Zettelkasten Forum


To pomodoro or not to pomodoro

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  • @sfast said:
    @henrikenggaard

    Ah, ok. Then we share the same sentiment. I do not consider the journalistic schedule deep work.

    I think Cal Newport tried to make Deep Work a new thing. But it is not. The book was best as inspiration.

    As a bit of meta-comment (or perhaps it is on-topic), in the process of working with my literature notes and working them into my Zettelkasten (ZK), I really engaged deeply with "deep work" as a concept and Newport's book.

  • @henrikenggaard, this discussion about Cal Newport and Deep Work sent me back to the book which I read pre zettelkasting. It got me thinking about how the Pomodoro technique fits with Deep Work and zettelkasting. ("The Journalistic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling" is on p.113 of the Kindle edition.)

    I see the value in long concentrated blocks of focus. I carve these long blocks of time. But I’m busy. If I had to wait for a long block of uninterrupted time to dedicate to focus I’d be waiting till the cows came home then I’d be too tired to concentrate. And I can see value in grabbing a block of focus when you can fit it into your busy modern sometimes usually over-scheduled life. I don’t want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good so I grab 25 mins here and there and at the end of the week, I have fifty 25 min. blocks of uninterrupted focus time spent on my goals. 25 hours of Deeper Work™, better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

    Sure this is not ideal. There is research into switching costs, the time it takes to shift focus from one task to another. This takes a variable amount of time, sometimes 25 mins!?, just to find enough clarity for clear focus. But maybe, the speed at which you can shift your focus and become centered and concentrated is trainable with practice. The question becomes what sort of practice or drills would enhance focus shifting?

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • Shifting focus is actually a good thing. Our brain need both high focused periods and wander periods. Barbara Oakley has a chapter about this in her book "A mind for numbers" where she says:

    Diffuse-mode thinking is what happens when you relax your attention and just let your mind wander. This relaxation can allow different areas of the brain to hook up and return valuable insights. ... Diffuse-mode insights often flow from preliminary thinking that's been done in the focused mode.

    The whole second chapter deals with these 2 modes of thinking and why we need both to learn, understand and gain insights. She cites a lot of studies as well to back up her reasoning.

    I think reading requires moderate to high focus, summarization requires high focus, writing zettels high focus, but linking works in both high focus mode and diffuse mode and new ideas as well. Sometimes I work on my links while waiting in the long line - fun insights I discovered while dealing with slow bureaucracy are really good! Sometimes I get insight while washing the dishes. The thing is, our brain keeps digesting information even if we switch our conscious attention, and when it finds something interesting, that will resurface into our conscious "mind" and we feel like it is an instant spark of our breakthrough, but we forget that our brain worked very hard in the background to dig up this connection or conclusion.

  • edited September 3

    @Will said:
    [A well thought out answer]

    I think we are drifting a bit off-topic. Perhaps we should start a new thread? Perhaps even a Zettelkasten.de book club :smile:

  • @ethomasv YES, I'm an Olympic diffuse-mode thinker. Expert with years and years of experience in mind wandering. :)

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • I have a chunk of notes about this exact topic. A couple of bullet points:

    • Movement improves executive function to quite an extend. Pomodoro should not be interrupted by another thinking task (how small it may seem). The pause should be used for movement which you planned out so you just feel your body.
    • The optimal interval length depends on the complexity of the tasks. The more complex the longer the working interval should be.
    • Always do something healthy in your recovery period. It sets your mind in the right place.

    I am recommending it, though a friend of mine doesn't use it and rather trains for 6--8 hours on one day and sits all day on the next.. haha.

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    I have a chunk of notes about this exact topic. A couple of bullet points:

    • Movement improves executive function to quite an extend. Pomodoro should not be interrupted by another thinking task (how small it may seem). The pause should be used for movement which you planned out so you just feel your body.
    • The optimal interval length depends on the complexity of the tasks. The more complex the longer the working interval should be.
    • Always do something healthy in your recovery period. It sets your mind in the right place.

    I am recommending it, though a friend of mine doesn't use it and rather trains for 6--8 hours on one day and sits all day on the next.. haha.

    Just a beginner. I have a hard time following the timer. I get rapt in what I'm focused on and don't quit then when I do take a break I have a hard time restarting because I am now focused on wherever I am doing to relax. But I'm working on it. Reading references and encouragement wanted. What are people using for a timer?

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • edited September 4

    @Will said:
    What are people using for a timer?

    I use the good old wind up egg timer. I find the ticking conducive to thinking.

    Started ZK 4.2018. "The path is at your feet, see? Now carry on."

  • I am a big Pomodoro fan, especially during this time of pandemic and even more limited abilities to focus. One of my mantras right now is to be kind to our brains.

    I prefer to do a series of pomodoros within a longer chunk of time because it keeps me in the right state of mind and keeps me in flow. (I mark these times on my calendar and ignore incoming emails and calls during these times.) Then I go "surfing": I ride a topic or project for a pomodoro or two, and when the "wave" starts to die out (the energy and focus start to fade) then I catch another wave (different project or topic) with the next pomodoro.

    I used to try fitting my Pomodoros in where I could, telling myself I was busy and therefore lucky to find any time. But then I revisited my assumptions and my sense of control, and started carving these spaces out in my calendar as first priorities. Meetings move around my "surfing", and no longer the other way around. #priorities

    The best example of this for me right now is combining work and school as separate waves in a single pomodoro block. I used to try to do all the work things and could feel my brain contracting and my spirit dying a wee bit. Same for school. Now I work on work for a round or two, then I work on school for a round or two, then back to work for a round or two, etc. I get more done for my work (AND school!) taking this approach, than when I try to vary topics or projects within a single domain (all work or all school).

    As for a timer, I'm a Tomato Timer app user. I wander off to other apps, but this is the one I keep coming back to for some reason. The user experience and visuals make it something I look forward to using while I do my rounds.

  • I don't use timer, I use Forest App, you can plant a tree and it grows for a set period of time, when it is done it makes a sound to notify you. And you can setup any time period you want between 10 and 180 mins. I like to tag my trees like studying, work, zettelkasten etc so that I can see at the end of the week what I was focused on and what I neglected - I find it hard to keep balance!

  • @jeannelking, you sound like a pro. You've described the mind games I too play around focus periods and "surfing" periods and striving for longer periods of uninterrupted focus. Your #priorities seem straight and straighter than mine in this regard. I'm just a beginner and hope I can get there some time soon.

    I guess I need to eat my own dog-food. I know what to do, now I just need to do it.

    It is nice to know that there are kindred spirits on this path with me.

    Will

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @Will said:

    @sfast said:
    I have a chunk of notes about this exact topic. A couple of bullet points:

    • Movement improves executive function to quite an extend. Pomodoro should not be interrupted by another thinking task (how small it may seem). The pause should be used for movement which you planned out so you just feel your body.
    • The optimal interval length depends on the complexity of the tasks. The more complex the longer the working interval should be.
    • Always do something healthy in your recovery period. It sets your mind in the right place.

    I am recommending it, though a friend of mine doesn't use it and rather trains for 6--8 hours on one day and sits all day on the next.. haha.

    Just a beginner. I have a hard time following the timer. I get rapt in what I'm focused on and don't quit then when I do take a break I have a hard time restarting because I am now focused on wherever I am doing to relax. But I'm working on it. Reading references and encouragement wanted. What are people using for a timer?

    I think there is much tinkering warranted. But a movement break that is actually a practiced routine or coreography allows you to keep your mind on the matter while the body is moving.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited September 12

    Great Diffuse and Focused Mode thinking article. https://fs.blog/2019/10/focused-diffuse-thinking/

    Post edited by VDL1516 on
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