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Pomodoro-ish Technique

Page history last edited by rsb 1 week ago



Note: I made something way better than this page:


These ideas are more effectively communicated visually.  I created a Time Management Troubleshooter on my github-pages site that condenses this entire topic into a few clickable images.  Check it out. 


Pomodoro Technique in One Sentence:


Pomodoro technique asks you to perform one task at a time, working in 25 minute increments, with a five minute break between, while deflecting and writing down anything that interrupts you, and returning to work as quickly as possible.   


What you might want to read instead of this page:


If you are suffering from ADHD, like I do, then you can try to type "30 second timer" into google and focus intently on the 30 second countdown, then get back to work.  It might help you focus.


As the title of this article suggests, on this page I describe a simplified pomodoro technique, and how I integrate that with my work philosophy.  


But..this page you are reading has also become my de-facto place to put all manner of time management notes. 


For most people, I recommend you just check out the Time Management Troubleshooter, above.  You might also check out the "Other Related Stuff" section below. 


For people who like to nerd out on productivity writing (especially with a focus on long-work (aka Deep Work), read on and enjoy.  Honestly, I love to re-read this page once a year or maybe more, and make a little edit here or there as I learn.  The whole topic is a lot of fun and a lot of research is going on in the area.


Below I also lists several hintsalternatives, and other important stuff that pomodoro technique does not address, before getting on with the simplified pomodoro technique.  There are awesome productivity studies going on these days that probably supercede a lot of this.


Some things I do not use Pomodoro Technique for:


Don't use pomodoro technique when you are both in the zone and metrics are irrelevant - it will take you out of focus.


Pomodoro technique is primarily used to increase focus and to track metrics.  It encourages you to deflect and track interruption.  And, in that, it is effective.  However, if you are able to get into a very focused state and you don't need metrics, then, don't fix what isn't broken!  


Keep it simple.  Pomodoro technique is actually the most complex time management system I have ever used for personal tasks.  If you only need a little focus boost, or if you only want to be a little more intentional about your work, then you can go much simpler than pomodoro - see Alternatives below.


There is a lot more in the original pomodoro technique whitepaper than just the technique, and there is a lot more to time management than there is in any whitepaper.  There are links below to to the original whitepaper and a few other resources.


How I simplify pomodoro:


When I do use pomodoro method, I use a simple version in which:


  • I have shrunk the pomodoro technique down to the simplest form that still offers the time-boxing, estimation, and analytics I need.  ( see below )
  • I have eliminated all but a single daily task list. ( I make this daily at the breakfast table, on paper, away from my computers )
  • My master task lists are created through weekly planning. ( I allocate time for next weeks tasks on my digital calendar every weekend, and adjust ongoing. )


Some things I can't use Pomodoro Technique for:


I don't use pomodoro for management of a master task list, or for list prioritization.  I only use pomodoro technique as a method of maintaining focus and collecting metrics during the work day.  

Task List Management Tips:


I don't have a ton to add, here, but maybe a few tips are useful:


For personal task list management I use weekly planning, google calendar, and google spreadsheets, with offline mode turned on.  


Excellent note: block out time at the start of the week on your calendar so you can't be disturbed during your assigned task times.


In my experience, maintaining this stuff takes care of task list management: Having a Master Task List somewhere (I used to use tasksboard for my personal stuff, but I reverted to google sheets), an up-to-date calendar (google calendar), and a list of Personal Goals (any duration, I use a piece of paper or a spreadsheet, depending). 


More opinions follow.


On the book Getting Things Done (by david allen):  I've read  GTD and a number of other books on time management that I don't mention much here.  Almost all of them recommend a whole lot of high level thinking and planning.  I don't do that.  The strategy employed by the majority of time management books, including GTD, is just not for me.


My monologue on work projects and tools that you should probably skip:


You can start using a google spreadsheet to manage your work projects, but it won't go too far.  Although a spreadsheet counts as a professional tool, it's not a database, and it can't track historical data in cells (without major surgery).  So it can't show me a burndown chart, or a delta over time with a sane UI.  A spreadsheet is fine for very small projects.  It falls down when there are too many tasks/projects and too much metadata.  


The only tools that cross over well between personal and professional time management are utilities like stay focused, harvest, and rescuetime.


For any large, professional project that needs to be done right, I prefer to use a purpose-built project management tool backed by a database I have access to.


What tool should you use for work project management? For software project management, I prefer something like Jira or Pivotal Tracker-in-combination-with-In-sight.io.  For high volume support I recommend Cerberus, for bug tracking internally I would recommend something like bugzilla or FogBugz - externally, maybe Cerberus or just github issues.  In reality, the choice of tools requires buy in from responsible, process-oriented leads (your top internal individual contributors) - without that buy-in, you will just get frustrated.  


As a side note to this side note: Software developers have had to learn to choose project and time-management tools that balance complexity, quality and speed.  They also love to build those tools.  You could probably learn from them.  I try to find analogies for good software development practices like continuous integration, monitoring and unit testing in other areas of endeavor, and that turns up all kinds of fun management and business ideas.  


In summary - work is different - it requires tools I won't talk about further.  This page is my go-to resource for individual time management practices only.  This concludes my monologue on time mangement at work. Thanks for listening!


List Prioritization is an art:


I suspect that no one can tell anyone else how to prioritize personal tasks in the general sense - it's too contextual and complicated.  Prioritization is tied in with all sorts of strategic stuff that determines how you live your life.


However, prioritization is a huge part of time management, so I'm including some tricks.


I use these tricks prioritize my *personal* lists.  


Before I begin, there are a couple related things that I should mention.


Simplification:  You can sometimes choose not to prioritize with something like I Will Do One Thing Today.


Buy-In: When you want to get things done, it is *extremely* helpful to have buy-in from people that you live and work with.  If we're talking personal stuff, your friends and family and everyone else in your life (maybe your work, too) need to know what you schedule is, and they need to support you in it.  You have to let them know, share your calendar, and get them to say "Yes, that seems fine.  I'll support you in getting that done and won't bother you."  Or, the closest approximation to that you can achieve.  Unless you are a hermit, other people need to share your priorities - If everyone thinks you should be interruptable, or doing something else, then you're usually screwed.  Most work environments, ironically, do not allow for uninterrupted work <yet another workplace efficiency rant omitted for your sake>.  


Grouping:  Common sense and experience will suggest that you group like tasks, make days dedicated to specific things, isolate yourself based on physical location, and take into account a myriad of other factors.   It is wonderfully powerful to have the luxury of dedicating a day, or at least half a day, to one type of thing - be it paperwork, customer support, whatever, without interruption.  I *hate* paperwork.  But I *love* a paperwork day - dedicated time in which I can knock out all that crap I hate and be done with it.


Aside from considering buy-in and grouping, I have a checklist that I go through to solve some overwhelming lists - I ONLY DO THIS WHEN I AM COMPLETELY STUCK AND NOTHING ELSE IS WORKING.  This has gotten me unstuck a few times, though, so I'm documenting it here.  I have to look here every time I use it, because I always fail to remember it with the terrible acronym: WRICO.


Here I am drawing a bit from a technique called The Final Version, and from The Alternative Final Version, and from my own psychology.  I begin to prioritize by finding three tasks, and then I prioritize calendar and organizational stuff.  


Here's the checklist:


1. The Task I (W)ant To Do Most ___


Adds confidence and energy - ask: Is there anything on the master list I would I want to do more than this? until you find the answer.


2. The Task of Highest (R)esistance ___


Breaks through mental blocks - ask: Is there anything I am more resistant to doing than this?  until you find the answer.


3. The Most (I)mportant Task ___


Provides feeling of relief and well being - ask: If I could only do one thing on this list, what one would be the most important to accomplish today? until you find the answer.  


Whenever possible, I add those to my daily task list first.  I experiment with the order.  Sometimes I only have time for one thing, so I just add the most important one.  Sometimes I add more than one (W)ant to do task, because life is short.  It's not always possible to do them at all, but if you can get those three (Want, Resistance, Important) done on any given day, then you are probably in great, great shape - and you will probably be energized - you might knock out a bunch more after you knock out those three.


4. (C)alendar Appointments ___


You will, of course, add things that are due on your calendar next - you will have scheduled all of those during weekly planning.  A lot of them are for a fixed amount of time, so estimating the number of 25 min pomodoros is easy. 


5. (O)rganization and Communication Time Blocks ___


Short version:


If you are planning an entire day, be sure to add one or more tasks, about one pomodoro long, that cover organizational things like calendaring and email.


Lots more about communication time blocks:




  1. Some people like to schedule "check email and name_of_online_chat_tool_here" on their calendar twice a day during weekly planning.  All too often, I don't do that - I guess I don't like that much structure.  That lack of strategic focus drags me into to very long communication sessions.  NOT checking email (or answering the phone or checking snail mail) is NOT legally viable for most normal people, so no one can skip checking email and phone, unless they have a very reliable personal assistant that they talk to instead.
  2. I used to say: "NEVER check email or phone messages until you have completed daily planning."  Now I don't believe that.  If you have a lot of important real-time communications to do, sometimes it's better to FRONT LOAD it.  First thing in the morning.  Either before you plan, or interleaved with planning.  The reason I do this a lot now is that meetings and phone-calls (real-time communications) often change your plans.  They also give you an opportunity to get buy-in from people to allow you to do the things you need to do that day.  Anecdotally, I have found that the morning is the best time to get your schedule to you significant other as well.  My new thinking on this is calendaring first, tentatively blocking time out for things you want to work on - then communications - then any adjustments that need to be made to the calendar.  Get all that over with and then you can really start blocking out time with confidence for the rest of the day.
  3. Respect the timer - keep the 25 minute countdown in your face while you do this.  It's a goal.  If you can keep it under 25 minutes, you can feel good about it.  Speeds you up.  Not always possible.




Email and online chat are their own organizational problems that beg to be handled systematically (out of scope but I'll write about them somewhere, for sure!).  

If you can, time block email, chat.


Outside of scheduled times, make sure email and chat are turned off (tabs closed) and keep notifications of email and chat turned off on your phone. 


For email, I use gmail stars and labels, so I have to check my starred items first, then my unread items, etc. and I'm not done until there are no more starred or unread items.  Then I am completely done with email for the day.


For chat, I check a few times a day, and I only check direct messages, required reading, and sometimes mentions.  


Shut up your phone.


For phone, I leave the ringer on buzzer for all non-family members at all times for PHONE CALLS ONLY.  Family members get the ringer whenever I'm not in a quiet zone (meetings, movies, library, etc).


All other notifications neither make a sound or vibrate my phone.


Adjust the notifications on your calendar.


Google calendar, and most other calendars these days, offer notifications that are extremely useful and will keep you from missing important events. There is some time savings to be had by managing your calendar notifications.  I definitely review the notifications on events, remove notifications that are excessive interruptions, and add copious notifications when I know I need them.  



6. Prioritization getting you down?


You could just use a time management technique that only has one task, and then you have simplified the prioritzation problem to choosing a task.


Some prioritization is good, but some prioritization can be a waste of time and a rathole.


When I'm staring at a big task list that is clearly not prioritized or not correctly prioritized, it's easy to see all the tasks as important.  Everything looks the same.  That's actually a depressing state of mind.  


If you find that happening, you might consider learning from others.  I seek out friends or coworkers, or things like this document, or books or websites that might provide insight or perspective.  It's nice to get a bigger perspective on what's important, take a little time for it to sink in, then return to your list.


FWIW, one book I liked that has some meta-advice: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko - a career planning guide in manga form.  I ask myself a few questions about my daily tasks based on the six life planning principles in therein.  It occasionally changes my day.  Here is the Johnny Bunko advice and some questions based on it:


  • There is no plan - is this something that is speculative?  Defocusing?
  • Play to your strengths - will I do a uniquely good job at this?
  • It's not about you - how well does this serve others?
  • Persistence trumps talent - how big is the persistence dividend on this task?
  • Make excellent mistakes - could I learn something awesome from failing completely at this?
  • Leave an imprint - how can this provide lasting help to others after I am gone?


Choosing a task:


When following the mechanics of time management systems, I find that I can get a bit myopic and mechanical about choosing a tasks, so I need to remind myself of the obvious:


  1. You have to try to do what you have the energy to do, or, even, do things in the order throughout the day such that you will have, on average, the most joy and the highest energy for a given task.
  2. You can easily overtrain by choosing tasks that are too big or too difficult and not breaking things down.
  3. "Frogs" are super energy intensive tasks - you know they will drain you for whatever reason even after you have broken them down - Frogs are things that you need to be aggressive with - it's also helpful to have a support person that will do them with you - you can't just body-double that stuff - you need someone who in that moment has energy and cares about you and about you eating that frog.


See: Firas Zahabi on flow and overtraining 



Simple - Pomodoro-ish technique:


I believe this abbreviated technique to be completely serviceable and only slightly different from the technique described in the original 38 page paper.  It covers what is important to me, anyway, and it's only one page long.  Take what you want from it.  Tweak the crap out of it.  Make something better and share it.  That's the way it should be.


A pomodoro is 25 minutes of work with a five minute break.  When you have done a few pomodoros you can adjust the length of the work and the break.


What you will need:


1) Something to write tasks down with.  I recommend a spiral notebook.  IMHO, tasks should be pulled primarily from weekly plans, if possible.


2) Something to track time with.  It is highly likely that you are using headphones and a laptop or smartphone, so you will want a timer app.  Otherwise, pick up a kitchen timer - the pomodoro whitepaper is in super love with ticky kitchen timers for reasons I don't completely agree with.



Each day:


Start of day:


Make a Daily Task List from your weekly plan or master task list.  Decide that todays tasks are well-suited to Pomodoro Technique.  Combine or break down tasks until they fit into 1-4 pomodoros (no more than two hours).  Next to each task, put an empty checkbox for each pomodoro you estimate the task will require.  Below the last item, draw a line, and below that line, write the word "Interrupts".  


Body of day:


Complete one pomodoro loop after another, taking a 15-60 minute break every four loops (two hours) for food, exercise, or whatever you like.


End of day:


(C)ompletes, (E)stimates, (A)dds, (A)voids:  - Cross off any tasks that you completed from your weekly plan or master task list - see if you can mine your Todo List for useful data - how were your estimates?  Could you have broken tasks down further?  Any Interrupts you need to add to your master task list or schedule on your calendar?  What can you change to avoid what interrupted you today? - don't spend more than 25 min on this.


One pomodoro loop (a definition):


  • Decide on the Current Task from the Daily Task List, including the section "Interrupts"
  • Isolate: Shut off any browser tabs or applications that you don't require to accomplish the current task.  No excuses - if you don't need it, close it.  If you don't need the internet, or your phone to ring, shut off your computers network connection and your phone ringer. 
  • Set Time r for 25 min. (25 min. equals 1 pomodoro)
  • Start Work ing until the timer goes off or you are interrupted, with the goal of completing one pomodoro of work on the task at hand. 
  • If you find yourself distracted - taken off-task for any reason at all - jump to Interrupt Handling. 
  • When the timer goes off, mark an 'X' to the right of the task at hand (in the checkbox, if there is one) and take a 3-5 min. Break as a reward - do whatever you like.  You completed a pomodoro!


Interrupt Handling:


  • Put a tick mark to the right of the task that you were interrupted from - this tells you that you were pulled off that task by an interrupt.
  • If the Interrupt involves a person - tell them you are working and ask them if you can reschedule for another day.
  • If the Interrupt is really not urgent, and it lasted no more than a few seconds, then record the interrupt in the "Interrupts" section - add a star if you rescheduled, and always the persons name if the interrupt involved a person - then pop back to where you were in the pomodoro loop to complete your Current Task.  You've successfully deflected an Interrupt. 
  • If the Interrupt lasted more than a few seconds, then you have invalidated your pomodoro - write the Interrupt down in the "Interrupts" section of your daily task list, and take a 3-5 minute break.  Start a new pomodoro loop. 


Hints, Modifications, Sequencing, and Guidelines: 


  • Sometimes you will find yourself working outside of the pomodoro technique when you want to be working within it.  When you catch yourself doing that, it's a good idea to stop what you are doing, and write down what you were doing in your notebook or on a piece of paper.  That should get you back on track.  Or, check out the Alternatives.
  • What to do when a tornado hits your day:  Get hit by a truck?  Happens to me all the time.  I don't have a great answer, but it always makes me feel better to document what I've done somewhere.  Just do the End of Day process.  Grab your notebook or a piece of paper.  Guesstimate what you worked on, tasks, pomodoros, interrupts, and then reflect - you will probably find you need to add or cross something off your master task list.
  • Are you crappy at estimation?  All your tasks taking way more pomodoros than you thought they would??  You have an estimation problem.  Don't worry about it!!!  Everyone does!!!  Humans all suck at estimation.  If you use end of day pomodoro technique, you can do a breakdown exercise - analyze how you could have broken each one of those tasks you didn't finish into smaller tasks.   Doing that will make you better at breaking down tasks, and smaller tasks are easier to estimate.
  • Sequencing is the art of putting first tasks first.  Remember, you have limited will and energy - that's just physics - it's one of the things that makes sequencing difficult.  Mostly mental tasks usually have one or more periods of the day that are superior to schedule them into.  After that consideration, you want to consider what tasks are new to you - you will need to put the new, hard, habit training first if you want those to have the maximum uptake.  However, you don't always have a choice!  The crying baby actually comes first, and you might be physically unable build a habit because of that little one.  Sometimes that means you are not capable of building that habit right now - and you have to build it later - or start smaller with something easier.  Upshot is that you need to really consider your capabilities and energy before you decide to sequence your task list - and that's going to change throughout the day.  I try to put physical work in early in the day, because I have found that with my body and mind, it is easier to get it in as early as possible.  Remember that it's hard to adapt to physical tasks in sequence - when you change sleep, exercise, and diet, that has side effects, so expect adaptation to occur over many attempts at getting sequencing to work well for you 


Alternatives to Time Management:


If you came here looking for focus and found time management tools...The reality is that time management is not usually the solution to a productivity "problem" - certainly not the scheduling component of time management.  Time management is often a crutch used to keep you on track even though your real problem is a broken leg.  Crutches exist for a reason.  They help you get by until the real healing can begin.  


I recommend using the simplest tools first, and graduating to more complex ones only when necessary.


Work Hygiene


Focus doesn't come from a time management system alone.  Occasionally, I will leave a work environment to find a better one.  Sometimes I will take action to change my mental or physical state, and that's enough.  Knowing when to do this, and how, is a largely matter of observing yourself over time.


If you are having trouble with focus, get out of context (maybe go for a walk).  Then consider your work environment and your physical/mental state.  Make the adjustments necessary to optimize focus.  If you are stressed, maybe you should meditate.  If you need energy, drink water and eat.  If someone is distracting you, perhaps you should talk to them.  If you have a headache, then exercise, drink water, medicate, etc.  


I often switch my workspace as I switch task type - this gives me the feeling of a fresh start - even if I just entered another room to do my next bit of work.


If you find that you are just plain tired, and need rest, then you have to sneak in some rest, or recover while you work.  Fatigue makes cowards of us all - Vince Lombardi.


This all seems like common sense, but it's easy to forget when you are at work.


See Also: Getting in the Zone


Simpler Ways To Get Started:


You can get started with a time management system in seconds, even if you have zero time to implement a master todo list.  


Here are two of the quickest ways to start a time management system - they happen to be the same methods that get you back on track (eventually) if you fall off the wagon.


Both of them require that you spend a few seconds grabbing something, anything, to record text on that you can keep around all day: A pen and a piece of paper, a fresh document on your computer, whatever.  I like a pen and paper because it's always present for me to refer to no matter what my computer workspace looks like.


Slightly Simpler - Project and track changes


Works if you have no option but to get a ton of little things done in one day.  Open a spreadsheet.  Enter your days tasks and goals.  Then project the day out in terms of pomodoros - 9AM task 1, 9:25 break for five min, 9:30 task 2 - etc.  Then track changes as below, alongside the visualized projection - super enlightening and actually this can be kind of game-like, which really deserves some more experimentation because gamifying daily tasks could be quite fun.


Simpler - Track Changes Only


This one may surprise you.  Even if you can't do pomodoro technique, you can get a lot out of simply tracking when you change tasks.  All you need to be able to do is to find a piece of paper and a pen.  Got that far?  Now write down the absolute minimum necessary to express the time and what you are doing right now.  Keep doing that when you change tasks.


It's easy!  If it's 8:00AM and you are going for a walk, write: "8 walk", and if you get back at 8:15AM and sit down to start reading chapter 12 of Secrets of the Javascript Ninja, scribble: ":15 read", and so on, just writing the minimum.  Keep it up for a workday, and your awareness of your habits will increase.  You will also be very intentional after a while.  You can review and get metrics out of those notes whenever you feel like it.  


Optionally, since you have that piece of paper out, put a little x next to each task every time you know you have 25 uninterrupted minutes on it.  Then, add the word "interrupts" below that task, and write down anything that interrupts you.  You've transitioned back to pomodoro-ish technique.  


Note: I've tried rescue time, exist, google fit, and a host of other semi-automated time-tracking apps.  The problem with those for me is that they are inaccurate.   They can't handle the fact that other people use my phone and computers from time to time.  They also need tuning and never quite get dialed in for me.  So I have abandoned them for now.  The best time tracking app I have ever used is arbtt, but it will only track your time while you are using a linux-based OS.



Simplest (and best) - I Will Do One Thing Today


Marc Chernoff created an awesome time management system that I love and often use as my go-to when I don't feel like dealing with a list at all.


I think this technique offers the minimum amount of overhead possible while still being INTENTIONAL about what you do. 


Basically, you think of the *one thing* that, if you accomplished it that day, would be more valuable than all the other things.  Then you kamikaze it - completely focused on one thing - no worries about anything else.  Turn off your phone, turn on StayFocused.  Just get it done.  Obviously, it helps if that one thing is just barely do-able in the time you have, if you work really hard.


This can be exhilarating and highly effective.


Often you will find yourself adopting this method without thinking about it.  Fire fighting this morning?  No problem.  You can still be intentional.  Just write down the name of the task that's on fire.  You are back on track with the do-one-thing-today organizational system!

If you feel like getting back into pomodoro at some point, perhaps because you finished that one thing early, just put a little x next to that burning task every time you know 25 minutes has passed, or write the time.  Then, you know, when you have time, add the word "interrupts" below that task, and write down anything that interrupts you.  You're back in the pomodoro-ish system!


I forgot to manage my time today


O.k., so, it's the end of the day and you are asking "What happened?".  Here's what I think you should do: Take out your notebook, add the date, then write down what you did, what derailed you, and any other notes you want to take.  Treat it like a journal entry.  This will at least give you some closure and some data to look back on.  This happens to me more often than I would like to admit.


Alternating Reward Tasks (emulating flow)


Most days, your task list contains both frogs and princes (or princesses, or androgynous unicorns, or whatever - the fun kind of task) on your list.


After and only after completing some meaningful portion of a frog task, rewarding yourself with an equal amount of time spent on prince tasks is super fun.


With a realistic source of fun a realistic distance away, you can really accept your frog task chunks and even get into them a little.


As with everything, this strategy relies on breaking tasks down into reasonable chunks, and finding good stopping points that don't require a tremendous amount of tooling time.


More Digital Tools:

There are, of course, digital tools that help with focus and metric tracking.  I use them every once in a while for special purposes.  Harvest and Rescue Time are particularly worth looking into and the most popular time management/tracking tools I know of.  I couldn't get RescueTime to work for me in the long run, but when I'm using linux I can get arbtt to work fairly well as a replacement when I was using linux.  Lately, since my family uses google stuff, I have been using tasksboard as it's a nice Kanban board that I can see on my wide monitor completely, and it uses google tasks as the backend data store, which we all have on our phones.




Note: For my money, my time management troubleshooter is the best version of all this stuff.  I have it on my bookmark bar.  It provides a gentle reminder of some good time management options.


Core to this technique:


The pomodoro originators website:  Pomodoro Technique Website

The wikipedia page: Pomodoro Technique Wikipedia Page

The original paper as a PDF (also available on wikipedia page): Pomodoro Technique Original PDF


Other techniques and sites that influenced this article:

I will do one thing today - Marc Chernoff

Getting Things Done

99u has some good articles on time management

Matt might on productivity


And many more - some links included inline in the notes below.


Other related stuff:




TBD.  You're stuck.  You see options: Buckle down and try again, find someone to collaborate with or take the task, or accept defeat and do something you excel at.  Tough call.  Collaboration could be the answer.  More to say here.


Habits and Focus: 


Arguments can be made against time management.  Actually, several have been made.  Most of them view time management as a compulsive, overdone affair.  There is a kernel of truth to them, for in reality, we run on habits and process.  


Discipline, habits, and process are irrevocably intertwined.  Discipline, is as much a product of good habits as the other way around.  In the moment when we decide to make the right decision, we have saved the energy required to do so, and we focus on our goal.  There is a reminder you can give yourself to make the right decision, based on the Zeigarnick Effect - basically "Scientifically speaking, you are going to be preoccupied and feel like shit until you get that damn thing done so get it done."


There are too many good resources on this to list, but here are a few that I have not lost:


Habits, habits, habits.  - Important stuff.

Focus, focus, focus, focus, focus, focus, focus. - Important as well, and related.  


This video offers a good summary of a few of those concepts.  It's based on this blog.


My mental model of those two topics (habits and focus) is simple:


A) It takes more energy to pave a wilder path - save your energy.


You are building weighted pathways in your mind all day long.  Repeat something, the weights change, and invariably the path gets easier to repeat.  Do something for the first time, and there is no path - you are chopping through an impossibly dense jungle.  What you do a thousand times every day ultimately becomes like a bowling ball rolling downhill on a superhighway.  Let a superhighway alone for a year, and the jungle overtakes it completely.   Choose which paths to reinforce with your limited energy, and stick to them.


Corollary to A) The wilder the path - the more energy it takes to tread there.  Take every opportunity to maintain pathways - you will save energy in life.


This is one reason to plan your day - you need to know what is going to take the most energy.  Feed yourself with sleep, diet, exercise, and calm.  Conserve your energy.  Remember that it takes energy to do everything, think, exercise, digest food, switch tasks, etc.


You have to look at everything you do as an opportunity to invest in creating the right path.  Feel good about investing that energy to build good habits - strong paths.  


Everything we do reinforces one habit or another.  At a stretch, a process can be looked at as a meta-habit for one or more people, and process documentation as a reminder to learn and build habits together.  Enough has been written for laymen about process and habit in the last couple years to fill a bookshelf.  I've absorbed some part of that to form this mental model.


More on documentation later.


The Importance of Flow State:


Almost everyone can benefit from understanding this: Firas Zahabi explains flow state starting with exercise metaphors, but his explanation applies to every field of endeavor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fbCcWyYthQ 


Note also that Firas mentions that the nervous system needs to recover from intensity as well.  This is why I think a lot of short music practices beat one long one each day.


I think this is highly applicable to time management in that it plays into a lot of scheduling.  And if you are having problems focusing, then you are probably either overchallenged, underchallenged, or exhausted.


Tim Ferris on Procrastination:


It should take 5 minutes to watch this video by Tim Ferris on procrastination if you set it to double-speed, but only three to read my summary (errors and omissions mine):


When faced with a task you may procrastinate on:


Set a specific goal - set time and task:

i.e. Get the foo interface completed within 8 hours.


Break it down:

i.e. These are the ten pieces of this interface, the ten things that need to be done.


Choose the most important one, like so:

i.e. Which one of these, if done, will make the rest irrelevant, or easier? - choose to do only that one.


Lower your standards - make the task super easy:

i.e. two crappy pages per day written - or - 5 minutes a day of exercise.


Establish some limits - Set time and task again, but smaller:

i.e. Pomodoro technique is an example.  Break it down into 25 minute blocks.


Add a social context, even if it's with yourself:

i.e. Agree to meet with someone to demo your interface at a certain time.

i.e. Note to yourself: Mike!!! You have a meeting with yourself at 7AM at Red Rock to complete a chapter of writing.


Me on Procrastination:


This isn't an emergency and you don't have enough energy to get that shit done: Go take care of yourself and do things you have energy for.

This shit is an emergency and I'm procrastinating: Get help. 



Other productivity writing/videos I found helpful:


Kevin Jubbal: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3VWbWk8qDBiF0741izgpQg


What research says about your ADHD (fantastic video). And this.


And from Matt Might I found Willpower by Baumeister and Tierney - have only read summaries online - makes tons of sense and fits into my experiences - on my list.










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