A thought from Rachel Smith

14th December 2016

Positive remote working habit - flexible Pomodoro technique

Soon, I'll be sharing a post detailing how I've moved from working in an agency environment to remotely working from home, and the habits I've developed to stay productive. Rather than publish a mammoth post with all the details, I'll instead break down the most beneficial habits into their own post first. Today, I'll talk about using the Pomodoro technique.

If there's one thing standing in my way from getting a lot of good work done while working remotely from home, it's the fact that I have the attention span of a goldfish. Sure, social media is distracting enough but without a little self-discipline but I'm likely to abandon writing a JavaScript function half way through because of an intense need to Google celebrities wearing double denim.

So, when I read about something called the Pomodoro technique, a strategy for time management and productivity, I thought it could be of use to me. If you haven't heard of the Pomodoro technique before, it is the practice of getting your tasks done by working in chunks of time (25 minutes). The underlying principles are (from Wikipedia):

However, a true Pomodoro follower also follows the rule that you strictly complete four 25 minute Pomodoros between longer breaks. If you break a Pomodoro early, it doesn't count as a real Pomodoro, and to be truly productive you should complete eight Pomodoros a day.

That sort of strict time-sectioning doesn't gel with me as a developer. If I'm deep in a train of thought, I'm not going to break out of it as soon as the buzzer goes off. And even as a remote worker - there are still necessary interruptions from coworkers, meetings and calls that don't neatly fit in 25-minute intervals. So, I made up my own rules.

  1. Work for 20+ minutes at a time (aim for 25-minute intervals).
  2. During that time, there is to be no social media or Googling things like how many pints of beer Andre the Giant could drink in a day. This rule is essential.
  3. Take a break for however long it takes to feel refreshed. I try to make sure I get up and walk a few laps of the house on my breaks.

I figure, just like eating a healthy diet or trying to maintain an exercise regime, something is always better than nothing. So even if I don't follow the Pomodoro technique perfectly, my attempts at periods of focus have improved the likelihood of me getting productive work hours into my day.

I even decided to build a little app to help record my "flexible" Pomodoros, as nothing in the App Store was perfectly suiting my needs, and I wanted an excuse to try making an Electron App. If you'd like to give it a try yourself, you can download the source from the GitHub repo.

Some pictures of my journal pages
A screenshot from my app, it fires off a notification when the time is up.
Some pictures of my journal pages
Here's an example of a day when I'm extremely "flexible". There are some big ass breaks and then I forgot to turn it off at the end of the day so the timer ran for hours LOL. A typical day looks a bit 'neater' than this!

Let me know what techniques you've used to improve your productivity, as I'm always on the lookout for ways to improve my flow.

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