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The "Pianodoro": Take Your Productivity to Power-Level 9000!

08.29.2012
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Practitioners of the Pomodoro Technique swear by its effectiveness in making working humans more productive.

Pomodoro Technique (Standard)

  1. Pick ONE task to focus on doing
  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes - a tomato shaped one is preferred for authenticity :)
  3. Work intensely on the task until the timer rings.  No talking is sometimes preferable depending on the task
  4. Take a 5 minute break.  I know it's hard to stop, but these are the rules.  Get up, and do something to refresh your mind.
  5. If you do 4 pomodori (yes the plural is pomodori), it is suggested you take a longer break of 15-20 minutes while enjoying a beer or another soothing drink of your choice.

I'm here to tell you today that we the DZone writers, curators, designers, developers, etc. have employed this technique on numerous occasions and we think we've stumbled upon something even better…



Think back to the last time you heard Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 16 (Allegro). Doesn't it feel like the music is almost flipping on all of your synapses?

At DZone, the idea of the "Piano-doro" emerged from another new toy in our office.  (Yes!  Now's the time when I finally explain what the heck I meant in the title!)

Behold the DZone Piano…



Maybe in another article you'll meet Piano's brothers and sisters; three guitars and a pair of bongos.

When one of our musically inclined employees started serenading us with the melodies of Mozart and Chopin, we noticed a 100x increase in worker performance (ok, that's a lie, but we think it helped).

We then combined this piano playing with the power of the Pomodoro Technique and…



Voila!  We had productivity to a power-level over 9000!



How, you ask?


For those of you that have tried the Pomodoro Technique, you know all too well that the biggest impediment to successfully pulling off one of these sprints is INTERRUPTIONS!

Interruptions take Pomodori, put a pillow over their face, and murder them in their sleep.



Attention!  Article's Takeaway Point is Next!


It turns out that the piano music not only helped us focus, but it also served as a signal to the entire office not to disturb those employees who were deep inside the powerful focus-trance of the Pomodoro.



                                   You need focus to do the above task

What it Means for You!


Now, being serious for a second, let's look at how this can help you with some steps for practical application in your own work environment.

1. Make your own "signal" that you are in a Pomodoro, or another focused work-sprint of your choice.  For us it was an office wide aural cue, but paper notes will work fine (if you want to be boring).  The note must be either fun or serious.  Anything in between and people will ignore it.



2. Prepare your work environment with all of the optimal conditions for being as focused as possible (know your likes and dislikes)



3. Do some more research…  There's a ton more scientific and anecdotal evidence out there for why the Pomodoro Technique works and how it works.  They'll certainly have better metrics than my wildly presumptive figures (9000, pfft!  We're already way past that)

I recommend a little book called "Pomodoro Technique Illustrated" by Staffan Noteberg, with a forward by Henrik Kniberg, who I've talked to on a few occasions.  He's known for combining the power of Scrum and Kanban.



Check out those intense graph paper sketched-style illustrations!

Alternatives


Some people don't like piano music.  I understand (heretics!).  So in order to represent alternative cultural tastes in music, I've gathered a few other genres and instrumentations that could also help you focus like a champ:

Kongar-ool Ondar: Tuvan Throat Singer



Medley of Thr

The art of Tuvan throat singing is a style in which one or more pitches sound simultaneously over a fundamental pitch, producing a unique sound.  - Wikipedia

Gheorghe Zamfir: Master of the Pan Flute



Zamfir is known for playing an expanded version of the traditional Romanian-style pan flute (nai) of 20 pipes to 22, 25, 28 and 30 pipes to increase its range, and obtaining as many as nine tones from each pipe by changing the embouchure.

Saint Hildegard von Bingen:

Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.



Listen to the haunting medieval tones of Saint Hildegard.  She composed one of the largest repertoires of music from the 1100's

Zikir: Islamic chanting



Zikir is the chanting of the greatness of God (Allah) not a song. A zikir is a litany formula that usually follows an Islamic prayer, but which can also be practiced at other times. Enjoy the birds in this video!  - Wikipedia

John Cage:  Post-Modern American Composer




A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century.  Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, which is performed in the absence of deliberate sound; musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title.  - Wikipedia

Chinese Opera: Costumed Opera with roots in the 3rd Century CE



I may have picked a less soothing tune here, but you should know that Chinese opera is pretty awesome, with some amazing costumes and voice acting traditions that go back thousands of years.  Reminds me of Kabuki


Aftermath


At DZone we will continue to use the Pianodoro technique as much as possible.  Right now the piano players consist of a few employees who also need to be productive, so we sometimes have to resort to notes and streaming music in our respective offices (I personally prefer a driving original soundtrack to a dramatic film).  Maybe one day we'll hire our own company pianist, whose sole job will be to play for our Pomodori.  That would be awesome.

Related Article:
HTML5 History of 20th Century Music

Comments

Alex Crafts replied on Wed, 2012/08/29 - 9:25am

Don't forget Piano's step-brother -- THE BASS! 

David Bonilla replied on Thu, 2012/08/30 - 12:32pm

Congrats guys... you have discovered "the totem", something to signal that you are in the middle of your pomodoro.

I use a Teddy bear ^_^

Mitch Pronschinske replied on Thu, 2012/08/30 - 1:55pm in response to: David Bonilla

Cool!  I didn't know it had a name.  I want a totem like the one in the movie Inception.

Lon Miller replied on Thu, 2012/12/20 - 2:43pm

Thanks for the links to the varieties of music. This was an interesting read (and listen).

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