I’ve used the Pomodoro Technique on-and-off for probably about a year. There are definitely aspects that I like about it, but I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the right answer to my productivity issues. For those unfamiliar, basically the Pomodoro Technique is working for 25 minutes on a task, then taking a five minute break, and then continuing with the task, or working on something else. The idea is to be super focused for those 25 minutes, and use the five minute breaks to do whatever you do that normally distracts you.
The Benefits and Failings of the Pomodoro
The first thing I noticed is that using the Pomodoro Technique does tend to make me feel more accomplished at the end of the day, but it also makes my day go by faster. For some people that may be a desired side-effect, but for me, it’s fairly undesirable (my days already blur, and since I don’t mind doing my work, why have them go by faster than they need to)?
I’ve also noticed that occasionally, I’ll finish up a task 20 minutes or so into a pomodoro. I hesitate to start on something new since I’ll just take a break in a few minutes and so I’ll kind of just ‘fill the time’ or take a bit longer of a break, which isn’t really desirable. I can of course go on break sooner, which basically is what led me to my proposed solution: mini-projects.
I’ve recently just been trying to do a better job of estimating how long specific tasks, or mini-projects will take. I aim for 15-30 minutes for a project. If something is going to take longer than 30 minutes, I try to break it down smaller. If I have something that only takes five minutes, I’ll group it in with other small tasks. The idea is similar to the Pomodoro Technique, but instead of timed pomodoros, the length of time is just determined by completing a mini-project. When I finish it, I take a five minute break. I do occasionally misjudge, and have a 45 minute section, but I’m generally fine working with that, and it’s sometimes balanced out by a shorter 15 minute block.
So far I’ve found this strategy to help alleviate some of the dead time that I would otherwise have when using the Pomodoro Technique. I also feel much less like a slave to the clock, which is always a good thing in my opinion.