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Supercharge Your Focus With GTD® & Pomodoro


“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”

Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Your best output comes out of focused work.

Nothing of real value is born of distractions – whether it’s that important email you’re drafting, a discussion you’re having with a client or even just spending quality time with your kids.

When you focus your resources (mental and physical) on the task at hand, you end up forging beautiful connections, and innovating in ways that you hadn’t thought possible.

Focus = Quality

GTD goes a long way in helping you get there. By capturing all the things that have your attention, clarifying what they mean and parking them in appropriate categories, you can stop confusing the urgent for the important .

The final step is to review stuff regularly and viola, you’re appropriately engaged.

But today I want to share another productivity tip that perfectly complements GTD’s drive for focused work.

It’s something that I’ve been trying and it has really helped me.

It’s called the Pomodoro technique.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

It’s a Productivity technique that breaks your work down into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

There are six steps in the technique (taken from Wikipedia):

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the Pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes). [1]
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings.
  4. After the timer rings, put a checkmark on a piece of paper. [5]
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
  6. After four Pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.

Here’s a 5 min video on the Pomodoro Technique:

How to Supercharge Focus with Pomodoro and GTD?

If you’re following GTD, then your tasks (ie Next Actions) are already defined, and organized by context. So all my office next actions are parked under @Office. Similarly all computer tasks are under @Computer.

Everyday I fix a certain slot of time to do focused work. It’s here where I pick up the context where I’m in, set a timer for 30 mins, and start cranking out my to-dos one after the other.

The three ground rules are:

  1. No mindless browsing
  2. No phone
  3. No interruptions

I hold the world back for 30 mins and focus on the Next Actions defined under the context I’m in.

Here are the Advantages:

  • It’s easier to make progress: Instead of focusing on a Next Action like say writing a blog post (which is difficult), I have an even simpler goal: Write for a Pomodoro session. I can do that. More motivation. Less Guilt.
  • I enjoy my breaks more, because I feel good about the work that got done
  • Small progress leads to big results. Over a single Pomodoro session, I take several next actions and as a result I move forward on several projects.

How to Start and Make it a Habit

  • Get yourself a timer or an app. I use for my Pomodoro sessions
  • Start with just 15 minutes of focused work. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s better to begin with baby steps
  • After 10 successful sessions, increase the timer by 5 mins. This will help you gradually build up your focus muscle.

Give it a try! And let me know how it goes by posting in the comments below.

And  in case you’re wondering. Yes, this blog post was written during one of my Pomodoro sessions. It works 🙂

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