You have probably heard about the Pomodoro Technique before. It’s a way of working that has the potential of improving your productivity.
But do I use the Pomodoro Technique in my everyday work?
No, I don’t.
In this post, I tell you what breaks the original Pomodoro Technique and what type of working method I prefer instead.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
Francesco Cirillo invented The Pomodoro Technique in the late eighties. The technique breaks work into smaller units and improve your productivity that way.
There are three crucial elements of Pomodoro that make it useful:
- You work in 25-minute blocks. 25-minutes is a short enough period that helps you to keep the focus on what you do. One 25-minute block equals one Pomodoro.
- After a 25-minute work session, you take a five-minute break. Once you have worked four Pomodoros (4x25 minutes), you take a longer, 15-30 minute break.
- You work against the timer. This factor helps you to keep your work sessions in 25-minutes. Also, working against the timer helps you to improve your focus.
And oh … are you wondering where the name Pomodoro comes from? Well, it’s an Italian word meaning tomato. Cirillo used this type of timer while studying at university.
Why I Don't Use the Pomodoro Technique (And the Similar Ones)
There are three reasons I don’t use the classic Pomodoro technique in my everyday work.
First, the technique assumes that you should break your working sessions into 25-minute blocks. In theory, this approach is right since there is a smaller chance you lose your focus. And while this working method works for some people, I’m not one of those folks.
The biggest drawback of this technique is that I have to take a break after 25-minutes. And if I’m in a flow state, the 5-minute break breaks my flow.
For instance, if I’m fully inside in the writing process, the last thing I want to do is to force myself to stop writing just because a time management technique tells me so.
The second thing I don’t like with this technique is that certain tasks just don’t work well here.
For instance, if you are in a meeting or teleconference, you may have to work longer than 25-minutes, even if you wanted to take a break.
The third drawback is that the technique makes me feel like I’m in an execution mode. And let me tell you, the execution mode is the best way to create stress (at least to me).
That’s not what I want. Instead, I want to work relaxed, instead of following strict rules on how I should work.
Now, some folks recommend longer than 25-minute intervals for working.
For instance, you could work for 52-minutes, and then take a 17-minute break, as the famous DeskTime study found out.
Or perhaps you’d like to follow what Tony Schwartz is doing? He is working 90-minutes straight first thing in the morning, before taking a break.
All the different ways of working, whether it’s Pomodoro or something else, has one flaw in them: They are someone else’s way of doing things, not yours.
I’m not saying they don’t work for you because they could. So if you are using any of these mentioned techniques, and they work for you, keep using them!
But if you struggle, I have a better solution for you.
How to Fix Any Technique in Three Steps?
So how do you maximize your flow state without having to:
- Force yourself out of the flow state?
- Force yourself to work too short or long?
- Stay productive and focused but also relaxed?
Work mindfully and take notes.
Here is how this works in two steps.
1) Start a timer when you begin your work. Let the timer run as long as you can keep up with the task. As soon as the temptation of surfing the web, checking social media, or looking at your phone becomes overwhelming, stop the timer. Write down the time on your timer.
2) Look at your timer stats. After recording your working session lengths with the timer, you soon have stats. These stats will help you calculate the average time you can work in a focused manner. Also, understand that for some tasks, you can work longer in a concentrated state, while with other tasks, you become exhausted sooner.
For instance, when I’m writing, my ideal length of working focused is anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour. Twenty-five minutes is too little. Ninety minutes is overkill.
But when I’m doing coding at work, and I’m facing a complex problem, I can barely work 20 minutes on it, until I need a short break.
3) Take breaks. Once I have worked a certain period, or I have finished something important, I take a break. Maybe I’ll make some coffee, or I go outside to check out the post box.
The length of the break is usually 10-minutes, 30-40 minutes if it’s lunch.
How to Improve Your FWB (Focused Work Block) Length
You may be shocked to find out that in the beginning, when you try to identify your ideal FWB length, you can’t focus as much as you wanted. For instance, you may realize that you peek at your smartphone after working only 15-minutes.
In the beginning, that’s fine.
It’s the same thing when you run for the first time. It’s horrible, and it blocks your breath. But when you keep working on your running, it becomes more comfortable, and you can run longer distances.
Like running, you can also improve your FWB length. And here are some ways you can do that:
- Sleep well. Sleep is a big part of your everyday life. If you have trouble with it, check out these tips on how to improve your sleep. And if you still have issues getting proper, high-quality sleep, consult a sleep doctor. Yes, that may cost money, sometimes a lot. But finding the actual causes (and the potential fixes) for your sleep issues can dramatically improve your life quality.
- Take a nap. If you feel tired during the afternoon, take a 20-minute power nap. That will help you boost your productivity and focus.
- Meditate. Meditation has many benefits, and you can also use it to improve your focus. But remember, meditation is not a quick way to improve concentration, though. It will take some practice until you see the results.
- Turn off distractions. Find a quiet place to work and put the phone out of your reach.
- Keep doing one thing. Instead of writing an email and a novel at the same time, do one thing only (not both at once!).
- Know what to do. If you don’t know the task/tasks you should work on during your FWB, you are risking your focus. Therefore, know exactly what things you should work on during your FWB. Ideally, it’s just one thing.
- Listen to music. Music is also a great way to improve your focus. I listen to instrumental songs when I’m working. And if I like a particular song a lot, I put it on a loop on YouTube (just right-click on top of the video and choose Loop).
Why I Don't Use the Pomodoro Technique: The Conclusion
In this article, you saw my take on the Pomodoro Technique (and other similar ones). I don’t use it personally, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
We are all unique, and we have different ways of working. And even if I don’t find the Pomodoro technique useful in my life, it doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you.
Just define your FWB length/break ratio. That helps you to perform your best.
Now it's your turn: Do you use the Pomodoro Technique in your work, or do you have another way? Please leave a comment in the comment area.