Archive for the 'Adaptive Process' Category



Do you ALWAYS respect the timebox?

Timbox and Flow

Timbox and Flow

Hi Staffan! Do you ALWAYS respect the 25 minute timebox when you’re in the zone? Can’t this break your flow?

Yes, I always respect the timebox:

  • A short break won’t make me forget everything. I can go on from exactly the point where I left.
  • The break means that I can recharge my brain. Goal free play encourages background processing and right brain thinking. If I put enough effort in last iteration, it will even be guilt free play, which helps me avoid procrastination.
  • Humans love rhythm. From the day we were born to the day we die, our life is filled with rhythms. They make us feel safe and helps us to have sustainable pace.
  • Flow means totally focused on one task. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m doing the most important task. Sometimes flow means efficiency, without effectiveness. To recurrently take a short break and then asses if I’m doing the most important thing will help me navigate in task land.
  • When I’m in the flow, I’m so focused so I’m not really aware that I’m in the flow. When the timebox is finished, it’s impossible to immediately say if I should continue or not.
  • To take a break when arousal is high, makes me eager when it’s time to start the next timebox.
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Am I supposed to focus now?

Do you have trouble remembering if you’re in a Pomodoro or not? If you use a mechanical kitchen timer, the ticking sound will remind you. But what if you work in a no-sounds-allowed office?

This is actually a very common problem. Even if you can’t have the ticking sound and the mechanical timer, I do believe that gestures are important. They help your brain to make the transition from free time to focus time and back.

You may put your cell phone on the desk every time you start a Pomodoro and remove it when you end. Or even simpler: take a business card and color it green on the backside with a felt-tip pen. Put the card on your desk. Every time you start a Pomodoro, turn the green side up. Every time you end a Pomodoro, turn the green side down.

  • You can see the card/phone while you’re in a Pomodoro. It reminds you that it’s focus time.
  • The gestures of turning the card will—after a while—be associated with starting and ending a Pomodoro.

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

Bibliography from Pomodoro Technique Illustrated

There are many references in Pomodoro Technique Illustrated. Below is a list of the books in the bibliography linked to Amazon. In a future post I will also put links to the referred articles and web sites.

How many of these have you read? Do you have any recommended reading for me?

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

The Now List

(This is an excerpt from the book Pomodoro Technique Illustrated)

In 1933 Hedwig von Restorff performed a set of memory experiments. Her conclusion was that an isolated item, in a list of otherwise similar items, would be better remembered. If I read a shopping list with one
item highlighted in azure blue, it’s more likely that I remember the highlighted item than any of the others. This is now identified as The
Von Restorff effect
.

The Now List is not another artifact in Pomodoro Technique® (created by Francesco Cirillo). It’s my name for a concept: what I give my attention to right now. The cardinality of my Now List is binary. Either I focus on 1 activity or 0 activities. It can
never be 2, 3, 4 or any other number of activities. Before I wind up the clock, I choose one single activity. My challenge during a 25 minute Pomodoro is to not give another activity attention for a minute or two.

The Von Restorff effect tells me that I can provoke my memory to store things that I highlight. I may use a highlighter felt-tip pen to mark the current activity on the To Do Today sheet. Or I can explicitly write the
activity title on a slip of paper and put it in front of me.

The Now List

The Now List

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

Sustained Momentum

To introduce and implement a new idea in an organization is one thing. To maintain the new level is quite different. It’s easy to forget the latter and just wonder why after a while we are back where we started.

Mary Lynn Manns’ and Linda Rising’s book "Fearless Change" offers many patterns for how to successfully introduce new ideas. Two patterns caught my attention more than the others:

  • Everyone involved
  • Sustained Momentum

Why? Because they are concerned with how to avoid falling back into old, bad habits.
“Everyone Involved” says that everyone should have the opportunity to support innovation and give its unique contribution. “Increasing support from as many people as possible means spreading the responsibility and the ownership of the innovation.”

Equally important is the “Sustained Momentum”. “Our natural tendency is to stop and rest once things are underway, but we run the risk of losing everything if we do not keep it going.” This is one of the strengths of Google. They did not stop with the number one search engine. They keep introducing new tools that drive users to their SERP. Manns/Rising writes: “Take a pro-active approach in the organization to the ongoing work of sustaining the interest in the new idea. Take some small action each day, no matter how insignificant it may seem, to move you closer to your goal.”

This also reminds me very much of Shitsuke in the 5S Kaizen methodology. We must not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways of working.

Screen timer for Pomodoro Technique®

Personally, I prefer an analog kitchen timer for Pomodoro Technique® (created by Francesco Cirillo). As I wrote in my book Pomodoro Technique Illustrated it will support an established pattern of gestures and reflexes.

However, since both individuals and the environments we work in differ, there are also screen timers. Many are targeted for Mac OS X, such as Renzo Borgatti’s Pomodori and Guillaume Cerquant’s TimeBoxed. Viktor Nordling’s Pomodairo on the other hand, is developed in Flex in order to reach both Linux, Windows, and OS X with Adobe’s desktop application runtime AIR. In addition to these three there are many other screen timers.

Below is a wish list for a screen timer. Some of these features are already available in Renzo’s, Guillaume’s, and Viktor’s timers.

  • Countdown instead of counting up time
  • Default 25 minutes, but configurable length
  • Title of each Pomodoro is saved in a file for statistical analysis
  • Configurable ring signal and volume, or alternatively, the clock goes on top of the screen when the time runs out
  • Title of the interruption is saved in a file for statistical analysis
  • Activity Inventory where new titles can be added both during and after a Pomodoro
  • Void Pomodori without saving to a file
  • Automatic counting up of time during the break – without timebox or ringing
  • P2P communication between team members’ screen timers:
    • See the title of your friends present Pomodoro
    • Delayed messaging to friend – appears in the recipient’s timer when it rings

If you have a developed a screen timer, please tell us about it in the Pomodoro Technique google group or in a comment to this blog post.

Pomodoro Timer

Pomodoro Timer

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Pomodoro Technique Illustrated -- New book from The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC

Colophon of Pomodoro Technique Illustrated

Recurrently, I’m asked about what tools I used to create the book Pomodoro Technique Illustrated. A colophon is a brief description describing production notes relevant to a edition of a book.

Here’s the Colophon of Pomodoro Technique Illustrated:

I made the drawings in an A6, top spiral, 80 sheets pad from Esselte. The pad is Nordic Swan environmentally labeled and the sheets has 5×5 mm squares, no holes, and wood free 60 gr/m2 paper.

I did the pencil drawings with a BIC Matic mechanical pencil with 0.7 mm HB leads. Then I added water color from a Color & Co paint set filled with 6 tempera blocks in Size 2 (Ø 57 mm and altitude 19 mm) and in the following colors: Gold Yellow, Carmine, Ultramarine, Brilliant Green, Black and White. Finally, I scanned them with a HP Photosmart 1200 Photo Scanner in 300 dpi, 24-bit color.

The spiral pad, the mechanical pencil, the watercolor paint set and the photo scanner are all inexpensive, simple tools. I’m convinced that the content, the ideas and the way something is explained is more important than the quality, the sophistication, and the price of the tools.

In the running text, I use Goudy Old Style, a serif typeface originally created by Frederic W. Goudy in 1916. Headlines have Franklin Gothic, a sans-serif typeface designed by Morris Fuller Benton in 1902 and probably named after Benjamin Franklin.

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