This is the first post in a series about applying the Pomodoro Technique® to Scrum and for development.
Each post covers one of the Pomodoro Technique® objectives. The first objective is to find out how much effort an activity requires.
I started using the Pomodoro Technique® a couple of weeks ago. At first simply trying to work focused for 25 minutes with 5 minute breaks. I didn’t do this all the time, though, as I didn’t feel my working environment allowed it.
Today, I primarily use the Pomodoros when developing. When I get a chance, I will definitely apply it to other tasks as well, such as writing and studying.
Find out how much effort an activity requires
Cut down on interruptions
Estimate the effort for activities
Make the Pomodoro more effective
Set up a timetable
Other possible objectives
I write down the tasks I have committed to at the daily standup on my Pomodoro To Do Sheet. This helps me focus on these tasks and contribute more to the Sprint progress.
The greatest advantage of the Pomodoro Technique® in the context of Scrum is that it gives you natural slack for refactoring and improving design. This is supposed to be done throughout sprints, but is in reality often overlooked.
When you finish a task before a Pomodoro has ended, the technique dictates that you overlearn. For development Pomodoros I suggest refactoring is equally – if not more – beneficial.
Using the technique makes it easier to focus on one task at a time – instead of working on several things simultaneously. One difficulty was how to deal with code related side tracks, for example browsing for documentation or learning how an API works in more detail. Now I use common sense: either marking the task as an unplanned activity, or following up on it if I feel it is important in order to finish the current task in a satisfactory manner.
Another advantage of the increased focus on the task at hand is that it becomes easier to commit code as coherent entities. Checkouts are not cluttered with files from different contexts. This is admittedly something you should take care to accomplish anyway, but if you’re anything like me and slip from time to time, the Pomodoro Technique® helps.
The Five Minute Break
I initially found it difficult to stop working immediately as the buzzer rang. I still don’t stop typing immediately. At the very least I finish the word or statement I’m writing. I don’t want to leave the file in a non-compilable state.
Some of things I do in the five minute break:
- Get a cup of coffee
- Walk around
- Get some air
- Talk to a colleague (who’s not in the middle of a Pomodoro :-))
It’s amazing how much you can do in five minutes. I have no problems going to the men’s room and getting a cup of coffee.
So far, I don’t record the Pomodoros at the end of the day. Instead, I review the To Do Sheet before the daily standup meeting.
Looking back at the Pomodoros finished from the day before gives you a good overview of what you have done, and how much time you spent doing it – very much in line with the first objective of the Pomodoro Technique®. You also get hints about any problems you’ve had and unplanned tasks that have popped up (and can be addressed as a problem, or should be added to the Scrum board as unplanned items).
When developing, as Pomodoros are indivisible, you automatically get small buffers for refactoring and improving design.
Using Pomodoros help in giving accurate feedback at the daily standup. The technique also helps to focus on technical tasks committed to at the daily standup.
In the next post I will write about the second objective: cut down on interruptions.