Using Pomodoro Technique to make music and getting it done

I’m using the Pomodoro Technique to focus and a specific task for a specific time. Sounds simple, but in my day-to-day work I have three major challenges:
A. Tasks you have to do but don’t feel like it
B. Interruptions as soon as you start working on a task
C. Spending too much time on a task / perfectionism
For me, the usage of pomodoro helps in all these categories.

I use pomodoro in a light weighted and basic way:

  1. winding up a timer
  2. working on a in advanced defined tasks for 25 minutes
  3. send people away who’re trying to interrupt
  4. minimize “internal” (by myself) interruptions as well
  5. have a 5 minutes break as soon as the timer rings

This 25+5 slice of time is called a pomodoro and I recommend that you check out Francesco Cirillo website and buy or download the (free) book, because I won’t get into more details about the technique itself at this point. The Wikipedia article might help but for me I had to use it for some days to get a good impression if this will work for me or not (it helps if you have a friend pushing you to use it ;). Dear M, thanks for that! )

Now, about the stated tasks and how pomodoro helps:
A. You need to defrag your hard drive, write an article, do your homework, learn an Ableton live function, …? *sigh* Not really that sexy, but it has to be done.
Just do one pomodoro and you may be done. It won’t take longer than 30 minutes and either you’re done (and free to do something exciting now) or you found out that this boring task was actually quite interesting and you want to learn more (which leads to another couple of pomodoros). Boring tasks are not that boring when you know in advance how long they will last. Remember your last holiday job? You did it for the money, right? And you counted every day until it was over…? 30 minutes are a good investment into knowing what’s up. This works great with task you postponed from day to day for some weeks (or months?). Bring them down to one pomodoro and see what’s hiding behind it.

B. You started to work and at once you’re thinking “Oh, I forgot that we plan to go to the movies tonight. Let’s quick check which movie is shown” or if you prefer a more professional interruption “The boss just came in, I have to ask him for X before he leaves again…”. This is called an internal interruption, meaning you’re interrupting yourself. It may be important but you’re no longer working on the assigned task. The other type is obvious someone else interrupting your work (external interruption). Pomodoro has something for you to handle both types and then you will go one to work on your focussed task: For internal ones, you just write down a short reminder and come back to it later. For external interruptions you say something like “Sorry, I will work X minutes on my current assignment and then will come back to you. Is this ok?”. This works pretty well at home as well as in the office.

C. Cruising presets like there is no world outside? Trying to find the perfect drum sample in your 40++ GB library? Tweaking the reverse cymbal with another plugin for the last 2 hours? Do you think that someone will notice? Do you think that this time is well spent? Why not get the thing done? Pomodoro to the rescue: Estimate the time in advance (“1 hour should be enough to find a cool snare drum), do the pomodoros (2 in this case) and when the time is over your done. Move to something else. Yes, I know that the even better snare drum was just 5 minutes away, but who cares? Mind that if your estimation was wrong that’s a totally different story. Use a full day, a week, a month if you like, but make it reasonably slice of time and stop when it’s over.

Remember that “Real artists ship”. Try Pomodoro for a couple of days and see what it can do for you. For me, it’s a big help in the job and while doing this here. Making music, writing blogs, creating pictures has plenty opportunities for a helpful pomodoro.

BTW two pomodoros were used to write this article.

Questions? I’m wrong? Write a comment, please.



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