January 16, 2013
development, Quadrilateral Cowboy

QC Dev 003: Pomodoro

Here’s what Blendo Games looks like:

desk

I got the standing desk a couple years ago on a whim, because the idea of sitting for ungodly hours every day made me squirrely. For folks who have experienced stand-up meetings, you’ll know that forcing someone to stand on their feet prevents a lot of dilly-dallying and puttering around. If you feel meetings aren’t productive, try removing all chairs.

(I got a high stool for those lazy times.)

Butt in Chair

When I worked at Pandemic, I’d occasionally come to work an hour early and leave an hour early.

pandemicdesk

In that first hour, there were no interruptions: no barrage of email, no meetings, no one needing anything from me, and no one for me to go visit. And in that one hour, I was usually able to get a 100+ hours’ worth of work done. I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea. An isolation chamber is far from the ideal working environment, but I’d say periods of butt-in-chair are invaluable.

Once I started Blendo Games, the concept of going to work an hour early no longer applied. I wanted some way to emulate that period of productivity, and a friend pointed me to the Pomodoro technique.

Pomodoro

I follow the broad strokes of the Pomodoro technique – here’s how I do it:

1. On my computer desktop, I run a small timer called Workrave. It looks like this:

workrave1

2. For the next thirty minutes, I work. This means:

  • No checking email.
  • No checking phone.
  • No browsing internet.
  • No watching TV/movies in the background.
  • No getting snacks.
  • No musing about your existence relative to the mind-blowing majesty of the universe.
  • Nothing but work.

 

3. When the timer hits thirty minutes, take a break. This means: do anything you want. I don’t time my breaks, but they usually average 5-10 minutes.

4. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Et Al

Once you remove distractions from the equation, the equation becomes dead simple – focus on one thing, and nothing but that one thing. Thirty minutes doesn’t sound very long, but it’s enough to ramp up to incredible momentum, putting you “in the zone.”

Bzzt, then the timer hits. I’m always tempted to maintain that momentum and barrel straight through the breaktime. Admittedly, this temptation oftentimes wins me over, but I find doing that ultimately fries my brain.

Spend a day and try it out! I’d love to hear how it goes.

 

6 Comments

  1. Ruber EaglenestRuber Eaglenest  
    January 16th, 2013
    REPLY))

  2. Could you elaborate the reasons why you program stand-up? I’m positively curious. Where did you learn this technique? There is more source philosophy to it, like the pomodoro technique? Etc. I’m curious since seen Jonathan Blow at Indie Games the Movie.

    Thanks, and great work!

    1F

  3. BrendonBrendon  
    January 17th, 2013
    REPLY))

  4. @Ruber –

    Anecdotally, I like that standing encourages me to walk around & move when I’m stuck on something. And just the act of standing makes me want to promptly finish whatever I’m working on.

    For some advantages/disadvantages on standing, do a google search for: sitting vs standing.

    2F

  5. VictorVictor  
    January 22nd, 2013
    REPLY))

  6. And does it work in a “fully functional way” with you? How many, I’d say, work hours, do you spend daily making QC?
    Do you have any pets and if so do you spend time with ’em?
    Thanks!

    3F

  7. BrendonBrendon  
    January 22nd, 2013
    REPLY))

  8. @Victor-

    Regarding hours, it varies. There are days where I work all day, and there are days where I have appointments to take care of, so I don’t have an actual number.

    I don’t have any pets myself, but occasionally take care of friends’ pets. I think I looked more toward the walks than the animal did.

    4F

  9. IvanIvan  
    February 10th, 2013
    REPLY))

  10. This year i am taking a web page design class in school and after the first semester around 70% of my class had failed because no one would do any work on their assignments due to distractions. After some thinking my teacher decided to implement the pomodoro technique and i honestly wondered who really used this and im glad to see that people really do use it.

    5F

  11. PrzemekPrzemek  
    February 20th, 2013
    REPLY))

  12. Thanks for this post. I heard about the Pomodoro technique dozens of times and I always thought it’s a bit silly. But you convinced me to give it a try and… surprise, surprise, it works really well! I’m already more productive, and I just started. Thanks again.

    6F