This is the second post in a series about applying the Pomodoro Technique® to Scrum and for development.
Each post covers one of the Pomodoro Technique® objectives. The second objective is to cut down on interruptions.
The Pomodoro Technique® talks about internal and external interruptions. I immediately noticed a change in how I dealt with internal interruptions. It is more difficult to decrease the number of external interruptions. I have, however, noticed a change here as well, which I will mention shortly.
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
In the previous post, I wrote about how I didn’t use the Pomodoro Technique® consistently because of the working environment. I get interrupted a lot, and my first reaction was that Pomodoros just didn’t work for me. That’s the point though: you want to cut down the number of iterations by using Pomodoros.
I quickly noticed a change in how I dealt with internal interruptions. When I found my mind shifting to other things: searching the web, fixing some meta task (for example a new Bash alias or improving the build scripts) or looking up the lunch menu, I either realized off the top of my head that it was a “non-task” or I marked it in the TODO sheet.
I soon started to notice a positive change in my level of concentration.
The Pomodoro Technique suggests you use the Inform, Negotiate and Call strategy for external interruptions.
- Tell the person causing the interruption you’re busy at the moment.
- Agree on a time when you can get back to them (next five minute break, or the next long break).
- Make sure you get back to them on the time agreed.
In addition, I noticed another thing: as people got aware of that I was using the Pomodoro Technique, and put a mark in my To Do sheet when they interrupted me, they did so less frequently. I guess there is a level of psychology involved here: people don’t like to be pointed out. Putting a mark in the sheet clearly states that you feel they hurt your productivity, without you even having to say something.
The technique helps cutting down internal interruptions straight away. External interruptions decrease as well. If nothing else, interruptions become clearly visible and helps you evaluate the working environment.
If you face a lot of external interruptions, this may very well be something to discuss at the daily standup as an impediment, or at the Sprint retrospective.
Each Pomodoro becomes a mini sprint of sorts, where you are your own Scrum master:
- Each Pomodoro has the same length.
- A Pomodoro, like a Sprint, is indivisible.
- You work actively to remove obstructions: internal and external interruptions.
In the next post I discuss the third objective: estimate the effort for activities.