The pomodoro is a neat method for creating little islands of time. There are numerous ways they can be added as an extra tool in one’s own methods of productivity.
In writing this series of posts, I took the opportunity to experiment in learning the technique itself. I would use the pomodoros I had mapped out to work on the series with the idea that I would complete the series before posting them.
As new ideas, related or unrelated to the project, occurred in the process of writing, I would type control-option-space and enter them into the inbox for later processing. Starting a pomodoro with a clean inbox would allow me to review what was on my mind and what types of interruptions could present.
I also learned that the kitchen table is a terrible place for pomodoros. Meanwhile, pomodoros are great for review sessions of GTD and my projects in OmniFocus.
Starting a project using a pomodoro can give a sense of how long that project may take. At first, I thought this series would not take very long at all. After all, someone’s already written a lot on GTD and also on the Pomodoro. I’ve written on OmniFocus and GTD prior and there is a lot more on them out there. What else was there to say?
Once I started and saw how far I would get every 25 minutes, I realized the project was larger than I had originally anticipated. On a daily basis, I could decide if the project was worth continuing, and if so, how much effort to devote to it. As other projects appeared, some pressing and some not, I could always weigh the importance of continuing or suspending the project.
1 pomodoro at least would keep the flow moving. Several would increase the intensity and depth with which I could devote myself. There were weeks where it did have to be suspended, and other days where a small amount could be devoted, and still others where I could devote myself more fully to it.
Using the 25 minutes spans, I would break up tasks into manageable chunks. The realization of the size of the project gradually formed throughout the process. By mapping out the next week, I could have a general sense of what I could accomplish in that course of time. One can extend the process even further.
If, for example, I wanted to make it a policy for myself to have x number of pomodoros available each week between certain hours, I could then have an idea of projects I could do. Of course, one can use any standard measurement of time. But knowing that the time will be dedicated and concentrated somehow does make a difference.
As noted earlier, there are some things that I would definitely not use a pomodoro for. The pomodoro sets a certain type of pace or flow to a project. Having experimented with the technique, I can decide whether or not it is a type of flow conducive to a particular project.
Well, this concludes the series introducing the pomodoro to the GTD/OmniFocus productivity methods. I hope you enjoyed the posts 🙂
There are several programs and methods I’ve used in the integration process. As with any other aspect of productivity, there are likely multiple methods and each would be adapted to your own style or preference.
I’ve listed useful programs in Part I, but here is the list again:
- GTD – OmniFocus: You can, of course also use any other productivity program, or pen and paper, etc.
- Timer – Pomodoro Timer (freeware): can also use a kitchen timer
- Record keeping – Numbers: can also use paper and pen, Text Editor, OmniOutliner, etc.
- Isolator (freeware): bonus tool for concentration on a particular task.
There are two repeating tasks entered into OmniFocus. One goes into a project titled “Daily” and one goes into the project titled “Weekly”. Both of these Projects are in the folder “Routine Maintenance”:
The weekly task is scheduled on Thursday. I will look at next week and assign ½ hour chunks of time throughout various days between clients and meetings leaving time for lunch at mid-day and leisure at the end of the day. Assigning time like this also has the advantage of reserving time for important non-client centered work or projects and avoids overbooking clients.
In the mornings, as part of the daily task, I count the number of pomodoros available for the day, look at my flagged projects and assign myself whichever ones I like as areas of focus for the day. I can always change during the day, but at least I have a plan with which to begin.
As an example, if I have 5 available pomodoros scattered throughout the day, I may set 2 aside for routine maintenance, phone calls, emails and paperwork, and the other 3 for any particular projects on which I’d like to focus. I can dedicate one-to-three different projects vs three-to-one project or any combination with different effort for each.
Of course, this can be done without the pomodoro concept, but having discrete periods of time dedicated to a particular concentration can make a significant difference. We can avoid the, “oh let me see what’s on the forums just for a second” or “I wonder if Slangolor emailed me back yet”, each seemingly simple thoughts with their own derailing paths.
In the next post, I will add some final thoughts on the pomodoro.
Addendum: I’m experimenting with doing away with the external spreadsheet and just using OmniFocus as the recording system. I’ve created a folder for Pomodoros. A new project called “(today’s date) pomodoros” is added containing tasks with links to the projects.
“When the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
– Abraham Maslow
One needs to be careful that dedicating a set time prior to a task is not for every situation. As noted prior, some creative tasks are especially delicate, and the potential to break an important flow needs attention.
First, lets look at some areas and ways of integrating pomodoros as dedicated intense islands of time that can be used in the contexts, tasks and projects of GTD:
The techniques have different founders and therefore have different terminology as well. A translation between the two will help us see potentials for overlap.
To say the least, there are several major differences between the Pomodoro and GTD techniques of productivity. In some situations, these differences allow them to play well together, while in others they may even hamper each other. Today’s post will center on some of these areas.
The Technique’s Centerpiece
There is a pdf available on the Pomodoro Technique page that is well worth your time.
In short, the pomodoro technique involves setting a timer for a certain period of time (suggested 25 minutes) and dedicating oneself to a task or project for that time. This is then followed by a short rest period (suggested 5 minutes). Every 4 pomodoros, one takes a longer break of about 20 minutes. The timing is, of course, adaptable, but this is a good place to start.
The concept it focuses on coincides well with that of GTD’s: Respect the limits of your attention.