Getting Into the Zone with a Single Pomodoro

The cost of getting interrupted while developing is high. Have you had one of those days when you just didn’t seem to get anything done due to a little bit of this, a little bit of that? I definitely have.

Sometimes the distraction is due to meetings. Other times it’s Slack or emails. If not those, then phone notifications, Twitter or websites calling for my attention - bottom line being that I find often it hard to focus.

I’ve experimented with a bunch of productivity tools, but it was finally a twist on the pomodoro technique that worked best for me.The Pomodoro technique is a pretty simple, but organized framework. Wikipedia sums it up like this:

The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as "pomodoros", the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro meaning “tomato".

There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:

  • Decide on the task to be done
  • Set the pomodoro timer to n minutes (traditionally 25)
  • Work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x
  • Take a short break (3–5 minutes)
  • After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes)

The thing that is really appealing about pomodoro is that it only asks for 25 minutes of your time to start with. Focusing for 25 minutes? Sure. Ignoring all notifications for 25 minutes? You got it. Not checking Twitter for the next 25 minutes? I can do that.

And this ease of getting started is what I use to get back into the zone. Whenever I feel too distracted I just start one single an uninterrupted block of 25 minutes, one single pomodoro.

Thanks to the popularity of the technique there are plenty of apps and tools to help with this and 25 minutes is not that big of an ask. Any interruptions I get this time I just ignore and after 5-10 minutes usually find myself back in the zone. And when the pomodoro is over? More often then not I ignore that as well and just keep going.

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Gergely Orosz

I write about software engineering and engineering management at high-growth startups and big tech. Previously at Uber, Microsoft, Skype, Skyscanner.

Amsterdam, Netherlands