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The Pomodoro planning
the dark art of simplifying backlog and priority
There are always a variety of things to do. The mundane, the necessary, the proactive, the creative, and various other kinds. It’s often a struggle to find the right balance, especially for me. You might have your horror stories too.
Today, I am going to talk about the dirty “P” word - "Planning". If you ask my brain, it will say that it does not want to plan at all. Nada. Just do whatever it likes at the moment. But, that, unfortunately, does not get someone somewhere. Maybe, it will get you anywhere, if that is what one wants.
So, one of the simple techniques I use is what I call “Pomodoro planning” - the planning portion of the Pomodoro technique. Most people have heard about the Pomodoro technique and then often relate to “doing” work in small and often in 25-minute segments.
But, the Pomodoro technique which is named after the Tomato-styled timer is more than that. It is a complete system and you could use the working-in-small-buckets for action or not. The planning portion involves using the timer and setting a time for say 10 minutes and dumping all that you want and need to do on a piece of paper (in my case I transcribe it on Things3) - in any order, in any direction. Just write it down. The science behind it is to dump any list onto an external medium than holding it in the brain, which is very hard in case your to-dos are 100’s of items, many of them often repetitive.
Once you have the list, then it is fairly straightforward. Now we have several options. As part of the planning process, one could calendar things that could go on a calendar (meet someone, do something at a fixed time, etc) and these don’t require a Pomodoro timer to complete.
Now you have the rest of the list to work on. There is no requirement to plan anything more at this time. From this list, pick one’s highest priority and start working on it. That’s it. If the task is too large, then one could do it in 25-minute, 15-minute, or even 5-minute segments, whatever one is comfortable with. One might or might not use a timer for that purpose. I do some of the time for some tasks, and not for others. For many of them, once started I don’t need a timer to keep focus and finish.
Now, where this is useful is large tasks. If you take on a portion of a large task, then it is often useful to work in segments like 15 or 30 minutes. At the end of this segment (with or without the use of a timer), you need to evaluate your priorities. If anything of higher priority is identified on the list, then switch to that one or continue to work on the current item for another segment. That is pretty much it.
What I like about this planning method is the simplicity of it. There is no requirement to pick more than one priority at a time. One could still park it and switch to another item anytime (perhaps within 5, 15, or 30 minutes). And it allows you to work on your priorities all the time if you choose to. And follow the calendar for portions of time that you have prebooked it for and use the remaining time to work only on the highest priority.
The reason I am writing about this today is that after nearly 5 days of digital detox, I am so bored out of my wits that my mind (brain?) wants to do something productive. So, I decided to start the day and every day from now on with the simplicity of Pomodoro planning. This starts providing me a structure to the day and what to work on. Then just start working on the list as described above. And it is very easy to retrospect whether I did these two things every day.
Now, the only missing part is including “world-changing impactful tasks” on my backlog to work on. Hopefully, soon.
The Pomodoro Technique - https://www.amazon.com/Pomodoro-Technique-Acclaimed-Time-Management-Transformed-ebook/dp/B01N2XFCSL/
Pomodoro Technique Illustrated: The Easy Way to Do More in Less Time - https://www.amazon.com/Pomodoro-Technique-Illustrated-Easy-Pragmatic-ebook/dp/B00A376NI8/