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A Time for Paper?

A Time for Paper?

The folks over at DIYPlanner.com are really into paper, and because I wrote a piece for them, it caused me to really analyze what I do in my life with paper, and what I do electronically. I’ve come to realize that in my case, there’s a time for paper and a time for a more electronic means.

MindMapping

I am a fiend for the process of using mind maps for visual thinking. I draw out little mind maps on paper when making a decision, such as whether or not to purchase a new piece of computer gear. I use mind maps to help understand the process flow of things in my group, which helps because I can often see things through these drawings that I don’t catch when starting with a linear, list-based mode.

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And in this case, I use paper for the right-brained part of mind-mapping, but then I use MindManager6 by MindJet to get the map into something more useful and something I can pass on to others.

Lists

I have two flavors of lists: things I might need to remember for a short shelf-life, like a few days, and then things I might want as reference for a period of time, such as library books and movies that people recommend to me in the course of a week. For the short-term lists, I use paper, because it’s so much faster and easier to whip out my handy pad of paper and write a note than it is to struggle with the current state of PDA technology out there. Sure, I can use the Graffiti language, and yes, I’ve heard of Tablet PCs, but I can sit on my notepad, bend it, mangle it, and it still willingly accepts and instantly recognizes my writing.

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In the case of Getting Things Done, I use 37 Signals’ Backpack software. I use this because it gives me a stronger, more permanent record of the things I’ve got left to do, and the things I’ve completed. Having this available in electronic format lets me move around tasks and priorities without muddying up a paper list.

Project Management

I’m not sure who’s doing this with paper formats, but more power to you. I use strictly digital means to manage projects, because paper dies about as soon as you print it, and managing projects (with more than one person involved) is a very fluid endeavor. I need something electronic and updatable.

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Drawing

I love drawing and illustrating, and I’ve got a graphics tablet attached to my Mac, but I’ve recently come to accept that I get much better art out of my efforts if I start with paper, scan the illustration into a program, and then do the finishing work online. No matter how sensitive my graphics tablet is, there’s something much more controlled in my ability to put lines to paper. All my painting on the other hand, is 100% digital. I can’t stand cleaning brushes, getting charcoal out of my clothes, etc. I much prefer electronic formats for the messier media.

In Review

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So in the short examples above, you start to see a theme. When it involves something a little more right brain or creative, I tend to use the paper format of a process first, but then convert eventually to digital. If it’s something more left-brain or project/GTD oriented, I prefer to use digital tools. There’s a hybrid ground in there, as well, and in that way, I imagine it’s like lots of things in life. Sometimes it’s easier to do one, and other times, the other.

What are your preferences? How do you use paper in your day? Or do you?

–Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com].

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

If you spend any time at all researching life hacks, you’ve probably heard of the famous Pomodoro Technique.

Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the more popular time management life hacks used today. But this method isn’t for everyone, and for every person who is a passionate adherent of the system, there is another person who is critical of the results.

Is the Pomodoro Technique right for you? It’s a matter of personal preference. But if you are curious about the benefits of using the technique, this article will break down the basic information you will need to decide if this technique is worth trying out.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy that aims to provide the user with maximum focus and creative freshness, thereby allowing them to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue.

The process is simple:

For every project throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically.

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You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes.

Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal timer, and thus the method’s name.

After four “pomodoros” have passed, (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of break time) you then take a 15-20 minute break.

Every time you finish a pomodoro, you mark your progress with an “X”, and note the number of times you had the impulse to procrastinate or switch gears to work on another task for each 25-minute chunk of time.

How the Pomodoro Technique boosts your productivity

Frequent breaks keep your mind fresh and focused. According to the official Pomodoro website, the system is easy to use and you will see results very quickly:

“You will probably begin to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two. True mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.”

If you have a large and varied to-do list, using the Pomodoro Technique can help you crank through projects faster by forcing you to adhere to strict timing.

Watching the timer wind down can spur you to wrap up your current task more quickly, and spreading a task over two or three pomodoros can keep you from getting frustrated.

The constant timing of your activities makes you more accountable for your tasks and minimizes the time you spend procrastinating.

You’ll grow to “respect the tomato”, and that can help you to better handle your workload.

Successful people who love it

Steven Sande of The Unofficial Apple Weblog is a fan of the system, and has compiled a great list of Apple-compatible Pomodoro tools.

Before he started using the technique, he said,

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“Sometimes I couldn’t figure out how to organize a single day in my calendar, simply because I would jump around to all sorts of projects and never get even one of them accomplished.”

Another proponent of the Pomodoro Technique is Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal. Shellenbarger tried out this system along with several other similar methods for time management, and said,

“It eased my anxiety over the passing of time and also made me more efficient; refreshed by breaks, for example, I halved the total time required to fact-check a column.”

Any cons for the Pomodoro Technique?

Despite the number of Pomodoro-heads out there, the system isn’t without its critics. Colin T. Miller, a Yahoo! employee and blogger, tried using the Pomodoro Technique and had some issues:[1]

“Pomodoros are an all or nothing affair. Either you work for 25 minutes straight to mark your X or you don’t complete a pomodoro. Since marking that X is the measurable sign of progress, you start to shy away from engaging in an activity if it won’t result in an X. For instance…meetings get in the way of pomodoros. Say I have a meeting set for 4:30pm. It is currently 4:10pm, meaning I only have 20 minutes between now and the meeting…In these instances I tend to not start a pomodoro because I won’t have enough time to complete it anyway.”

Another critic is Mario Fusco, who argues that the Pomodoro Technique is…well…sort of ridiculous:[2]

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“Aren’t we really able to keep ourselves concentrated without a timer ticketing on our desk?… Have you ever seen a civil engineer using a timer to keep his concentration while working on his projects?… I think that, like any other serious professional, I can stay concentrated on what I am doing for hours… Bring back your timer to your kitchen and start working in a more professional and effective way.”

Conclusion

One of the best things about the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s free. Yeah, you can fork over some bills to get a tomato-shaped timer if you want… or you can use any timer program on your computer or phone. So even if you try it and hate it, you haven’t lost any cash.

The process isn’t ideal for every person, or in any line of work. But if you need a systematic way to tackle your daily to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique may fit your needs.

If you want to learn more about the Pomodoro Technique, check out this article: How to Make the Pomodoro Technique More Productive

Reference

[1] Aspirations of a Software Developer: A Month of the Pomodoro Technique
[2] InfoQ: A Critique of the Pomodoro Technique

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