Picking Up New Skills – Tips and Tricks to Build Your Technical Tool Chest

Whew, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks! I’ve migrated off my longtime hosting provider, A Small Orange, due to site traffic increases (a good problem to have, but one that needed to be addressed) and am now over at WebSynthesis. Kudos to the Fantasktic folks for making that a relatively smooth and painless problem. I’ve also been traveling on holidays in between events in VMworld 2015 EMEA and a Backup 2.0 Road Show in London.

This post is going to highlight a talk I gave at VMworld 2015 EMEA on the vBrownBag TechTalk forum. It’s a short version of my Picking Up New Skills presentation that I’ve started using at VMUG events. Here’s the video recording, the slide deck, and the Feedly OPML file.

I’ve eluded to the Pomodoro Technique in a past post that covered my use of a standing desk. However, I’ve had a few folks ask some questions that I’ll cover here.


The idea is to put yourself into a highly effective learning mode. Select something you want to learn about – for example, NFS architecture or automation for operations – and then slice it up into goals using Pomodoro. Spend 25 minutes in a highly focused state with zero distractions (turn off your alarms and ringers). This will give you enough time to achieve tangible results without tiring out your noodle, because the brain can only stay focused for short bursts at a time. After 25 minutes, take a breather. I usually walk around the office, refill my water glass, check social media, or grab a snack. Disengage and let your brain rest. Then, repeat the process.

The next 25 minutes of focus can be a continuation of the first goal or an entirely different one. It really depends on how much you achieved in the first focus round. Continue alternating between 25 minutes of focus and 5 minutes of rest, or take a longer break (10 minutes) if you need to.

The first time I used this technique I was rather amazed at how much I was able to get done. I can’t guarantee that it’ll work for everyone, but I find myself to be 2x-3x more productive when I discipline my brain with the Pomodoro Technique.

Let me know how it goes for you. :)