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I was using the pomodoro technique while programming. The Pomodoro timer finished and I was just in the middle of adding a new parameter to a function and was refactoring my code to make sure that the new parameter is propagated everywhere.

According to the technique, I'm suppose to drop everything and stop. But with programming (and with other tasks), when you're in a zone...keeping variables and logic in short term memory, I think it's actually counter productive to stop right when the Pomodoro rings. I feel like one should finish that last thought or unit of work before stopping. Otherwise, after you take a break, you need to reestablish context for your task and you'll basically be wasting some time at the beginning of the next Pomodoro to do this.

Can I extend the Pomodoro just so I can come to a good stopping point?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think that in the Pomodoro technique they actually want you to re-establish context at the beginning of each session and that they do not consider this to be wasted time. By going over information again (termed as overlearning) it becomes more solid. It also will build your ability to keep track of the variables and structures over time. I think you should not be afraid of wasting time with Pomodoros because the added focus makes up for the bits of time loss.

Eventually in the technique you will gain the feel of the Pomodoros and find a good stopping point close to the end of the session and use the last spare moments to reflect. This is discussed as an extension of the technique but you may want to try to do this earlier.

That said, I don't think there is much wrong with spending up to 2 minutes wrapping up a thought. It is very easy to get carried away. If you can wrap up in 2 minutes then I believe the essence of the pomodoro is maintained. If it is longer than that, I think it will become a slippery slope.

Keep in mind that it is only a 3-5 minute break, over time you may find your ability to remember what you were doing is strengthened. I think that if it is at the end of a set and you feel like you want to keep working it is okay to take a short break and do one more pomodoro before your extended break. This may help maintain the flow, but don't add pomodoros more than once before your extended break. This is also a potential slippery slope.

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It seems like if you're spending your 3-5 minute break trying to remember what you were doing, you're not really giving yourself much of a rest... – weronika Dec 7 '11 at 6:38
I think you need to make sure you have a 3-5 min break where you are not thinking about it, but 3-5 min shouldn't be too long as far as those pathways being still fresh for jumping back in. I agree that it will be hard at first but I think that over time coming back to what you were working on will become easier. – Roseaboveit Dec 10 '11 at 20:34

I think it matters how much is a thought or a unit. When coding, writing a failing unit tests to keep context makes sense. This only takes a minute or two. I think this is equivalent to jotting down a note on where you are. Finishing a hourlong chunk of work wold be against the spirit of Pomodoro. I've found having the failing unit test gets me into the zone quickly, whether I'm stopping for a break, meeting or to go home for the day.

It's tempting to stay "in the zone" for hours on end though. And that is a problem because you wear yourself out. (While I'm sure people disagree, you wouldn't have chosen Pomodoro if you were one of them!)

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Potentially I can also take a peek at the pomodoro before I start on the next incremental 'unit of work'. If I think it's not going to get done during this pomodoro, then I should do something else and jot down this smaller task for the next pomodoro. I think this approach is in the philosophy of the pomodoro technique...of being better at managing tasks and estimating effort. :) – milesmeow Dec 2 '11 at 22:16
It is, but once in the zone I'm not looking at the time... – Jeanne Boyarsky Dec 2 '11 at 22:20
I wonder how you would approach it if you're in the zone. Better estimation of a Pomodoro task? What would you do if you're in a zone and the Pomodoro comes to an end? – milesmeow Dec 3 '11 at 2:15
I would still end just a minute or so later. Whereas if I wasn't in the zone, I'd wrap up in 10-15 seconds. – Jeanne Boyarsky Dec 4 '11 at 13:59

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