I juggle a lot of tasks. I get distracted easily. I have some tough deadlines. My priorities are constantly being shuffled. My phone and IM messages never stop. This sound like you or someone you know? If so, please read on.

As I get older, and perhaps a bit wiser, I’ve started to fixate on the idea of “doing less but doing it better”. Instead of trying to juggle 9 balls poorly, why not learn to juggle 2 or 3 balls really well? I’ve always admired the productive software development teams that I’ve worked with and their ability to focus on fewer dev tasks but execute them crisply and quickly. Here is a great article that describes the difference between Agile principles versus methodologies: https://dev.to/danwright_dev/focus-on-the-principles-and-not-the-methodology-when-in-an-agile-environment—or-just-be-more-lean-2of7

So…I came across the concept of a “micro-sprint” that is similar, in principle, to an Agile-based team sprint. The idea, as an individual, is to focus on one thing for a short duration of time and fixate on it. This concept has probably been around for ages, but it became a popular topic in the 1980’s when Francesco Cirillo introduced the “pomodoro technique” to the time management community: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique The idea is to focus on one thing for a short burst of work-time, then take a break, then repeat. And you use a simple timer and self-discipline to guide you in your focus.

Wow, this is such a simple method! But, how the heck do I pull off a 25-minute pomodoro sprint? How do I block phone and web distractions from ruining my sprint? Well – I found a few cool applications. The coolest (if you’re on a Mac) is this one: https://heyfocus.com/docs/features/pomodoro-timer/ What I love is that when I start my sprint (custom duration, but I usually go for 30 mins), I can specify what Mac apps and what web-pages are a distraction and then disable access until my sprint is complete. The applications close and re-launch based on the timer. Any attempt to open the distracting app/site and I get a friendly reminder about my current sprint. Heads up, this isn’t a free app. But it has saved me a ton of wasted work hours and has more than paid for itself.

https://tomato-timer.com/ is a simple, free web-based tool to regulate your sprints. It works well in Chrome and integrates with OS X notifications. And it has some pretty cool keyboard shortcuts for controls. It is free, it is cool, check it out!

And if you are on Windows, boom! I just found out that Focus is available in the Microsoft app store. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/focus-10/9nblggh5g2xh?activetab=pivot%3aoverviewtab I have not played with it. I don’t know how well it works. It looks like it is free.

OK, looks like my 25-minute sprint is done. Time to take a quick coffee break and then start my next “pomodoro”!