August 2017 MVP Jan Egil Ring and I launched an open source PowerShell based Pomodoro timer. This is a great way to get stuff done, but difficult to get started with. Andreas Kang Schøyen over at Lillevik IT has done something about that and created an executable program that sets up the integrations and timer.
How it works
When downloading and installing the app, it will automatically integrate with your Skype for Business 32 bit application and your Windows OS making it capable to:
- Set you to “do not disturb” in Skype for Business with a custom presence state called Pomodoro Sprint
- The app cotains the SDK dll’s for the Skype for Business client, so no extra installs to control presence
- Write a note of your choosing during the the Pomodoro sprint and adding the time when you will be available
- It even counts down the last 15 seconds, so that people waiting to reach you that you are about to become available
- Write a note of your choosing after the Pomodoro sprint is complete
- Set your computer in to presentation mode which suppresses popups
- Start your favourite Spotify playlist for productivity
- Make you available again when the sprint is finished
The app supports automatic updates and the roadmap includes IFTTT ingration so that you can mute your phone during the pomodoro sprint. See full roadmap here
The goal is to induce the flow state in a busy workday
Multitasking is a myth. The goal is to reach the flow state by focusing on one task at a time. Have you ever started writing an email, thought you sent it and eagerly waiting for a response, only to find it incomplete and unsent at the end of the day? This is one of the perils of multitasking.
The Pomodoro Technique is a great methodology to induce flow in a busy workday. It is all about avoiding distractions for 15-25 minutes and focus on one task at a time. This is a short enough period in the day that you can squeeze it in before a meeting. It is incredible what you can get done 15-25 minutes. The goal is to not get distracted and it takes about 7 minutes of focus before your reach your flow state.
If you want to succeed with Pomodoro, you need to make yourself unavailable. Equally important, you need to make yourself available again when those 25 minutes have passed. That is why we created the Pomodoro PowerShell tool, and why I love the simplicity of this app.
Read more and download the exe and MSI version of the app here: http://pomodoro.lit.no
Watch an outtake from my session at Microsoft Ignite 2017 on singletasking
Learn more on my thinking around singletasking and tools available to succeed with the flow state, from this outtake of my OneNote LifeHacks talk at Microsoft Ignite 2017
Complete lists of your tasks is key to success
An important part of succeeding with the Pomodoro Technique is lists. Lists enables you to choose the task that lifts the most weight off your shoulders at that point in time. I use OneNote to capture all my ideas and actions, enabling me to create that finite list of tasks. Check out how I do it in my OneNote LifeHacks YouTube series
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
- 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
- Now you can run Start-Pomdoro at any time from PowerShell
- 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
This works on Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Lync and Skype for Business desktop clients. Requires administrative rights to your computer. If you are interested in setting Microsoft Teams status, check out how to set the custom Focusing status blogpost
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could change your presence state in Skype for Business to match you current task such as busy in a Workshop, Do Not Disturb in a Pomodoro Sprint or Away Getting Coffee?
Turns out, you can by creating an XML file and adding a setting in your local registry. How? The easy way is to download my script, change the custom presences that is predefined in the script and run it.
- Download the script from GitHub
- The default custom presence states are shown below
- To change the names you need to open the script and write your own presence states
- Away does not work as a custom presence state, if you put that in no custom states will show up in the client
- The presence states that works are: Online, Busy, and Do-Not-Disturb
- To run the script, just type the following in PowerShell in elevated mode from the location you saved it
- It works for Lync and Skype for Business
- It works for 64-bit and 32-bit office
- It works for MSI installed Office and Click-to-Run Office
- The xml file will get stored under c:\_CustomPresence\CustomPresence.xml if that is your systemdrive
- You need to sign out of the client and back in for the changes to take effect
- The presence states works in the following scenarios
- On English Skype for Business clients for you and your colleagues
- On Skype for Business clients in your local location retrieved using (Get-Culture).LCID
- For everyone in your Colleagues relationship level as long as they are running a client language version specified above
- If you want external contacts to see your custom presence state you need to elevate them as colleagues in the relationship pane
- Understand that they will also see you as in a meeting, in a call, your note and your location as well
- If you are in an environment with more than two languages for you Office deployment, make sure you add an LCID per language in the script
Download the script here and use PowerShell to control your presence using the Lync 2013 Client SDK described here
You can now control you custom presence states using PowerShell, if you have installed the SDK, using the Publish-SfBContactInformation.ps1 found on GitHub here with this syntax
Publish-SfBContactInformation -CustomActivityId 1 -PersonalNote "Getting Stuff Done" -Location "@HomeOffice"
You are now ready to use this in a Pomodoro context, read how to get started with the open source PowerShell based Pomodoro timer here: https://msunified.net/2013/11/25/lock-down-your-lync-status-and-pc-notifications-using-powershell/
This article is for you Lync-PRO’s out there who want to differentiate yourself from the average Lync user and at the same time want to reach true flow state using the Pomodoro Technique
This article discusses
- The Pomodoro Technique
- Flow state by Jason Silva
- My Lync controlling Pomodoro PowerShell Script
- The Script