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I had a strange problem when applying pomodoro techniques. In my working environment, it's normal that I will get interrupted accidentally during the pomodoro phase. Hence the pomodoro is hard to complete, and many times I must start over again & again... without finishing a pomodoro. And many times, I realize I finish my task in the middle of a pomodoro ... without any previous complete pomodoro for that task.

So in the end of day, I have only 1 pomodoro for that task, which is simply misleading (because I must throw away all uncomplete pomodoros... even when it nearly rings). What should I do in this situation?

UPDATE: My company is an open workplace, and I enjoy working in it. It encourage people communicating in person, and help others when needed. I also receive helps from others... and I feels it's ok to give help rather frequently, in the break betweens 2 pomodoros.

So I think what I really ask is: Is there any sensible way to only get people come to me in break time, without turning them down/ be distant? I don't think others (seniors) will understand if I'm saying I'm applying a new technique, unless it has already been proved.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Given your situation, I think there are two options:

  1. If most interruptions you're getting are "accidental" and not necessarily critical, you should look into making yourself less accessible when you're about to get important work done in a timely and focused fashion (i.e. using such as the Pomodoro Technique). Close your door, lock your door, hang a sign, or simply make it a routine to work from hour X to Y and let your coworkers know that from then on this time will be crucial to you, and only critical requests should come to you, if they are so urgent they can't wait a couple hours.
  2. Lower the bar for what constitutes an interruption major enough that you have to start over the pomodoro instead of simply pausing the timer and then taking from where you had left. Do the interruptions themselves take more than a pomodoro (25min)? You could have a tolerance on up to 10-15min depending on how often and for how long you are interrupted, that these would be put down as external interruptions in your pomodoro log, but not make you start over with it.

If think that if you can't make either of these solutions work for you, it would be better to drop the Pomodoro Technique and look into more fitting workflows, perhaps work sprints (45min-1h) where you can be even more tolerant on interruptions (in fact you could just let the timer run through the interruption).

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Option 1 is the thing I'm thinking about, but I still try figuring how to do it sensibly. I have an "open" workplace, which means my co-workers are co-located. Do you know any trick to sensibly not let people coming to me at some specific time,except the break between pomodoro phase? – Hoàng Long Nov 25 '11 at 6:54
Well, I think telling them about the Pomodoro Technique, on an individual basis, as a casual conversation, would be a good start. Once they know why you do it, it gets much easier to support. – Vic Goldfeld Nov 26 '11 at 9:45
Putting on headphones may also help, both in getting you to focus (try if you don't like working with music) and in making you less accessible. – Vic Goldfeld Nov 26 '11 at 9:45

IMO poms require some inter-office cooperation (or sympathy). Phone and email are easy. Walk-ins, not so much.

Unless you can train those around you to Respect the Big Red Pom, it's unlikely it's going to work out in any meaningful way. Poms work best where there's large buy-in, or they respect that the work you do needs un-interrupted time.

In lieu of poms I'll just schedule "meetings" once or twice a day, mark myself unavailable, and go laptop somewhere.

Slightly dirtier, consider a phone-headset-looking-thing so you can point to it, hold up a "one sec" finger, then scribble "done at x PM" on a post-it, and look rueful.

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I agree that it's hard to do without sympathy from others. But since I'm pretty young, I don't think my voice has enough importance, compared to the culture that shared in my work-place. And yes, the interruptions is "walk-ins" type; it's a co-located work environment, where anyone can see other's works – Hoàng Long Nov 25 '11 at 6:48

You could shorten the time of a pomodoro. The 25 minute rule is just a recommendation. If you think it is important to track how much time went into an activity and you can't avoid the interruption it may be the best thing to do. Try 15 minutes first and if it still feels too long put it down to 10 minutes. And do shorter breaks than 5 minutes. It is easier to postpone an interruption for 5 or 10 minutes then for 20 and you should be able to get more pomodoros registered in a work day.

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it seems to be a sensible solution. I'll try it out, thanks :) – Hoàng Long Nov 30 '11 at 6:50

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