Set yourself unavailable with this open source PowerShell based Pomodoro timer

Update: An executable Windows app has been created based on this open source script to simplify the process. Read about it here

MVP Jan Egil Ring and I have created a GitHub PowerShell project called PsProductivityTools. There you will find a function called Start-Pomodoro with the following features

  • Count down for 25 minutes by default or a period specified by you
    • Start-Pomodoro -Minutes 10
  • The function will set your computer in presentation mode which will suppress all notifications and popups on your windows machine
  • Set your Skype for Business client in Do Not Disturb using a custom presence state called Pomodoro Sprint and set your personal note to when you will be available
  • You can mute and unmute your phone during the Pomodoro Sprint using IFTTT triggers
    • You need to have created the mute and unmute triggers, generated a webhook key and installed IFTTT on your mobile
    • Will write a tutorial in a later blogpost
  • It will make you available again after 25 minutes or your specified time, turning on notifications, making you available again in Skype for Business and unmute your phone. Awesome stuff :)

This is an open source project on GitHub so please feel free to add your own suggestions to the project.

How to get started

  1. Open PowerShell and run the following cmdlet
    • Install-Module -Name PSProductivityTools
    • if you need to update it later run Update-Module -Name PSProductivityTools and restart all PowerShell instances
    • You need to run PowerShell as administrator in order to install the module
  2. Now you can run Start-Pomdoro at any time from PowerShell
    • Start-Pomodoro
      • This will set your computer in presentation mode
    • Start-Pomodoro -Minutes 15 -EndPersonalNote “It’s a good day today”

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The goal of the technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. A pomodoro is indivisible. When interrupted during a pomodoro, either the other activity must be recorded and postponed (inform – negotiate – schedule – call back) or the pomodoro must be abandoned. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named pomodoros. Read more about the Pomodoro Technique here

Why the Pomodoro Technique?

If I can get one Pomodoro done in between meetings, workshops and calls, then I am happy. That Pomodoro is priceless and it helps me answer that long email, get started on that document or wrap my head around a problem. 25 minutes is long enough so that I can reach my flow state and short enough that I feel that I actually can do it. It may take between 5-10 minutes to reach the flow state. If I manage to interrupt myself with social media, coffee break or decide to do something else, then I may spend longer time in total on that email instead of just get it done during a Pomodoro. If you want to succeed with Pomodoro, you need to make yourself unavailable, but equally important, you need to make yourself available again when those 25 minutes have passed. That is why we created the Pomodoro PowerShell tool

What is flow?

Flow is the peak performance state where you feel your best and you perform your best. The good news is, it’s hackable. One of the hacks is inducing flow using the Pomodoro Technique. Read more about flow over at the Flow Genome Project

An important part of succeeding with the Pomodoro Technique is lists with your most important tasks that you can prioritize. I use OneNote for that. Check out how I do it in my OneNote LifeHacks YouTube series 

3 thoughts on “Set yourself unavailable with this open source PowerShell based Pomodoro timer

  1. I love the PSscript, makes it easy to start the process of getting into the flow state.
    I found that creating a dedicated button on the taskbar, makes it even easier. It’s just a very simple psscript and a shortcut that’s needed. I even start my favorite Flow state spotify playlist with the same button..

    Create a .ps1 file and place it wherever you want, Mydocuments etc. In the ps1 file paste these two lines, you could of course change the spotify URI to some other playlist and add some other argument to start-pomodoro. Save the file as: start-pomodoro.ps1

    Start-process ‘spotify:user:johanbrook:playlist:2mtlhuFVOFMn6Ho3JmrLc2’
    Start-pomodoro -Minutes 25

    Next, pin powershell.exe to the taskbar. Or create a new shortcut. Edit properties on the shortcut, and paste this in the target field: or just paste -file Start-Pomodoro.ps1
    after powershell.exe:
    %SystemRoot%\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe -file Start-Pomodoro.ps1

    Paste the filepath to the start-pomodoro.ps1 i the Start in field: C:\Users\username\OneDrive\Documents

    Change the icon to something you like, I used this coffee cup ico file I found:

    So, when I press my coffee button I am presented my spotify list in the spotify app, and S4B status and availability is updated and makes me ready for 25 minutes of Flow State :)

    Great job Ståle and Jan Egil.

  2. Hi Stale, this is super interesting. Would be interested to know if I would be able to include this as a a feature in my mobile app. Basically users would connect my app to their Skype for Business account and be able to automatically update their status with a push of the button from our app (or even in the background if possible).

    Would be interested to hear if you think that is possible?

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