More on Pomodoros

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Peter Bell

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Apr 20, 2009, 2:54:56 PM4/20/09
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So, is anyone else playing with the Pomodoro technique? A couple of
questions . . .

What length do you use? I vary between 25 and 45 minutes depending on
the task and my mood. Do you think there are any benefits to
consistently sticking with a single length? What length works for you?

Also, what do you do when you finish a task early? Lets say I have a
25 minute pom for knocking out a blog post and I'm all the way done in
12 or 15 minutes? I'm tempted to just count it as a complete POM and
to take a little extra break to celebrate being efficient. What does
anyone else do?

Best Wishes,
Peter

Bob Silverberg

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Apr 20, 2009, 5:06:31 PM4/20/09
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I found the idea interesting, and have played around with it a bit.  I tend to be very focused when I'm working on a task, so I don't know that it helps me to concentrate.  I don't really check email or blogs or anything when I'm working on a task, and I gave up on Twitter several months ago when I found i couldn't handle the volume of tweets ;-)

I think that the idea of taking breaks could help, but I found that 25 minutes was nowhere near long enough for me.  Perhaps I'm bad at creating small tasks, or I'm not very productive, but I find that I often spend over an hour on one particular task, and don't really like being interrupted in the middle.

I think I'll give it another shot, because it does sound interesting.  What value have others found in it?

Cheers,
Bob
--
Bob Silverberg
www.silverwareconsulting.com

Peter Bell

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Apr 20, 2009, 5:51:04 PM4/20/09
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For me main benefit is when I *can't* get focused on the next task. I set timer to 25 and kick it off rather than procrastinating. I agree that when I'm on a roll I find 25 minutes too short . . .

Sean Corfield

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Apr 21, 2009, 2:22:19 AM4/21/09
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On Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 11:54 AM, Peter Bell <pe...@pbell.com> wrote:
> So, is anyone else playing with the Pomodoro technique?

Yup.

> What length do you use? I vary between 25 and 45 minutes depending on
> the task and my mood. Do you think there are any benefits to
> consistently sticking with a single length? What length works for you?

25 minutes is perfect for me. 25 + 25 is 50 which is pretty much a
microcentury (52 and a half minutes) which is a core focus of
attention.

By following the 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off, 25 minutes on, 5
minutes off, I'm finding that I can dink around with email and twitter
during my break without feeling guilty which is a huge bonus.

> Also, what do you do when you finish a task early?

It depends. If you have continuing work on a project, just continue
with that, otherwise, yes, treat it as a complete POM and take a break
for 5 mins and then get back on the next piece of work. Sometimes the
25 mins need to be dedicated to planning of course...
--
Sean A Corfield -- (904) 302-SEAN
CTO, Railo US -- http://getrailo.com/
An Architect's View -- http://corfield.org/

"If you're not annoying somebody, you're not really alive."
-- Margaret Atwood

Sean Corfield

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Apr 21, 2009, 2:23:37 AM4/21/09
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On Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 2:51 PM, Peter Bell <pe...@pbell.com> wrote:
> I agree that when I'm on a roll I find 25 minutes too short . . .

I'm finding it beneficial to take the breaks anyway.

Peter Bell

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Apr 21, 2009, 10:13:03 AM4/21/09
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Great feedback - thanks. I'll try today with a stricter pomodoro and
I'll see what my experience is!

Best Wishes,
Peter

nodoherty

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Apr 21, 2009, 5:05:13 PM4/21/09
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I know this is not directly related to the Pomodoro Technique but I
thought this might also be a helpful resource in terms of
productivity.

http://putthingsoff.com/

Regards,
Niall.

Peter Bell

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Apr 24, 2009, 3:03:31 PM4/24/09
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Thanks!

nachocab

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Apr 25, 2009, 12:55:40 PM4/25/09
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Hi everyone,
I've been using the Pomodoro Technique for about a month, effectively
working twelve 30-minute intervals every day, for a total of six hours
of hard-core, uninterrupted work. I seriously doubt I could have ever
managed to do this without dividing my workday into pomodoros.

My current concern has to do with breaks. Sometimes I find it
extremely difficult to break for anything less than 10 minutes; other
times I view the ringing of the pomodoro as an unwelcome interruption,
breaking my concentration in the middle of the flow, so I usually
prolong it for 5 to 10 minutes.

I found this system gives me the best results, although I can't help
but feeling kind of guilty for deviating from the dogmas of the
Pomodoro Technique.

Any thoughts?

Nacho

Bob Silverberg

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Apr 27, 2009, 9:29:32 AM4/27/09
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How do you plan out your pomodoros?  Do you set a plan at the beginning of the day?  Like, 3 poms for task A, then a pom for task B, then 2 poms for task C, then lunch, then 2 poms for task A (again), etc?  Or do you have a set of tasks that you plan on working on today, and then when starting a new pom pick one of those?  Or do you have a large list of tasks, not all of which you'll get to today, and then choose one from that list before starting a new pom?  Or, to be really organized do you need to devote a pom to planning at the beginning of each day?

I've been trying to use poms this for the past few days and it does seem to be helping, so I'm wondering how organized people are being about it.

Cheers,
Bob
--
Bob Silverberg
www.silverwareconsulting.com

Peter Bell

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Apr 27, 2009, 10:24:29 AM4/27/09
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Hi Bob,

I go with the "simplest thing that'll possibly work". If I'm concerned about my ability to make all my deliverables on a given day, I estimate each task in poms and lay them out with breaks for the day to get a ballpark sense of whether it's gonna be an easy day, a full day, or whether it's time to call a client to renegotiate. 

However the majority of the time, I'll just roughly order the next few tasks on my backlog and for each pom I'll just pull the next task, working on it until I'm done.

I do want to say that the rhythm of making the poms exactly 25 minutes (I'll give myself 2-3 minutes on the end of I'm that close to finishing) actually creates a nice flow, and I find that as I'm usually not picking up anything intellectually challenging in the breaks, I don't find the cost of reloading project state into my mind to be that high at all.

Best Wishes,
Peter

Peter Bell

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Apr 27, 2009, 10:40:46 AM4/27/09
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Whatever works. They're ideas, not "the one true way handed down".
From my experience I'd suggest giving the exact 25 minute rhythm a
shot for maybe a day to see if it is easier to pick up after the break
than you expected. Then once you have the experience you can decide
what works best for you.

I immediately tried to modify the technique with varying length
pomodoros and a bunch of other enhancements. After Seans post the
other week I tried to go for a fairly strict implementation and with a
couple of minor adjustments I've actually found that to work better
for me than my modified version.

Of course I'm sure there's an element of Hawthorne here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect
) - just the fact that we're experimenting and trying these new things
is likely to increase concentration and motivation for a while -
irrespective of the techniques used. But that still allows me to do
more work productively, so I don't have a problem with that!

Best Wishes,
Peter

Bob Silverberg

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Apr 27, 2009, 10:58:36 AM4/27/09
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On Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 10:24 AM, Peter Bell <pe...@pbell.com> wrote:

I do want to say that the rhythm of making the poms exactly 25 minutes (I'll give myself 2-3 minutes on the end of I'm that close to finishing) actually creates a nice flow, and I find that as I'm usually not picking up anything intellectually challenging in the breaks, I don't find the cost of reloading project state into my mind to be that high at all.

I agree.  I found that being more strict about the length of the poms did help, and it was nowhere near as difficult to get restarted after a break as I thought it would be.  I've even been breaking my rehearsals for my 50 minutes presos into 2 poms and it isn't disruptive at all.

Cheers,
Bob
 
--
Bob Silverberg
www.silverwareconsulting.com

Sean Corfield

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Apr 30, 2009, 2:08:56 AM4/30/09
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On Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 6:29 AM, Bob Silverberg
<bob.sil...@gmail.com> wrote:
> How do you plan out your pomodoros?  Do you set a plan at the beginning of
> the day?

I don't plan at that granularity. I tend to block the day into Project
A in the morning, Project B in the afternoon and then just use the
poms to focus on getting tasks done on each project. A lot of the
time, I give over my mornings to reading / writing email / blog posts
/ "stuff" that has no specific project focus (my mornings are usually
only about two hours - 10am to noon) then have lunch then settle in
for five hours of work which happens to work out at 10 poms and be
fairly strict about that, working on each project for up to 10 divided
by # projects :)

I don't find daily planning to be valuable but I use Things for GTD
and my "plan" for the day is whatever it tells me is on "Today"s list
because I put *everything* into Things, with due dates and a lead
time. Sometimes that means I have some rather hectic days but mostly
it works very well.

Peter Bell

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Apr 30, 2009, 9:56:53 AM4/30/09
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So, the next thing I'm playing with in my (so far successful)
dalliance with pomodoros is what to pom.

If I have a 2 hour phone conference with a client is that four poms? I
don't think that is matches the core intent of pomodoros in terms of
25 minutes of focus and a 5 minute break, but because I'm also
overloading poms as a time tracking and management technique I find
this useful. It also reminds me that if I've been on the phone for two
hours I should take a longer break as it's a four pom stretch, so it
helps me to do a better job of managing my day.

As for general tasks, I'm also trying to start to do poms for checking
email and the general stuff that comes up during the day to get to the
point where about 70-80% of my day is pom'd. This gives me really good
visibility on how much of my time I'm investing in responding to
emails, writing or reading blogs, etc. It also brings the discipline
of the time box, so if I run out of time I'll just skim the mailing
list emails, and finally it makes sure I don't just sit down and do
three hours of emailing without a break. I'm finding this quite useful
but would be interested in anyone elses thoughts or experiences.

Best Wishes,
Peter

Immo Hüneke

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Apr 30, 2009, 10:29:38 AM4/30/09
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On 30/4/09 14:56, "Peter Bell" <pe...@pbell.com> wrote:

> If I have a 2 hour phone conference with a client is that four poms? I
> don't think that is matches the core intent of pomodoros in terms of
> 25 minutes of focus and a 5 minute break, but because I'm also
> overloading poms as a time tracking and management technique I find
> this useful. It also reminds me that if I've been on the phone for two
> hours I should take a longer break as it's a four pom stretch, so it
> helps me to do a better job of managing my day.

In my view, any phone conference that takes more than half an hour is
largely a waste of time anyway! Get your clients using the POM technique as
well, then you can both have more productive days by keeping the phone
conferences short. Just my 2c worth...

Best regards
Immo


Peter Bell

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Apr 30, 2009, 10:55:22 AM4/30/09
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Hello Immo - thanks for the input!

Here is what we were doing. We were going through a list of stories
over skype to break down the identified epics into smaller (sub 5
days) stories so we could get a sense of scope for the project. The
process took two, three hour phone conferences over two days. We took
a 10-15 minute break in the middle of both to clear our heads, and
while we probably weren't perfectly productive by the end of each 90
minute marathon, I still felt like we were getting good input. We were
time boxing each epic discussion to no more than 5 minutes and managed
to get through over 80 potential epics (identified as > 5 days effort
by at least one of the team members during initial estimation) in the
six hours.

How would people suggest handling this? From a messing around
perspectives, scheduling 12 phone conferences over two days with
people in three locations and two time zones seems like it would have
been less productive. Perhaps I should have suggested that every 25
minutes we take 5 off, but keep the connection open?

Any other thoughts/ideas for those kinds of calls (or for not having
them and still getting the work done)? I did two days onsite with the
client to get them used to coming up with and estimating stories, but
the client is spread between LA and DC and I'm in New York and
extended onsites are not practical for this project. Tthere was much
more scope than anticipated so we weren't able to estimate everything
in the two days onsite.

Any thoughts/ideas much appreciated!

Best Wishes,
Peter

Eoin Woods

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Apr 30, 2009, 4:27:29 PM4/30/09
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It's nice if you can limit your calls to 30 minutes, but if you need
to get the work done, you'll need longer calls.

I don't think pomodoros really help though, do they? Aren't
pomodoros really just a technique for dealing with otherwise
unstructured blocks of solo time?

In your case (Peter) you've got a large group meeting, albeit one
complicated by lack of face to face contact. But it's still a group
meeting so it needs goals, an agenda with timetable, a strong
chairperson, someone to take notes and (for one this long) a short
break every 30 minutes or so.

I take part in a lot of 1 and 2 hour conference calls by nature of my
work (about 75% of the people I deal with are in San Francisco, most
of the rest in London, a few in Australasia). I don't know of a
better way of remote working than calls like this. Provided that
people are experienced in working this way, they work fine. The big
problems tend to be:

(a) a lot of people in one location with a few dialling in and the
people at the main location not knowing how to involve them;
(b) doing this with a lot of people who don't know each other yet and
so they don't know how to interact;
(c) scheduling the call at a bad time for some of the participants so
they're half asleep;
(d) not having shared materials in front of people (either paper or on
screen).

If you can avoid these things and stick to the normal group meeting
disciplines, you can make calls like this work. Although no one is
going to pretend that they're great fun! :-)

Eoin.

Peter Bell

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Apr 30, 2009, 4:42:09 PM4/30/09
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Hi Eoin,

The pomodoros don't particularly help with the call time (other than
maybe the idea of short breaks ever half hour to improve attention).
However, because I'm using them to structure all of the *rest* of my
time and to drive my billing (if I'm using poms to focus myself, why
not also use them as my time tracking system and input to my billing/
estimating system) it makes sense for me to call a 3 hr call 6 poms as
it then means I can bill, estimate and plan my ideal hourly rates and
profitability of fixed bid projects all based on a uniform measure of
time - the 25 minute pom.

Not suggesting that's what they were intended for. But for anyone like
me doing lots of 1 hr and 5 hr and 8 hr projects on a combination of a
fixed bid and hourly basis with varying rates for varying clients I
can see how a fairly simple capture tool would allow me to get a *lot*
of insight into what projects are most profitable - with really very
little overhead on my part.

Agreed re: the big problems. I find:

> (a) a lot of people in one location with a few dialling in and the
> people at the main location not knowing how to involve them;

Where possible I actually ask the people dialing in together to go to
their desks and skype in separately. I *know* it lowers the bandwidth,
but by making the bandwidth consistent it seems to do a better job of
keeping everyone equally engaged. Not convinced this is *right*, but
it seems to be working for me so far.

> (b) doing this with a lot of people who don't know each other yet and
> so they don't know how to interact;

Yep. That's why I *always* kick off with an on-site. I think trying to
work remotely with people you've not met - all together - as a team is
incredibly difficult to do.

> (c) scheduling the call at a bad time for some of the participants so
> they're half asleep;

Luckily I'm dealing with a 3 hr time difference - not 8 hours like
you! (Well, except when I;m traveling in Europe or the UK).

> (d) not having shared materials in front of people (either paper or on
> screen).


I find Google docs works pretty well for free form "shared materials"
and also serve as searchable meeting notes after the fact. Typically
I'll lead the not taking, ut everyone can edit if they want to.

Eoin Woods

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Apr 30, 2009, 5:09:06 PM4/30/09
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Yes, I can see if you need a "billing rhythm" then the pomodoros are
very useful as a neat unit of work.

We also sometimes force an entire meeting to dial or video in. It's
sometimes a difficult sell if there are a lot of people on one site,
but it definitely improves the meeting!

We're not allowed to use Google Docs type systems with internal
information, but desktop sharing works pretty well as a (read only)
substitute. Apparently we're soon getting a new Sharepoint system
which allows distributed collaboration so hopefully that will be an
improvement too.

E.

Sean Corfield

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May 2, 2009, 11:44:50 PM5/2/09
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On Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 2:09 PM, Eoin Woods <eoin...@gmail.com> wrote:
> We also sometimes force an entire meeting to dial or video in.  It's
> sometimes a difficult sell if there are a lot of people on one site,
> but it definitely improves the meeting!

I'm glad to hear other people taking this position. I agree that it's
really hard to be the dialed in folks when a large group are f2f so if
you can maintain the discipline for everyone to dial in and have the
same experience, that really helps.

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