Can a Tomato Improve Your Work Ethic?

pomodoro process improvement

In addition to examining the basics of agile scrum, it is interesting to look at outside-the-box ways to improve productivity of your teams.  One technique used to improve focus and mental agility is the Pomodoro technique.  Pomodoro originated during the 80’s and was developed by Francesco Cirillo [1].

Meaning Tomato in Italian, Pomodoro focuses on timeboxing tasks.  The original method was developed using a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, hence the name.   To do Pomodoro, your team does the following:

  1. Choose a task to work on. 
  2. Set the timer, typically to 25 minutes.
  3. Work until the timer interrupts.
  4. Take a short break to mentally refresh (<5 minutes).
  5. Repeat.   After every four cycles, take a longer break (up to 30 minutes).

Pomodoro works because it helps keep you mentally refreshed.   How many times have you been working on a difficult problem and the solution came to you while you were doing something totally different (i.e. in the shower, while cooking, during a workout)?   Pomodoro capitalizes on this idea.  

In addition to breaking flow, Pomodoro can improve work eithic by helping teams quickly dive in.  Even difficult or dreaded tasks don’t seem as bad if you’re only focusing for 25 minutes.   Knowing that after 25 minutes there is a break helps keep teams focused during the work time frame.

In an agile scrum environment, Pomodoro is useful not only in daily work, but also during planning sessions (especially when sizing lots of tasks and stories) and research spikes.  If your team needs a boost of focus and creativity, try out Pomodoro during your next sprint.




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