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This morning I decide to try applying the Pomodoro time boxing technique in my coding, but using it for software development raises some questions I would like to try and resolve before continuing.

On my first try, I completed my coding in 23 minutes, only to discover some serious issues. Do I create a new pomodoro task to fix the issues, which will take only 5 minutes, and then revert to question (1) above, or do I start the timer again on the same task, after a 5 minute break?

More broadly, should I abandon all pomodoros? I mean, if I've been single stepping through suspect code for 25 minutes, and my timer goes, do I really start again? Obviously sometimes critical issues require this, but I would like some broad guidance on cases like this.

What should I be doing with abandoned pomodoros?

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5 Answers

Pomodoros are an anti-procrastination technique more than anything else. It is for starting, not for stopping, work on a project. When the buzzer goes it means that you can give yourself permission to stop if you want to! After all, if you are really into it, why stop?

If you know you are only going to spend five minutes on a particular task, I would recommend setting a five minute timer.

Form follows function.

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Here is my advice : I suggest you have to finish current pomodoro with the task you started.
If you have time left, just take a moment and think on problem you are working
In software development first thought is always like: I should start fixing/changing it right now.
But practically it turns out we have to take more time and analise problem more before fixing it .

This is what I like in pomodoro technique, it gives time to think.

Don't plan pomodoros ahead for one task, before starting another pomodoro check task list. If it's required take one pomodoro to review and update tasks list and select your next task.

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I am a coder myself. I begun using pomodoro recently when I felt I should take periodic rest while sitting on a computer.

Many times, I felt that I am so involved in the work, that I just did not have a look at the pomodoro message.

However, I personally felt that the technique is good. It reminds you to take periodic rest. If you feel like taking a short break, take it otherwise start a new pomodoro. When I am deeply involved in the work, I stat a new timer again without thinking whether it is going to take 5 minutes or less or more.

I use Tomighty (www.tomighty.org).

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I myself is a programmer who tried applying pomodoro techniques. In your example, I have experienced the same issues:

Once, I nearly complete my code just 2 minutes before a pomodoro round off. But then I discover a problem, which may take about 5 minutes to solve... Well, "I'll fix it soon, and just 5 mins is not a problem!" - I thought so.

After around 15 minutes trying, I realized that I under-estimated the problem. Instead I created more blunders. It's bad. I'm feeling bad about my estimation... and my ability. I put it aside & take some break.

After the break, I come to the computer, revert all my changes & try fixing the problem again. Suddenly I realize things is far more simpler that it used to be. It takes 2 minutes.

So I agree with Pomodorium, the pomodoro technique is good because it gives people time, but not only to think, but to relax as well. Focusing too long on a problem will make you weary and cloud the judgement.

Taking break refresh your mind, help you be more conscious.

So, what is the right solution to your example? I often solve that like following:

  1. I spent the last 2 minutes reviewing what I have done (take some note) and what I'm going to do the next phase. This step is also mentioned in pomodoro techniques.

  2. I take a break, and don't think about that problem. I quickly take note that the task take 1 pomodoro longer than expected.

  3. After break, I come back to work, and fix the problem. This should be easy because I have planned it in the last pomodoro. If there's time, I will review how to solve the problem better (if you are not near a deadline, ofcourse :) )

Personally, I think pomodoros should be modified to fit personal use. We are different, so there's no silver bullet for all the people. I'm still trying to do pomodoros... and compare, and review to make it better little by little.

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In your case if you're sure you can finish the task in the next 5 minutes then I would probably just finish it outside any pomodoro.

For me I tend to think of my Pomodoros as a chance to take a break, as others have said, rather than as a Scrum style sprint in which I have to finish something. I also have my timer set to 50 minutes for the work and 10 minutes for a break. My workflow then is that I'll spend 50 minutes working at the end of which I have 10 minutes in which to reflect / relax or check emails. Stopping after 50 minutes means I don't go too far down a dead-end in my code for too long before checking to make sure that what I'm doing is right. The 10 minutes gives me that time for a sanity check and keeps me on track, making sure I don't wander off track too far.

Having that pomodoro means I don't waste time replying to emails, because I know that after 50 minutes I need to have done something.

Now I've said 50 minutes and I know that's a bit unusual, but with the 10 minute break that means I'm working in bursts of an hour and that works well for me because I need to record how long I spend on any given project. I found that 25 minutes wasn't quite long enough for me - obviously your mileage may vary, but I do think it's worth experimenting to find a time that really fits with how you work rather than trying to squeeze yourself into 25 minutes just because it's what the book says.

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