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.
Ok – so this turned out to be a larger project than I originally thought it would. I found this idea of the Pomodoro Technique and started adding it to my GTD and OmniFocus methods of working. Hey, that’s a post, right? Well, it actually turned into a series of posts starting with this one.
I think that’s the nature of any understanding, though. When we see something, it looks simple, complicated, whatever. Whatever it is we see is based upon our previous conceptions, our previous prejudices, and an amalgamation of previous experience. When we actually examine the concept, its intricacies and nuances become more apparent. When we actually get into a project, it becomes apparent that it takes much less or more time and effort than originally anticipated. A good system of working will take this into account.
OmniFocus and GTD allows us to draw a map of the Project’s landscape. A pomodoro is the legend along the bottom telling us the distance in time. Both the map and the legend are adjusted as we begin traveling. In the end, the map is not the landscape it is meant to represent, but it can sure help in getting us from point A to point B.
There’s too much to do,You’re drowning in your Inbox… …What if there was a way out? If you could only get to that super-focused state—where you’re sailing strong, where you seem to get more work done in an hour than most do in ten. Getting there is a matter of...
There are, after all, many methodologies, ranging from the simple ideas to overarching systems. Getting Things Done (GTD), Agile Systems, The Pomodoro Technique, Bullet Journaling, and certainly my own are all various ways of trying to be productive.
But what does it truly mean? Is it getting as much done in as little time as possible? Is it making the greatest change with the smallest effort?
The most related dictionary definition is:
“the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input”
But that does not fully resonate with how I, and I believe many others, consider it. Missing from that definition is the meaning of the work. In other words, if we are not doing work that feels meaningful, it is inherently unproductive.
This is not a trivial distinction. Meaning is something we continually discover. And, our search for it is greatly helped by deliberate regular reflection.
Considering the personal meaning of work separates one’s employer and even one’s self from thinking that we fully know what is meaningful about our work. We don’t.
In this way, being productive is better described as a practice. To this end, I propose the following definition:
**Productivity** is the daily practice of of engaging in personally meaningful play and work.[^1]
When we approach our work with this spirit, then we better think about how to engage ourselves with depth. When we do, we have a much better chance of ending any session feeling accomplished and invigorated to find more. If a current project feels devoid of life, then the question become how can we find vitality again, be that in the project itself, in another project, seeing it as sustaining meaning elsewhere, or perhaps finding a new line of work entirely.
This, of course, is not a matter of cheerleading one’s self or one’s team. Shouting “you can do it” does nothing. We can only ask, “How does this genuinely matter to me?” and build from there.
What helps you work from home? No, really, I’m asking. Please feel free to add thoughts to the comments section.
Whatever the answer is, I think it has something to do with managing transitions…
A Need & Transitions
Apparently, there is some sort of virus going around. So, many of us are now set to work from home. There are many who already have been working from home, but there are many who have not. It’s new territory.
We often get our work done, unwittingly, by relying on environmental triggers. A meeting here, a deadline there, someone stopping by to ask something, etc. These are the small taps that guide us throughout the day. Sometimes we use them well, having reflected upon them and designed our own environments.
But the upheaval in transitioning from an outside office to home can be significant. All of your stuff’s there! All the usual triggers for home life, be that family, a beckoning gaming system, or both, are there.
So this is one transition – office to home. But there is another transition to consider: that of moving from one work to another. 1
Whatever productivity technique you use to get started, be that of Being Productive, the Pomodoro Technique, or GTD’s idea of “tricking yourself”2 – they all consider transitions. The idea is that once you start something, there is a tendency to continue it.
Perhaps there is a parallel to Newton’s first law:
“A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by a net external force.”
In this way, rather than consider having to do something for extended periods of time throughout the day, you might do well to think of having to make several transitions.
Additionally, there is a longer term consideration. To illustrate, consider one difference between those who retire well vs those who have difficulty is in their lives beforehand. If a person has developed hobbies, relationships, and the like that aren’t somehow tied to an occupation that will end, it is easier to make the transition. Often these activities can simply expand to fill the void left. Sometimes they suddenly realize that still don’t have time to do everything they want!
But those whose entire lives are work, the transition is more like running into a state of famine. They have to start creating a whole new garden from scratch—something very difficult to do at a later stage of life.
Certainly this latter advice is hardly helpful for the moment. It amounts to “you should have done x, y, or z”. But, hopefully, this crisis will pass, and you’ll be left with the realization that life outside of an occupation is vital. Not only is it important for the content. It’s also important for learning how to set up rhythms for oneself. Further, I find that having learned these habits of transition enhances my abilities and interactions at work even during the day at the office.
Now, I should say that I often use the word “work” similarly to GTD’s David Allen. In other words, “work” is “anything that you want to be different than it currently is.” Allen, David. “A New Practice for a New Reality.” In Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity, 4. No ed. New York: Viking, 2001. ↩
The example given is that if you want to start jogging, then put your shoes on and go outside. You might just start jogging. Once you do, you’ll likely continue. ↩