Set yourself unavailable with this open source PowerShell based Pomodoro timer

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 

How to set custom presence states in Skype for Business on your Windows machine

This works on Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Lync and Skype for Business desktop clients. Requires administrative rights to your computer

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.

  1. Download the script from TechNet Gallery
  2. The default custom presence states are shown below
  3. 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
  4. To run the script, just type the following in PowerShell in elevated mode from the location you saved it
    • .\Set-CsCustomPresence.ps1
    • 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
  5. You need to sign out of the client and back in for the changes to take effect
  6. 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/

Control your Lync presence during a Pomodoro Sprint 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

Continue reading

TEL, SIP, mailto, and Lync meeting links association

On a windows 8 machine you can have several application that can open Lync and Outlook related URL’s. This can be a problem since it may not always be the application you want to use that is opening your links. This article will help you take control of your Unified Communications links.

The applications

  • Lync Rich (desktop) client – Opens TEL:, SIP: and Lync meeting links
  • Lync Windows Store App – Opens Lync meeting links
  • Skype – Opens TEL:
  • Chrome – Opens TEL: and mailto:
  • Outlook – Opens mailto:
  • Mail App – Opens mailto:

Usually I would think you would prefer Lync Rich Client and Outlook to open you links. So when the Lync Windows Store app opens meetings you are an administrator of or Skype opens TEL: links when you want to call someone with Lync this could be an issue. I will in this article talk about when you use the URL’s and how to take control over them. Continue reading