As part of my research into Work Life Balance I have been reading John Sonmez’s book Soft Skills, which is an excellent book overall. John is a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique for maximizing productivity and does 50-55 pomodori per week.
While I can see that there are several advantages to using the technique, and many many people feel that it has worked well for them, there are several reasons why I am reluctant to adopt it:
1. I don’t believe 25 minute intervals are best for maximizing creativity. I don’t think creativity is something that you can force and you may just be starting to get into your flow when the 25 minutes is up.
2. I can usually focus quite well on a task for up to 2 hours. After a couple of hours I need a break. Breaking after only 25 minutes seems premature.
3. If I need a pee, I’d rather just go to the toilet now. Waiting for a kitchen timer for permission isn’t something I think adults should subject themselves to.
4. Interruptions happen for a reason. If I am 5 minutes into a pomodoro and another developer needs my help then there are often going to flounder for the next 20 minutes until I become available. I may have been more productive during my pomodoro, but this is outweighed by the lack of productivity of the other team member. As a scrum developer, my responsibility is not to maximize my productivity, it is to maximize the team’s productivity. I think this is the most important point of all. If a developer says “look at how much more productive I have been”, the answer may be “are you aware of the effect that your selfishness has had on other less experienced team members?”
5. Categorizing work into a simplistic binary system of productive and unproductive is dangerous – the work labelled as unproductive never gets done at all but some of that work is actually important. I know this isn’t what the Pomodoro technique advocates or is about, but I would not be surprised if people fell into this habit.
6. Overall, it appears to me to be a technique for micro-managing your time. While it is true that many, perhaps most people have problems with time management and this technique could certainly help with that, my view is all process is like a crutch: very useful if you need it, but an impediment if you don’t.
Now I am not experienced in the Pomodoro Technique so I could be wrong about these things. If you have had success using the pomodoro technique, I’d be very interested in hearing from you! Also, if you have tried it and found out that it didn’t work for you, I’d also like to hear from you.
Another interesting thing to note is 50 pomodori equates to less than 21 hours of work per week, but John is a workaholic and describes 50 pomodori per week as very hard work. The difference must be the additional effort that is required in order to perform focused work as opposed to regular unfocused work. I wonder what 50 pomodori translates to in terms of regular hours per week?
Update Jan 2017: I just read this article by John Sonmez which completely explains why the Pomodoro technique works so well for him. If this describes you too, then disregard everything I’ve written above and go for it.