Tuesday, December 8, 2009
If you would like to be more productive and you haven't looked into the Pomodoro technique, you need to get a hold of the new Pragmatic Bookshelf book, Pomodoro Technique Illustrated, by Staffan Nöteberg.
I had heard about the Pomodoro technique, and knew it had something to do with a kitchen timer, but that was about the extent of my understanding of this powerful technique. Staffan Nöteberg not only shows us how we can become much more productive with the Pomodoro technique, but he also shows us just how much we can learn from a cucumber and an artichoke. (You'll just have to read the book to understand that one.) Staffan's writing style and illustrations make this book easy and fun to read, but it's the simplicity and the "why didn't I think of that" nature of the technique that really pulls you in.
We may have hours in a day to spend to accomplish a task, but it's nearly impossible (for some of us, entirely impossible) to spend that time focused on that task without distractions and interruptions. The Pomodoro technique takes that into account with the obvious (in hindsight) observation that though we may not be able to focus on one thing for a lengthy period, we probably can for a short one.
Using a timer to discipline ourselves to focus on one thing for a short time (typically 25 minutes, but you can start smaller) is a key component of the technique, but there's more to it than that. It is a whole system of capturing, prioritizing, tracking and accomplishing what we want to get done. All of this is done with the simplest of tools: a timer, a piece of paper, and a pencil.
It's kind of like breaking your work day into a series of 25 minute iterations, complete with a micro-retrospective after each one. Then a break - to clear your mind, check email, Twitter, Groovyblogs, etc. Then back to it again for another iteration.
Just like with a development process, you may get some benefit from using pieces of the technique, like the timer, but you'll get much more if you use the whole thing. This book is a great way to get started. Once you do, you'll want to give it some time to get into the habit. I'm still working on it myself, and I have already seen an improvement.
Pomodoro Technique Illustrated is now shipping. You can get your copy and get started at http://pragprog.com.
There goes the timer. Finished just in time!