Why I’m giving away Robotlegs Pomodoro Timers at my Flash on the Beach session

Robotlegs Pomodoro Timer

Robotlegs Pomodoro Timers – even better than a Kinder Surprise Egg!

I’ve been using the Pomodoro Technique for a good few months now.

The pattern I use is:

  1. 25 minutes uninterrupted task-focussed activity (no IM, no twitter, no email, no internet) – this is called a Pomodoro
  2. 5 minute break for checking emails
  3. rinse and repeat

I love it. And here’s why:

Focus, without neglecting your responsibilities to other people

The intention behind the technique is primarily to improve time management by reducing distractions. I have maintenance contracts with some of my clients, and knowing that they’re unlikely to wait more than 25 minutes for a response allows me to turn my email off while I get on with coding or writing.

Tweet, read the news or hang out on facebook guilt free

During my breaks, any activity except for my task is valid. No more self-loathing. Sometimes I answer a quick question on the Robotlegs forum, sometimes I deal with emails, sometimes I just read the news – knowing that I’m gaining, not losing, from switching my foreground attention to something else, and that when my end-of-break timer goes off I’ll be back on the main task.

Movement is good

My back and my bladder are both appreciating the fact that I don’t spend six hours sitting in one position without moving. I try to leave my desk in every break, even if it’s just for a moment. I’ve got a floor-desk and we share a standing desk in our home-office. I’m trying to make sure that certain kinds of regular task are always carried out at the standing desk.

Less barrier to doing the sucky tasks

My schedule includes a Pomodoro of housework and a Pomodoro of admin every day. I group them together, followed by a Pomodoro of dog walking and then lunch – and I’m feeling great about making sure these happen every single day. I really suck at admin – I tend to end up with huge piles of unopened post, generating an ever increasing barrier to dealing with it. Doing a single Pomodoro of admin is keeping the pile down without feeling like if I start to dig in to it I may never come out. The housework Pomodoro is going down extremely well with my wife!

Better estimation

I’m starting to get a feel for how big a task is in terms of Pomodori. When my client asks for a change I’m able to outline classes, think about how many Pomodori might be required to get each class done, and come up with increasingly accurate estimates.

Micro-sprints improve productivity

I find that setting myself a goal can spur me into sprinting for most of the 25 minutes, getting something done within a Pomodoro that otherwise I might have stretched over a couple of hours. And this is why I think Robotlegs and the Pomodoro Technique are so well suited.

Robotlegs and the Pomodoro Technique: a perfect match

One of the things I love about Robotlegs is that it really encourages you to create many small classes, and yet this seems to be one of the aspects that causes a sad-panda face in many programmers. I’m going to talk more about the neuroscience behind this in my Flash on the Beach session, but in a nutshell I believe the antipathy towards many-small-classes flows out of three issues:

  • Naming classes is harder than naming functions
  • Developers tend to think in terms of half-day coding problems
  • Refactoring relies on comprehensive tests, which most AS3 code bases don’t have

Shifting from thinking in terms of 4 or 6 hour coding sessions has made a surprisingly positive difference to how I program. I group my coding Pomodori together into 2-hour blocks, because I do think they’re more useful that way than scattered between admin and writing tasks, but the combination of Robotlegs, TDD and the Pomodoro Technique allows me to get meaningful coding-work done even in a single 25 minute session.

The many-small-classes approach suits the Pomodoro Technique

Micro-sprints require your brain to accept the possibility that your goal can be reached within the 25 minutes. The many-small-classes approach, which Robotlegs encourages, provides multiple opportunities for meaningful goals that can be attacked within a Pomodoro. Sometimes you can really push it and pick up two or three whole classes, with tests, within a Pomodoro.

If your class was written (nicely) in a Pomodoro, then it’s likely that the future-coder (maybe you in six months time) can grok it quickly too. It *must* have few responsibilities. Of course, not all classes can be written in a Pomodoro, just like not all classes can be kept below 60 lines, but if you have it on your radar, your chances of leveraging the simplicity where functionality can be broken down cleanly are much higher.

A refactoring Pomodoro is a great brain-drain

A few times a week I’ll notice that I’m still slightly fuzzy about the functionality I’m about to tackle, so instead I’ll devote a Pomodoro purely to refactoring code around it. Robotlegs supports refactoring by encouraging flexible, testable code. (If you don’t have test coverage you’re not refactoring – you’re just moving shit around).

So – come on, how do I win a Robotlegs Pomodoro Timer?

Robotlegs Pomodoro Timer

Mmm… engraving

I had 50 custom Robotlegs Pomodoro timers made – they’re nice, twist-to-set, old-skool timers, with the Robotlegs logo engraved in to the metal.

If you’re one of the Robotlegs core team, or one of the people who reviewed our Robotlegs book, there’s already a timer set aside for you. I’ve also set them aside for Ondina, Camille Reynders, Paul Robertson, krasimir and Michał W who’ve been giving a lot of time to the forum these past few months. We want to hold some back for people who contribute to Robotlegs 2. The only other way to get your hands on one of these babies is to come to my Flash on the Beach sessionMonday at 12pm.

The session will require you to engage your brain (and a pencil and paper) to tackle various exercises – and some of these exercises will give you the opportunity to win a Robotlegs Pomodoro Timer for your own desk. Bribery? For sure!

ps. This blog post, including photos, took exactly 3 Pomodoros.

About the Author

I'm an actionscript programmer living and working in a tiny village in the Yorkshire Dales, UK. I used to be a TV reporter, but my inner (and often outer) geek won. I also write stuff. Most recently Head First 2D Geometry.

Visit Stray's Website

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Krasimir-Stefanov-Tsonev/617578836 Krasimir Stefanov Tsonev

    I can’t wait to get one of these little gems :)  

    • http://twitter.com/stray_and_ruby stray

      Let me know when it arrives!

  • am am

    can’t imagine how can I get go through the next 25 minutes of RL coding without one of those.. what a jewel Stray =)

    • http://twitter.com/stray_and_ruby stray

      *grins*

  • http://twitter.com/seant23 Sean Thayne

    I’d love to be able to buy one of those RL timers. I’m a big fan of both RL and Pomodoro. Beautiful!

    • http://twitter.com/stray_and_ruby stray

      Hi Sean,

      get in early to contribute to RL2 then – doesn’t have to be a direct contribution to the framework, a good tutorial or demo app will also qualify – I think I have about 12 left.

  • Anonymous

    As a kid I had the discipline of practising an hour a day drummed into me. As a normal kid, I never did it, so had the guilt of NOT doing it drummed into me along side.

    I recently realised that I practice better in tiny bits. I’ll do a scale, then put my instrument down and do some coding, then do the same scale until I get it wrong, and go and make a cup of tea.

    All in all I can practice for an hour a day, with out it being in on lump, and I have better concentration….

    • http://twitter.com/stray_and_ruby stray

      I’m now intrigued by what your instrument is…

      but yes – bang on. I want to be like a jazz musician – that comes from discipline mostly!

  • http://twitter.com/joaopapin Joao Goncalves

    looking forward to assist at your presentation and win one of those. ;)

    • http://twitter.com/stray_and_ruby stray

      How did it go? I hope you enjoyed it even if you didn’t win one (and if you did then Hello! We’ve now met!)

  • http://twitter.com/kevox Kevo Thomson

    I didn’t have the mental prowess to win one of these, but I reckon they deserve a second ‘pressing’…

    • http://twitter.com/stray_and_ruby stray

      You’ll just have to make sure you get in early to contribute to the RL2 framework when it is released :)

  • http://twitter.com/mrdodson Rob Dodson

    I’ve been doing Pomodoro for about a week now after reading this post and it has helped me immensely. It also rubbed off on my girlfriend, the med student, and she’s finally getting her homework done before midnight so THANK YOU STRAY!

    I was wondering, what does your typical daily schedule look like? How many pomodoros are you doing a day and how are they organized?

    • http://twitter.com/stray_and_ruby stray

      I’ve popped up my schedule here:

      http://twitpic.com/6nvjea/full
      We are a 3-adult household (the brilliant @badgerthat:twitter lives with my wife and I) and we also have a 16 year old who lives a week with us, a week with his dad, roughly – so my weeks vary based on his presence, and I am on cooking duty 2 days a week etc.

      This schedule probably looks totally over the top – it’s actually done this way because I would work *all* the time if I’m not directed to a different task! If I’m sick or have a disruption – like Flash on the Beach – I just resume as if nothing was different at the point at which I can come back to work normally.

      If a pomodoro gets screwed up or interrupted then I just resume what I should have been doing, and make sure that I start the next ‘task’ on time. It’s rare that I get every pomodoro done within the day – but usually most happen and that’s the purpose of having the ‘catch up’ pomodori scheduled – those are specifically there to compensate the ones that get interrupted.

      I definitely feel much less of that sense of chasing my tail when I’m following this. And having housework, dog walks, admin and even time to chill with my wife scheduled helps with the general balance :)

      I’m really glad it’s working for you!

      • Anonymous

        oh wow thank you for sharing! My girlfriend and I just looked over it all and decided we are going to try to make our own weekly schedule (that’s something I was already debating doing). Right now I’m just doing around 10-12 a day, after 6pm or 7pm it tends to disintegrate into reading and hanging out, but I’d like to up the number and focus that extra time a bit better. Already it’s helped me to actually start blogging (I’m learning Ruby and Rails at the same time and blogging my confusion has helped immensely, heh), and cleaning the house has become less of an overwhelming task since I just do 1 room a day and rotate around the apartment.

        thanks again for posting all this, it has really helped to whip me into shape