There are three activities (apart from actually working on my programming job) that I believe are leading me towards success as a programmer. And I try to incorporate these activities into each day of my life. These activities are:
coding (here I’m talking about working on my side projects)
learning new stuff (this one includes reading and creating hello-world type of programs),
writing for this blog.
I started writing for this blog just a couple of days ago. And coding – I wasn’t doing it for quite some time. Out of these three things, what I ended up doing for the most part in the last couple of months, was learning new stuff. And, as I understand now, I’ve been doing it in not a very effective way. I was just reading and never coding. I read about Java and MySQL. I played around with Eclipse. I read a lot of stuff related to iOS development. This learning was taking me so much time that I had to give up working on my side-projects, even though I had previously set a goal for myself to release one simple app every two months.
But now everything’s changed, because several days ago I discovered the Pomodoro technique. It is a method where you work on a single task for 25 minutes (this period of time is called one Pomodoro) and then rest for 5 minutes. Well, actually there are different variations of this technique, but I have chosen to go with those numbers. The goal is to work on a task without being distracted for a certain period of time.
For monitoring my progress I use a tool called Kanbanflow. I created three tasks there. I never delete them or mark them as done, because I do those tasks every day. The tasks are: coding, learning and writing.
Every morning I do 1 or 2 Pomodoros worth of coding. During the day I do 2 to 4 Pomodoros of learning and in the evening I spend 1 or 2 Pomodoros writing for this blog. These numbers are not final, since I’ve been doing the Pomodoro technique for only several days. At the very beginning I set a goal to do only 3 Pomodoros a day: one for each activity. I think it is a good idea to start small. This way you don’t scare yourself away from the hard work, and you start building some good habits, even if you spending only 25 minutes a day on your task.
What I discovered
The main thing I discovered is that I can code! I actually have time for it. And I also discovered that I don’t need to spend much time coding every day. 25 minutes a day is enough.
When it comes to studying, Pomodoro technique is indispensable. Before I discovered the Pomodoro technique I used to keep a study journal. There I would make notes on all the things that I was learning. I also tracked time spent on every single learning session. But I’ve never had a goal of how much time I should spend studying every day. One day I would study for one hour, the next day I would study for 15 minutes. And also, depending on the topic, many times I had nothing to write down in my journal. So there were long sequences of entries which only had the name of the topic and time spent on studying that topic. Over time I lost interest in tracking my progress in this way. I didn’t give it up though, it’s just became burdensome to me. Because of it I would spend a lot of time procrastinating before starting each learning session. I mean, the need to open my journal and write down the date and the topic turned me away from learning altogether.
And then I discovered Pomodoro technique. Now I will use it to track my progress. And I will still use my study journal. But I will only use it for taking notes when I really need to.
Over time I will try to increase the number of Pomodoros I do every day. By the way, I’m on vacation now, so I have a lot of free time. We’ll see how many Pomodoros I’ll be able to do when I return to my job. And I guess I will try to do the Pomodoro technique on my job too.