Friday, May 17, 2013

One Pomodoro, two pomodoro, three pomodoro, four

I have been using the pomodoro technique for a couple years  to improve my productivity. Pomodoro is a timer (of 20 minutes) during which you commit to do a task. After this task timer there is a short break, after which the next task timer starts again. The pomodoro technique is described here in detail.

I like pomodoro as it helps me to concentrate and get things done.  It also helps me to get started on something I detest doing: Surely I can endure doing that thing for 20 minutes, right? This helps trick myself to break my inertia and usually I find that I can keep going for multiple pomodoros on that task.

I use the Pomodoro Desktop app (by Ugo Landini) for Mac OS X, and configure it to use 20 minutes as the task timer and 10 minutes as the break timer. I modified it to disable my laptop wifi at the start of the task timer and enable it back at the end of the task timer. For this I added do shell script "networksetup -setairportpower en0 off" to the pomodoro start script and do shell script "networksetup -setairportpower en0 on" to the end script.

Adding the automatic wifi disable/enable to the pomodoro has improved my productivity greatly. Now, I do not get lured to check twitter or gmail in the middle of writing something (which unavoidably leads to checking hacker news and quora). If what I am working on really requires to look something up on the internet, I note it (either on a paper, or most of the time I actually enter the thing to look up on the inactive chrome by opening a new tab). At the end of my task timer, my wifi restores automatically, and I grab those pages in bulk. During the break time, I can also check my mail if I feel like it, or get up, walk around and flex. During the break time I also take a step back, and think about what I have been working and how it relates to other things and fits in the big picture. The break gives my brain time to get creative and make new connections.

This setup also reduces the distractions from being always connected to the Internet. With the automated wifi disabling/enabling, I am basically using my inherent laziness to my advantage. Manually enable my wifi carries a transaction cost, and I guess I am too lazy to do that and/or too proud to accept a defeat :-)

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