Done #1

I’ve been experimenting with The Pomodoro Technique in combination with Getting Things Done (GTD) to maximize productivity at work.  I’m finding some very interesting results after about 6 weeks.

First, working in 30 minute sprints (the hub of The Pomodoro Technique) does not seem to seriously affect the flow state a developer needs to do good work.  If I’m deep into work, when the alarm goes off, I just reset it and continue, instead of taking a 5 minute break.  This was one of my concerns about working in Pomodoros, that I’d be interrupting myself constantly.  At least for me, it doesn’t have a negative effect.  On the contrary, I’m not distracting myself with side issues, knowing there’s a potential 5 minute break no more than 25 minutes away, when I can deal with emptying the recycling, getting more coffee, or whatever.

Next, as the Pomodoro book suggests, it begins to be natural to break work up into 30 minute hunks.  I take the first part of every day to organize my Pomodoro list.  It gets fed from my GTD Next Actions lists, but often has a granularity somewhere between Next Action and Project. I haven’t yet figured out how to articulate what rules I’m using to build the Pomodoro list, but it is working for me.

On the not-so-bright side, I’ve discovered that even breaking tasks down into chunks that are theoretically 4 hours (8 pomodoros or half hour sprints) in size, I’m underestimating work consistently by about 20%-25%.  (I’m using a spreadsheet based on Joel Spolsky’s Evidence Based Scheduling practices to track estimated vs. actual time.)  I suppose its a positive that I’m consistent, with only a few outliers each week.

I’ll be doing more posts on this blended “Getting Pomodoros Done” technique as I continue to work with it.