Time blocking tips!

ERJ1

Jedi Master
Hi all! I know some here are proponents of time blocking (Hi, Longstreet) and others are not. For the first time in a long time, I'm dabbling in the practice to help structure my time while working from home as a teacher. Coming next week, about 4 hours of my day are going to be accounted for by specific work related tasks. I'd like to keep to a routine in addition to that, however.

Any suggestions on time blocking best practices?
 

John Ismyname

Registered
- Start with Pomedoros - 25 minutes work, 5 minute break. Do four of these and then take a longer break at least 15 minutes
- Make a mental commitment to yourself to work only on a per-designated task requiring a lot of concentration for those 25 minutes.
- no distractions, turn of your phone, dont answer the doorbell.
- congratulate yourself for putting in two hours of focused work. Note the quality and quantity of how much you accomplished.
- Back to it; another 4 Pomedoros
- That's it - if you spend the first four hours of your workday like this, you got a lot done!
 

TesTeq

Registered
- Start with Pomedoros - 25 minutes work, 5 minute break. Do four of these and then take a longer break at least 15 minutes
- Make a mental commitment to yourself to work only on a per-designated task requiring a lot of concentration for those 25 minutes.
- no distractions, turn of your phone, dont answer the doorbell.
- congratulate yourself for putting in two hours of focused work. Note the quality and quantity of how much you accomplished.
- Back to it; another 4 Pomedoros
- That's it - if you spend the first four hours of your workday like this, you got a lot done!
I think 25 minute Pomodoro (tomato) is too arbitrary. Everybody should experiment to adjust his work interval. My pumpkin is 75-90 minutes long.
 

John Ismyname

Registered
I think 25 minute Pomodoro (tomato) is too arbitrary. Everybody should experiment to adjust his work interval. My pumpkin is 75-90 minutes long.
Humm, so your pumpkin is bigger than my tomato?! ... ;)
My actual tomato has a longer duration but... ERJ1 specifically asked about starting out with time blocking. I would argue that 25m on 5m break is a good starting point. I am embarrassed to admit, in my first attempt at Pomadoros, I got 'monkey mind' at 19 minutes. Going from 19 min to the timer at 25 mins was a real effort! I would also contend for someone getting started in time blocking that the 25/5 into the hourly makes it easy for planning.
It is very gratifying to say, "I spend four hours in a working state of concentration and this is what I accomplished!"

I am also embaraased to admit that I realzed the problem with arbitary times by mistake - I forgot to set my Pomadoro 25 minute timer and was getting bad 'monkey mind' - when I finally gave up at looked at the clock I had been at it for almost 40 minutes. I chnaged my Pomadoro for a ... "cantelope" with 40 minutes on and 10 minutes off. My rationale for the 10 minutes was that I was not really taking good breaks as I always had a few quick tasks to do. WIth a 10 minute break, I could be ahead of schedule. With five minute breaks, I was always behind schedule.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
- Start with Pomedoros - 25 minutes work, 5 minute break. Do four of these and then take a longer break at least 15 minutes
- Make a mental commitment to yourself to work only on a per-designated task requiring a lot of concentration for those 25 minutes.
- no distractions, turn of your phone, dont answer the doorbell.
- congratulate yourself for putting in two hours of focused work. Note the quality and quantity of how much you accomplished.
- Back to it; another 4 Pomedoros
- That's it - if you spend the first four hours of your workday like this, you got a lot done!
Coronavirus reality: the doorbell doesn’t ring. If it does, don’t open the door. Just like in horror movies.

I never found the Pomodoro method helpful. The time periods seem too rigid, and next actions don’t fit well Into any fixed period. Like TesTeq, I find that I can only maintain focus on my most demanding work for about two hours. After that, it’s more productive to switch to something more routine, like processing email.

I am curious how Pomodoro fans handle the apparent rigidity of Pomodoros. If you finish a next action in 20 minutes, do you look for a five-minute next action? What if it takes you seven minutes to brew a cup of coffee? What do you do if your beloved spouse, who is also working from home, interrupts you? Back in the old days, you’re walking back from the restroom, and run into someone you need to talk to. What do you do? Tell that person you have a hot date with a tomato? [Archaic US slang: tomato = pretty woman ;)]
 

John Ismyname

Registered
Coronavirus reality: the doorbell doesn’t ring. If it does, don’t open the door. Just like in horror movies.
Corona aside, it could be a home invasion. If my doorbell rings unexpectedly, there is a > 95% probability it's somebody trying to sell something. In this Amazon era, if I am expecting a delivery, I'll deal with it. ( If it's a woud-be burglar, my Doberman suggests they move on :) )

Pomdaro's rigitidy says that if you answer the door, you void your tomato! GTD says "2 minute rule". In less than two minutes, I can get a visual to see if there is a UPS truck in front of my house, if there is a UPS uniformed person at my door, and take delivery. (Now I have ( a counterfit of) a N95 mask I put on for this.
Like TesTeq, I find that I can only maintain focus on my most demanding work for about two hours. After that, it’s more productive to switch to something more routine, like processing email.
I'm good for two hours on one thing before I have to 'chnage gears' to another 'big thing'. Four hours of working in a fully concentrated state is it for me for the day.
I am curious how Pomodoro fans handle the apparent rigidity of Pomodoros. If you finish a next action in 20 minutes, do you look for a five-minute next action?
That is what I do. We all of lotsa < 10 minute tasks. I ask the GTD question of "What can I do right here, right now?" I add to this criteria "in less than 10 minutes?" If there is nothing, then I take my break early and/or justify that brewing my next coffee is "work" ;)

What do you do if your beloved spouse, who is also working from home, interrupts you?
Time-blocked working from home is not compatible with staying married! If my spouse is with me then she can talk to me whenever she wants. She can't technically be an interruption because she is a higher priority than anything.
Back in the old days, you’re walking back from the restroom, and run into someone you need to talk to. What do you do?
uh, you stop and talk to them. You did say you NEED to do that, so it is essential, so you are being productive.
Tell that person you have a hot date with a tomato? [Archaic US slang: tomato = pretty woman ;)]
I will test your slang out by calling my beloved wife a tomato....
 

Oogiem

Registered
Coronavirus reality: the doorbell doesn’t ring. If it does, don’t open the door. Just like in horror movies.
Agreed! We at least get a warning. The sheep guard dogs have picked up on the fact that the only vehicles allowed up the driveway without an alert bark are UPS, FEDEX and us. All others are announced by 4 huge livestock protection dogs. Tehy are also becoming more protective of us, I think we are now considered a rather eccentric part of their flock.

I find that I can only maintain focus on my most demanding work for about two hours. After that, it’s more productive to switch to something more routine, like processing email.
For me it depends. I've been known to get so focused on coding that I look up 4-6 hours later wondering what happened. But that is rare. More normal is about 2 hours then a break of about an hour doing more mindless things then I can go for another 2 hours. My best focused work time is about 6 hours a day but even that is tough. It takes a while to recharge and be able to do that again. I can't do that level of focused work multiple days in a row. The 2-4 hours a day is about right if I want to do focused work day after day.

Where the pomodoro style of work helps me is when I am avoiding housekeeping work. I absolutely loathe it. I'd much rather muck out a barn or build fence than vacuum a floor. So I'll set a timer for 30 minutes and say ok, I'm going to work on cleaning for this long and then I'll quit and take a break. Repeat until the cleaning is done.
 

Deirdre

Registered
I am going to add some additional thoughts in here. I love Daniel Pink's book When; I am a Lark (early morning person) and can do better focused work in the morning than I can in the afternoon. So my schedule reflects this. In the morning, I can do about 45 minutes head's down work with a few 15 minute breaks (walk the dog, put clothes it the waster/dryer, something in the crockpot). In the afternoon, it's my trough and I am tired. With less focus, I schedule some administrative work - email, scheduling, Zoom calls, calendaring, etc. Shorter bursts with quick breaks. Now this isn't always feasible; sometimes I have to do work in the afternoon that is less than ideal but if given a choice, this works really well for me.

@Oogiem - I do the same thing with cleaning - set Alexa for 30 minutes and clean until the timer goes off. Rinse and repeat.
 

Ariadne Marques

Registered
I love using Pomodoros! It is a total lifesaver for my chaotic monkey mind. I still use the standard 30 min (25 min of focus, 5 min of rest and then after 4 pomodoros I take a longer break 20 min).
That's totally fine to have multiple Pomodoros to complete a next action. Some types of tasks I already know I will take 4 pomodoros or more to complete, for example. It can feel like measuring time in Pomodoros: "I will use 2 pomodoros to check e-mail, then I'll use the next 4 pomodoros to complete 2 sections of that big report I need to write, etc."
And if I finish something earlier, I take the remaining time resting, brewing some tea or whatever. Especially now that I'm working from home and with the Coronavirus situation making us all more anxious, I'm trying to be nicer to myself :)
 

ivanjay205

Registered
Hi everyone, just catching up on this thread. I have never tried Pomodoro method before but curious.... I am a COO and my day is full of "surprise" phone calls, emergencies, etc. How does everyone maintain this? Do you block your calendar for them? Is their a tool to connect your GTD method to a Pomodoro or is it as simple as setting a timer?
 

John Ismyname

Registered
Hi everyone, just catching up on this thread. I have never tried Pomodoro method before but curious.... I am a COO and my day is full of "surprise" phone calls, emergencies, etc. How does everyone maintain this? Do you block your calendar for them?
Hello Ivan; You have to block the time of in your calendar. Consider starting your workday from your home office and transition. In a better world, you'd be able to close your office door for specific hours and turn off your phone. . This is harder to do than it sounds

Is their a tool to connect your GTD method to a Pomodoro or is it as simple as setting a timer?
I have tried software and fancy timers. What works best are three dollar store timers attached to a piece of cardboard. Set one timer for your work time, the second for your break time and the third for your GTD two-minute rule.

You have to read John C. Dvorak's essay "The «Working from Home» Myth". He writes about spouses, children and closed doors. ;) @mcogilvie
LOL, funny and true! Two things really resonated with me “Well, you were home all day. What did you do?”. In my case I GTD around the house too! will typically do fast household chores during my break. For example, moving clothes between the washing machine to the dryer - "laundry jockeying" I call this. Picking up after the dog "landmine duty", which gets me outside for five minutes!

The other thing that resonates is the at-home worker is blind to office politics until its too late.
 
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ivanjay205

Registered
Hello Ivan; You have to block the time of in your calendar. Consider starting your workday from your home office and transition. In a better world, you'd be able to close your office door for specific hours and turn off your phone. . This is harder to do than it sounds


I have tried software and fancy timers. What works best are three dollar store timers attached to a piece of cardboard. Set one timer for your work time, the second for your break time and the third for your GTD two-minute rule.


LOL, funny and true! Two things really resonated with me “Well, you were home all day. What did you do?”. In my case I GTD around the house too! will typically do fast household chores during my break. For example, moving clothes between the washing machine to the dryer - "laundry jockeying" I call this. Picking up after the dog "landmine duty", which gets me outside for five minutes!

The other thing that resonates is the at-home worker is blind to office politics until its too late.
I certainly think the time blocking is the way to go and makes a lot of sense. I used to be better at it and find that I only get back to doing it when my calendar is nearly full. And by that time.... it is too late lol.
 

Longstreet

Registered
I use what I call "strategic time blocking". What I mean is that I only block time on my morning calendar usually - and not every day - for focused work on major projects. I also time block when I realize that I need some protected time to process all of my inputs, which these days is incredible. As I have said many times before, if I do not do this, Zoom meetings magically appear everywhere and I won't have any engaging time. But here is why I also call it strategic - before the time block begins, I ask myself is this STILL the best use of my time? I may have made that time block a day ago. My world may have changed dramatically since then and I have to re-calibrate my priorities accordingly. This is why GTD is so beautiful; one can rethink and reengage from moment-to-moment as needed. Cheers!
 

TesTeq

Registered
I use what I call "strategic time blocking". What I mean is that I only block time on my morning calendar usually - and not every day - for focused work on major projects. I also time block when I realize that I need some protected time to process all of my inputs, which these days is incredible. As I have said many times before, if I do not do this, Zoom meetings magically appear everywhere and I won't have any engaging time. But here is why I also call it strategic - before the time block begins, I ask myself is this STILL the best use of my time? I may have made that time block a day ago. My world may have changed dramatically since then and I have to re-calibrate my priorities accordingly. This is why GTD is so beautiful; one can rethink and reengage from moment-to-moment as needed. Cheers!
Dear Chief Time Blocking Officer!
I want to inform you that your message reaches the darkest corners of the productivity apps landscape! ;)
In the recent "The Podcast" Nozbe founder and CEO discusses with Nozbe CTO his latest "invention": Core Hours!
I wonder if we can expect a special support for time blocking in Nozbe Personal and Nozbe Teams...
Here's the link to this podcast episode: "The Podcast #204 - Core Hours"
 

ivanjay205

Registered
I do find a similar thing, I try to get my focus work done early in the morning for a few reasons:

1. I start very early. Right now only 6:30 AM since I am home but typically 5:15
2. I find that once the interruptions start on my day I lose my energy to get focused on a "project" of my own
3. Setting up my end of the day to have inbox zero etc. gives me far more peace of mind at night which is fantastic for me
 

Longstreet

Registered
Dear Chief Time Blocking Officer!
I want to inform you that your message reaches the darkest corners of the productivity apps landscape! ;)
In the recent "The Podcast" Nozbe founder and CEO discusses with Nozbe CTO his latest "invention": Core Hours!
I wonder if we can expect a special support for time blocking in Nozbe Personal and Nozbe Teams...
Here's the link to this podcast episode: "The Podcast #204 - Core Hours"
"Chief Time Blocking Officer"! An additional academic title! :D Thanks for the link; I will listen to this!
 

sunnywilson09

Registered
I am curious how Pomodoro fans handle the apparent rigidity of Pomodoros. If you finish a next action in 20 minutes, do you look for a five-minute next action? What if it takes you seven minutes to brew a cup of coffee?
 

Longstreet

Registered
Okay - I listened to the podcast. I obviously like the idea of "core hours". I do that now except I don't have my blocks so much fixed in stone as my world changes a lot from Monday to Thursday, so that core block on Thursday may not happen due to so much very important new work that has shown up. A balancing act, indeed!
 
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