During the month of April, I experimented with using the Pomodoro Technique to help improve my productivity. Each week, I shared what each day was like for me, including my struggles and triumphs. I was able to accomplish quite a bit in the month of April using the Pomodoro Technique. I got through an average of a book a day (necessary to catch up on my reading pace), was able to have blog posts scheduled two weeks in advance, and even got started on a new project that I hope I can release soon!
So, what is my final conclusion? Will I be adding “poms” to my daily routine? As with anything, there are pros and cons to using the Pomodoro Technique. I really loved using the technique, but there are drawbacks.
It helps keep short attention spans in check
With the periods of working accompanied by a short break, with a long break every four working periods, the Pomodoro Technique turns the weakness of a short attention span into a strength. While I am a generally very driven person, I struggle with staying on task and focused. The concept of the technique is essentially just setting a timer and saying, “I’m going to focus for this long and see how much I can get done.” It’s purely psychological, but there’s a reason psychological techniques work! Using “poms” really helped keep my focus in check.
It teaches you to get more done in shorter amounts of time
Being short on time was my Achille’s Heel in college and grad school. I would meticulously build my schedule to ensure that I never had only an hour between classes or work, because I knew it would turn into a wasted hour. Mentally, I’ve always felt like I need time to “settle in” before starting on a task. In some way, this does help me get in gear to focus on work. However, sometimes that “settling in” time can go a little unchecked. What is meant to be a ten minute settling in period can often turn into thirty minutes or longer. Now, this can happen with any technique, Pomodoro or otherwise. But something about switching between work and rest helped adjust the gears in my thinking. This adjustment was helped in two ways: first, I am competitive by nature (especially with myself). Second, it helps me to view my time in smaller increments than as a whole. So, instead of saying “I only have three hours to get work done today,” I looked at my time in relation to poms. It went from “how am I going to get all this done with this limited time??” to “let’s see what I can get done in the next twenty-five minutes. I got much more done on my short days than I ever have in the past.
My house was cleaner
Bear with me on this one. Another of my Achille’s Heels is knowing when to do what. If I have a certain amount of writing and a certain amount of cleaning, I go all in with either one or the other. I’m not the greatest at balancing that time. However, using the Pomodoro Technique helped a lot with balancing between work and “keeping house.” Most of my poms were spent doing work-related things (writing, reading, etc). However, I was able to get quite a bit done around the house during the breaks, especially the long breaks. Sure, some breaks were spent just replying to messages and checking Facebook, but five minutes honestly isn’t that long. But I made an effort during the thirty minute breaks to see what I could get done around the house. A lot can be done in thirty minutes, or even fifteen minutes (a concept I’ll be dealing with this month)! Just like during my 25 minute poms, I would race against the clock during my thirty minute long breaks to see what I could get cleaned up in that amount of time. My home looked better for it, I can tell you that!
The poms can feel restrictive
Sometimes the poms come out awkwardly towards the end of the day. For example, I leave the house at 3 pm most days. But if I don’t get started before a certain time in the morning, my last pom will start at 2:45. That means I have to cut a pom short. This is fine, it can just be frustrating because I am all about seamlessness. There is a solution to this. In my app, I can adjust the length of the poms, the breaks, the long breaks, and the frequency of the long breaks. This is helpful, but at the same time, I don’t want to spend time every morning doing the math for how long my poms should be and when I should time my long breaks. That tends to lead to starting later and being less productive, which is just counterintuitive.
Poms aren’t applicable in every situation
I can’t use poms for certain tasks, such as meal prep or when I’m talking with a client. Conversations and working with clients isn’t as common an occurrence right now, but they do happen. In fact, they happened this week! My coaching client popped back up, and I spent several hours with her two days in a row. I can’t use poms for coaching sessions, it would be unprofessional. And when it comes to meal prep, I don’t like the idea of leaving food out for longer than I need to, so breaks would be counterintuitive. I use podcasts to help me focus with that anyway. Poms are helpful, but just simply not for every task.
The poms can’t do my work for me
Yes, duh, only I can do my work. But this is important to point out. It’s technically not a con, but can be seen that. No technique is a magic solution that will suddenly turn you into a master of productivity. Tools are just that, tools. They can help you achieve your goals, but only you can put in the work towards those goals. I did have some days that I toward the end of the day, I had my pomodoro timer on and I wasn’t getting anything done. I’ve learned that when this happens, it’s okay to turn off the time, step away, and take an extra break. What matters is getting back to work once that extra break is over.
Using the Pomodoro Technique is really just as easy as setting a timer. You can keep track of how many poms you’ve worked using checkmarks. However, in this day and age, there is an app for everything. And, as you may have guessed, there are a number of apps that you can utilize to implement the Pomodoro Technique into your routine.
Tide (free, Google Play and Apple)
Tide is the app that I use for running my Pomodoro timer. I love how versatile it is. You can select different backgrounds, types of white noise, and even customize your poms. My favorite aspect of the app is “Immersive Mode.” When turned on, if you leave the Tide app, it will result in a “focus failure” and the timer will turn off after a short warning. You can set focus goals to help keep you from breaking focus. I will note for my fellow Android users that if you have your text messages set to run on top of other apps (the little chat heads that stay on your screen unless you specifically close them), using those chat heads will not break focus. Probably not a good thing, but there it is haha.
The next apps and their descriptions originally appeared alongside other recommendations in this article that I found.
Focus Booster (free, pro is $3-5/month; web, desktop)
This app operates on your desktop as window that floats on top of your other apps. However, it doesn’t get in the way. The downside of this app is that the free version is pretty limited. You can only run 20 poms per month, and it costs $5 per month to have unlimited poms. The upside of the pro version is that if you need a way to keep track of your tasks and the time spent on them for your job, it does an excellent job of that.
Pomodoro Time Pro ($1.99, iOS; $4.99, OS X)
This app is perfect for you Apple junkies out there! It synchronizes across all of your Apple devices, allowing for a seamless workday. It compiles your statistics and even sends notifications.
Other recommendations for apps can be found in articles like this one, or just searching your phone’s app store.