Pomodoro Vs Impostor Syndrome
Or how using a method to measure my work helped me learn that I don’t suck as much.
What is Pomodoro?
Pomodoro is a technique where you are going to use a timer to better plan and control your time while making sure you take time to cool off.
You can read more extensively on the original paper here, it will explain where the idea came from and how to do it, I am not going to go in-depth in this article.
Essentially one Pomodoro is a 25 min block where you are going to focus on one single activity and then take a break afterwards, every day, this is what I do:
- A list of things to do at the start of the day.
- Predict how many pomodoros each activity will take.
- Track how many pomodoros the activity took.
- See the difference between predicted and tracked pomodoros, by the end of the day.
As a junior developer, I am constantly worried about taking “too long” to deliver something, it usually happens because there is still so much I don’t know yet, so I’ve started using this technique to better understand how I spend my days at work, and it had the accidental effect of helping me with my impostor syndrome.
But what it has to do with Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Source: Wikipedia
Everyone at some point in their life has felt that they are not good enough, and it is very common in tech, where you have to learn so much and things are constantly changing and evolving.
Learning how to code can sometimes feel like trying to map the dunes in a desert, when you finish your work one day and feel confident with what you have done, you discover that you have to start from the beginning with a new subject the next day, and now you have to put the same kind of effort again.
And it can look like you are a constant beginner and that you never “know enough”, and unless you have had some kind of guidance or be very good in perseverance, you might give up thinking you are not “good enough”.
And that’s where the Pomodoro technique will come to help, because if you just count on external validation or your feelings to know if you are “good enough” you might have the wrong perception and it will always be biased (by either you or others), whereas using time and written down goals, will give a more impartial and clean idea.
Bad data is worse than no data at all, and seeing how long it actually takes you to complete a job without interruptions will give you a clear idea of what is your actual pace and how to work with it.
And once you see the results, you can do something fantastic next, which is to do better next time.
Progress not perfection
The Pomodoro technique will show you how much you will be able to do in a single day/week/month, and with that information, you now have the stepping stone to do something amazing: get better.
Feel “good enough” will always be based on some reference point, and often it is a colleague, a friend or an idealised image you have on your mind, and like a mirage in a desert, they are constantly changing or completely impossible to achieve, to begin with.
But using raw numbers is a completely different thing, knowing that you take 10h to finish a piece of work will give you a starting point of doing 25% better next time, for example, and then you will know that you have progressed with some hard proof, and it will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you got better, and that’s what we should be always aiming for.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint
If you suffer from constantly never feeling good enough, know that you are not alone, and dealing with it can sometimes be a battle against oneself, so if you chose to use Pomodoro or another way and still feel like something is wrong or see no improvement in your work or mental being remember you can always ask for help.
If you have to fight against yourself while trying to also learn a technical subject you will be like a MacBook computer trying to run Android studio and installing bundle at the same: very prone to overheating, because you simply don’t have the space to do so much.
So taking a step back and helping yourself by knowing if your impostor syndrome is not being fed by things like anxiety or depression will save time and frustration in the long run, but if that is the case for you, getting professional help is not a defeat, but a strategy that will have long term results.
My final words
If you were trying to cross a desert without a GPS or any basic navigation you will always feel like you are still where you started, and this is the furthest from the truth.
Using Pomodoro to see where you are today, where you were yesterday, will show you where you can be tomorrow, and that is an amazing thing because once you do look back you will know how much you have done, and how further you have gone and you should be proud of yourself by everything you have achieved (even if sometimes you take the wrong turn).
Focusing on knowing if you are really good, or just fooling everyone around you, will be ultimately a waste of time, but if you decide to focus on improvement and achievable goals, you will eventually see progress and perhaps one day, know you are not an impostor anymore.
Be nice to yourself, take one step at a time