The techniques have different founders and therefore have different terminology as well. A translation between the two will help us see potentials for overlap.
Activity Inventory – Project list:
The Pomodoro starts off with an Activity Inventory – a list of Projects from which one can choose to work. It is easily translated to the Project list that one has. However, if you are like myself, your project list is absurdly long. I describe how I handle this in detail with the Using OmniFocus Part I and part III posts, but in short, I have a few select flagged projects which I consider my most conscious areas of focus. I generally try not to have the number go over 5 at any one time.
This way, I can select the Flagged Projects perspective and readily process which project to do. When the number is five or less, I can decide on a project quickly. Above this and I have to start more actively balancing one project over another. This is fine for the review stage, but not at the time I’d like to be doing a project.
This Flagged Project Perspective is a ready made activity sheet from which I can choose to assign pomodoros throughout the day. In this way the Activity Inventory may be more specifically translated as the Flagged Project List.
To Do Today List vs Context Lists:
As noted before, a general to-do list is generally a no-no in the world of GTD. However, there is a decent way to translate the two. In the morning, I look through my calendar and schedule a guesstimate of where pomodoros may fit, between clients, meetings, etc. Counting the number of pomodoros I have available, I’ll choose projects on which I’d like to make some inroads. Writing these down on a separate spreadsheet, I can make a rudimentary today list.
This is different from a to-do list in several very important ways. First, these are projects that I do not necessarily wish to complete today. These are ongoing projects. As with GTD, if I do not feel like doing a pomodoro or even what I thought I wanted to do that morning, then I can simply not do it. Actual tasks that need doing are part of the Routine Maintenance folder noted in Part I or are characterized as otherwise “due.” Now, I may actually combine the Routine Maintenance tasks into a pomodoro (which I’ve done and is quite excellent), in which case I do my best to follow through on that promise to myself.
A spreadsheet outside of OmniFocus can be helpful in recording long-term statistics. However, OmniFocus itself can provide excellent feedback to record.
To set up a specific task, add a repeat function in the inspector (shift-cmd-i) to “Start Again” “5 minutes” after completion, with the starting time of “now”. When the task is checked off at the end of a pomodoro, it will show up again when it is time to start again. In the meantime, checking off the task records the date and time of its completion in the inspector. Also, the number of identical checked off tasks will tell you how many pomodoros the task took.
The Pomodoro Technique is more centered on recording and projecting of time required in tasks than is GTD. These aspects are not presented here in any depth, though they are in the pdf. The above method of recording can provide a ready source of statistics if that is in your interest.
Urgent Today and the Inbox:
Handling “internal interruptions” is already something that GTD users have down pat. This is simply the inbox. In Omnifocus, ctrl-option-space readily brings it to the fore.
Having an Inbox with OmniFocus also has the added bonus of providing direct feedback of the number and type of interruptions involved during the last pomodoro should you wish to record them. You could assign all of the Inbox items their project and context which would provide specifics as to the types of interruptions that occur over that pomodoro. Some would be inevitable, but some may provide a clue as to how to minimize distractions in the future.
Pomodoro Estimate and Reviewing:
In the course of a GTD review or in the setting of a task, one of the options in OmniFocus is to add a time estimate. The units of time of a pomodoro are as flexible as you want them to be. However, Cirillo suggests 25 minutes and reports testing the time with enough varying groups of people as to feel it is a solid number. I’d say it’s a good as any place to start to get a feel for it and can and should be adjusted as seen fit.
But the 25 minutes + 5 minute rest sits nicely as a solid half hour unit. In this way, one can either set aside half-hour increments for large tasks or add together smaller tasks that could add up to 25 minutes as potential groupings of tasks into pomodoros.
In the next post, we’ll take a look at specific instances where Pomodoros and GTDs can work.