The importance of bounded time

Posted by Jonathan Weyermann on September 4, 2017 at 4:04 AM

Il pomodoro

Even since I've started using the pomodoro technique, I feel like my productivity has increased greatly. For those who don't know, a pomodoro is a bounded unit of time, during which one is to do their best not to get distracted. It is a unit of work during which checking your e-mail is a no-no. Pomodoro is the italian word for tomato, because the technique was orignially applied using a tomato timer. Typically the pomodoro interval is 25 minutes, with a 5 minute break, and a 15 minute break after 4 pomodoro.

The idea is that bounding your time helps increase productivity. This is based on parkinson's law, which states that the demand on a resource tends to expand to match the supply of that resource. When applied to time, it means that any project, regardless of how complex, will expand to fill in the allotted time. Time will get taken up due to unnecessary revising and reediting, or most likely because of procastination. A project with a long deadline doesn't appear very urgent, and thus we're unlikely to tackle it until that deadline is looming.

For me, it often helps to get over a hump. When I dread a task, using the promodoro technique can encourage me to get started, as I know that after 25 minutes I can have a break. Often by then I'm totally into my work, and don't need it. I find it's helpful to have a way to not only track the 25 minute intervals, but to add them up and record them. My favorite tool for this task is Teamviz