Brian has been thinking about his productivity since 2011. He tried a few different methods, but he’s found that using the pomodoro technique has been very helpful in understanding and improving his work. Watch his talk to learn what he found by tracking the number of pomodoros he completes each day and what new methods he’s using to make sure he gets things done.
Notes | pomodoro
But over time a few things have started to work, and some things did stick so I’m here to talk about those, and it did take a while and it’s kind of an ongoing work in progress.
So the first thing I started with that really stuck and I’m still doing is called Pomodoro technique, and I first experimented with that in 2011. I didn’t keep logs at the time, but I have continuous logs since September 2012 and I track basically all my work time like that.
So how does it work?
You set one task and then you set a timer for 25 minutes and work without interruption on that task, and then you take a four minute break and then you repeat.
The idea of it, it was developed by a guy who was writing a Ph.D. and of course he also had problems in procrastination. So the area of 25 minutes is not intimidating even if it’s a difficult task. And it can give you this nice rhythm of working and relaxing.
So here’s how I do that. I have different Excel sheets for different areas, and then I would write down the time, what time I would start working, and the date I was working, and what I worked on.
And here is a sheet that shows the weekly overviews. So I have different projects, how many of these blocks I did for each project, weekly totals. And I also track – I won’t talk about that.
The main thing is this sheet which is kind of like a dashboard. This has really grown organically over time, but I look at this 20 times a day or 30 times a day, so there’s a lot of meaning in that data.
So I have logged since I started 3,435 – although that should be 37 now Pomodoro’s, and there are some things that evolve over time as you kind of look at the data and develop a relationship with the data. So for example I now know that over 5.76 Pomodoro’s per day on average over the whole time and that has increased over time.
So one thing I pay a lot of attention to is how much I do each month. So here is a kind of record going back to 2012 to today; as you can see it increased a lot, and especially a metric that I pay a lot of attention to is the four month moving average.
And so the power of this is it also gives you something to compare yourself to. Each month you can look at the last month and see how you are doing. Another thing that has helped me develop this internal standard of what’s a productive day, what’s a productive week so I have a clear idea of that and I know at the end of the day that was it. and especially with the days I figured out a good number if I do 12 of these block that’s great, I’m really happy.
So I started tracking that, so I track how many I do each month, and you see it’s also gone up with a lot of variation.
I’ve also looked at a bit at correlations of the data of other sources because I track all kinds of other things. So for example intermittent fasting I track and I thought it makes me more productive I couldn’t find that in the data.
I also want to briefly talk about another system. I’ve started using after the last show and tell in Berlin, I exactly copied what a guy named Venco did and talked about here, and here I track commitments. So the way I do that I have a notebook and I write down commitments in a notebook every evening or whenever I commit to, and I cross out the fulfilled commitments and then at the end of the day I track the completion.
So the idea of it, the concept is that keeping commitments is very important and that it’s kind of an integral part of your character and work as a character, and I think the interesting thing is how this uses a stake and it kind of ties it to those tasks you need to do because it makes it much worse when you don’t do something and like you have failed your words then it’s just something on a list.
And so here’s what this looks like. It’s quite messy, but you know I write down the task and at the end of it I would calculate a percentage. So I have done it for a month now and I have about 12 commitments on average per day that make about eight that I keep, so 70%-ish, so definitely not like I write something in there and 100% is getting done, it’s not that point.
And now I’ll briefly talk about some insights that are there. I think with the Pomodoro method, that’s something I really feel like looking back now and what the value there, the great value is having this continuous measure of productivity, that it really is a complete record and it constantly give you something that you can compare to. And this has really allowed for this gradual process of improvement.
With the integrity method, the interesting thing is that I did something very similar before to use and it didn’t work at all, and I did it with this commitment and it worked really well. and that thing there is just this mindset of the difference between the stake and whether it’s just a list you want to do.
But I’ve also noticed that this is something that has kind of slipped away; the more I started doing it the more it became like a to do list, so I still don’t know how to protect that mindset and it’s something that I’ll have to work with.
I’ve also noticed that it’s quite difficult to develop metrics that work. I think with the Pomodoro method I sort of accidently stumbled on to that and I refined those and they worked really well. But that percentage with the integrity thing is not working so well yet.
So, where does that leave me? I feel the measurement has been enormously important and this has allowed this continuous improvement and the mindset has also been crucial.
Now where do I want to go in the future? I will continue doing the Pomodoro thing and one goal is to track things, to track it so that I can latter analyze the data which Is difficult right now.
So that kind of leaves it. Tomorrow at 10:30 is productivity breakout session, which we want to talk about this but also much more in an abstract way, thinking what’s productivity in general.
So thanks very much.