Thursday, April 5, 2012

To Pomodoro or not to Pomodoro?

If you're around this blog for some time, you might have noticed that I refer to the Pomodoro technique every now and then. I am now using it frequently again, since I got the Pomodoro Lite app for my iPhone (which is a total battery drain though). Another list of apps can be found here, from which I tried Pomodoro Me as well, but I didn't get that one working.

Recently, I have as well been contemplating the sense and nonsense of such a technique all in all. Even though I use it, and for some tasks, really seem to need it, it sometimes also feels forced and unnatural.


The advantages

1. It's purpose is clear and simple: focus for 25 minutes on just one task. It's a great help to focus for 25 minutes at a time. We all can get our thoughts together for something as short as 25 minutes, right?

2. I always feel like I'm racing against the clock in the last 5 minutes in which I see time ticking away. It's a great productivity boost, one pomodoro at a time.


The disadvantages

1. I find it difficult to stick to the 5 minute breaks. A "good break" for me is to get up from my chair and get something to drink at the end of the hallway. In a "failed break" I think I don't need to get up, and read my mail. Then, I need less time than 5 minutes, so I start looking for things to fill up time - and before I know I'm reading some article online and the 5 minutes are long since over.

2. Ideally, I wouldn't want to work like this. Ideally, I just got into the flow mode and work for hours straight on something which truly captivates me. Reality seems to be much different though, but still it sometimes feels unnatural and against the logical flow of the mind. Ideally, my mind is so crystal clear that 25 minutes of focus is a piece of cake.

5 comments:

  1. Sometimes the best 5 minute breaks I have are when I do nothing. I just sit back in my chair and close my eyes for 5 minutes. This often helps me clarify what I've just been doing and what I need to do.

    It can be difficult though. However I think the most important thing is that you are focussed for the full 25 minutes which you are, maybe longer breaks will help you?

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  2. Completely agree about the breaks. It is espacially difficult when working in a library (because it takes longer than 5 mins to get to the coffee shop, and if you are not going to go to the coffee shop what are you going to do for 5 mins except stare at people and make them uncomfortable?). In a way though, I have found that it tends to work less in terms of limiting breaks to 5 mins, but ensuring that I don't fall into the kind of activities which elongate breaks ridiculously as a form of displacement activity (i.e., starting to watch a film, making a cake, boarding the loft, etc.). Have found it particularly good to run my pomodoro's in conjunction with the Leechblock browser plug-in, which means that if I decide to check Twitter or something during my breaks, I am automatically logged out before I end up wasting too much time.

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  3. I use the technique as well, although I'll adjust the timing of the longer breaks according to the daily schedule. I love it and would add to the advantages: increase in self-efficacy perception (counting the successful pomodoros) as well as productivity boost (time slots that I would have otherwise have considered lost, e.g. in between two meetings, can easily be saved/used by turning them into a pomodoro).

    Love Jon' idea of using Leechblock, I should try using that!

    Here are two ideas one could use for the 5 min breaks:
    a) do some eye exercises (like focusing on a point in the distance for a few seconds at a time) or close them altogether to give them some rest
    b) one can add to that a practice of 5min of mindfulness meditation and just be present :)

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  4. Thanks for the great comments - food for thought, and ideas to try out!

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