Yet another Pomodoro article

I’ve been using Pomodoro work sessions for the last couple of months and it’s going pretty well! I’m more inclined to start working and I’m finishing tasks much faster. Also, overall I’m relaxed about starting any project since I’m guarding my time more diligently.

For the uninitiated, Pomodoro is a way to structure your time. This is how it works:

  • Think of a task you want to complete in 25 minutes
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes
  • Work towards finishing the task in these 25 minutes
  • After the timer rings, set it for 5 minutes
  • Rest for these 5 minutes
  • Continue this process 4 times and on the 4th break, give yourself a longer break—15/30 minutes

This is all you need to get started but over these last couple of months, I’ve come up with additional rules that have been helpful.

Rules for using Pomodoro

Use an autostart/autostop timer

I used to manually start and stop the timer during work sessions. I realized that I was wasting time and more importantly, attention. It’s hard enough to focus on my work. The additional responsibility of starting and stopping the timer while I’m bogged down on my task makes the sessions grueling.

I use Focus to-do: Pomodoro timer and To-Do list (I paid like $8 for the app a while ago and it has been a worthy investment). In the app settings, I set up the Pomodoros to autostart and stop.

Stick to the format

Many people modify the method by extending the work sessions to 50 minutes or more. Extending the work sessions beyond 25 minutes doesn’t work for me because I dread getting started. It’s hard to convince myself to dedicate more than 30 minutes when I’m just starting on a new project.

The Pomodoro method is designed to be only 25 minutes because it’s easy to convince yourself to focus for 25 minutes. 25 minutes isn’t that long! (I think the format is 25 minutes and not 30 minutes because 30 minutes feels much longer than 25 minutes like how $4 seems much more expensive than $3.99)

Also, 25 minutes is a great length of time to practice working faster. I try to challenge myself to finish a larger task during my 25-minute work sessions to become speedier. A longer work session encourages me to procrastinate, work slower, and be persnickety with my tasks

Take the breaks

Even if I’m in a flow state, I try to take breaks (although I forget most of the time).

Without the breaks, I get bogged down. I spend way too much time on trivialities because I’m “soooo clooose to solving this problem” and then spend the entirety of the next couple of work sessions on it.

The breaks force me to reflect on what I just finished. Could I have gone faster? How am I contributing to the bigger goal? Is it even worth working on this task? Should I stop and ask someone for help?

Here are some rules for the breaks:

  • I don’t check my phone for messages
  • I don’t browse the internet or get on social media
  • I try to get away from my laptop
  • I don’t watch TV
  • I don’t try to do some other task
  • Overall, I try to avoid looking at another screen

I allow myself activities like:

  • using the bathroom
  • heating up my tea
  • stretching my legs
  • pacing around
  • staring out the window
  • lightly rearranging my desk
  • looking at my todo list and thinking about what’s next
  • checking my calendar if I have time for the next session

Don't start the next task even if you finish before the 25 minutes end

It’s tempting to keep working once you’re in that mood— to add on small tasks and see if you can cross off one more thing on your never-ending todo list. Unless I finish what I planned to do in the first 5 minutes and it would actually be a total waste of time to not move forward, I try to sit in my awkwardness or review my work. Often I find things I could do better.

There will always be more things to do. The point of pomodoro is not to tackle a billion tasks as efficiently as possible and burn out. It’s to determine what work is worthy of filling my time into. If I’m haphazardly giving myself more work just because I have the time, it’s likely that this work isn’t worth doing at all.

Have music or white noise on during the work sessions

Working without music or noise makes me tired after a few hours. I like playing rain sounds from the calm app during work sessions or some sort of instrumental music.

During breaks, I take my headphones off and I’m in a broader, more relaxed state of mind

Pomodoro is only suitable for work— not for things you enjoy or want to enjoy

Yeah, being productive is great and all but that’s not all there is to life. I only use Pomodoros to finish work faster.

I don’t use Pomodoro for relaxed, creative activities like reading, hanging out with loved ones, cooking, or thinking

Benefits of Pomodoro-ing

Pomodoro gamifies my work and life

It’s fun to challenge myself to work at a dangerously fast speed to finish a certain task in 25 minutes. I try to have specific goals that are hard to get done in 25 minutes. This way, I'm always on edge.

With long work sessions, working can become a drudgery. With Pomodoro, it's crisp and fast.

It seems to be a great way to also motivate kids to focus too(I had an article about this but I can’t find it anymore 😢)

Pomodoro reminds me that my time and attention are finite

With all the distractions of meetings, family, and honestly, my mind wandering, I'm lucky if I can get one intense Pomodoro session done in a day. Also after around 3 hours of Pomodoro-ing, my brain starts working slower.

There are a million different things I want to do. Pomodoro reminds me that my time is finite, fixed, and unpausable. The only thing I can do is pick the most worthwhile thing I can feasibly finish in a couple of 25-minute chunks.

Pomodoro reminds me that every large project can be broken down into 25-minute work sessions

Want to solve global poverty? Want to conquer the world? Want to write a blog post? You better put a 25-minute timer on and get started.

The problem with starting any project is that it seems humungous and unsurmountable in my head. Without restricting myself to 25-minute work sessions, I procrastinate because I feel like I'm not worthy of actually finishing something great.

Pomodoro reminds me that if anything can fit in 25-minute chunks, then any gargantuan project is actually quite mediocre.

And here ends yet another article about pomodoro. We often ignore mainstream advice because well, it’s basic. However, pomodoro is one of those things that’s popular because it’s so effective. It was hard to convince myself to get started but once I tried, it seems to be the best working method I’ve discovered.