Blending Pomodoro and GTD

Pomodoro Timer

I’ve been using variants of the Getting Things Done (GTD) technique for a few years, and I find it’s a safe haven when work is turbulent. The simple rules of the GTD workflow help create forward motion on the most overwhelming of days. As I posted recently, after many attempts at finding the right tool support, I have now settled on one that works for me.

But there are days when I have cleared a block of time, and I just need to plough through work, and if I’m not careful my GTD list can become just one more challenge to single tasking.

I wondered if Pomodoro could help with that, so much to the bemusement of colleagues I have started the practice of using an electronic timer (with ticks!) to force myself to work in timeboxes when I am carrying out focused tasks.

A number of people have written about combining these two techniques, including Arjun Muralidharan and Tim Noyce. They have clearly spent longer reflecting on how these things work best for them, but I would add a few observations of my own:

  • GTD always works as a way of finding something productive to do – like most professionals my “to do” list represents far more work than could ever be done in a day, or even a week – being able to slice it by context, by association, by relevance means that I can always find something to fill an empty timeslot.
  • It really helps to identify one or two “Most Important Things” at the start of the day – I use a temporary GTD context of @Today to capture those.
  • Pomodoro works well for driving a concentrated focus on a single-person task, but is no help at all when you have a lot of collaboration to achieve, meetings interrupting the flow etc.
  • Pomodoro sets out to make interruptions (internal or external) more noticeable, and I found a side-effect of that was that I was getting tetchier with people who interrupted me. Pay attention to the guidance in the Pomodoro book about handling interruptions!
  • It’s very tempting to go on beyond the Pomodoro “just to polish something off”

What systems work for you?

How do you best resolve the “what do to” and “getting it done” pressures on you?

Let me know in the comments.

Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change