Career / Work Week Challenge

I Tried This “Genius” Productivity Method, & It Totally Backfired

By Tuesday, October 05, 2021

As someone who prides themselves on being relatively productive, I was curious to see if the Pomodoro Technique would improve my workflow—or hinder it. For those unfamiliar, the Pomodoro Technique is a time-focused, productivity “hack” to help people get more work done and procrastinate less. With just a few steps, it’s simple to implement and can be adopted by just about everyone. First, set your timer for 25 minutes and work. Next, at the end of your 25-minute work session, take a five-minute break. Last, repeat the process four times (completing two hours of work), followed take a longer break that’s fifteen to thirty minutes. 

In theory, the Pomodoro Technique is helpful for people whose minds wander frequently and they can’t seem to sit down and focus for too long. A 25-minute work session, however, with a quick break afterward is an ideal amount of time to really crank it out. Then, after two hours are done, take a walk or eat lunch before beginning another 25-minute session. The Pomodoro Technique is easily adaptable too, however, so if you’re struggling to start with 25 minutes, you can always reduce it down to 10- or 15-minute work sessions. 

I implemented the Pomodoro Technique this past week and…well…it didn’t quite work for me. In full transparency, I work best by getting into a long workflow. I tend to work for 45-50 minutes at a stretch and then need a substantial break before launching back into a long work session. I was curious to see if breaking this up into 25-minute sessions, instead, would mean that I could be more productive and need fewer breaks, however. TLDR: nope. 

For me, the first two work sessions under the Pomodoro Technique were a resounding success. I would work for 25 minutes, take a quick five-minute break, and get right back into my work. After that, though, I craved a longer break than just five minutes after feeling like I was sitting down for a full hour, already. My third Pomodoro work session, then, was just me fidgeting constantly. By the fourth session I was back into a flow but taking a longer break, then, interrupted my train of thought completely. So, returning to a 25-minute work session felt frustrating since I wasn’t quite able to get back into a complete flow until my third session under this second round of the Pomodoro Technique. 

Moreover, I found the Pomodoro Technique difficult to implement when I had a meeting-heavy day. I just didn’t have 25-minute chunks in-between my calls and when I had a longer chunk of time, I found that the Pomodoro Technique would interrupt me, more often than not. My 25-minute alarm made me groan in frustration and I found myself craving my typical routine. 

Now, don’t let my experience dissuade you! The Pomodoro Technique has plenty of positives and for those who genuinely struggle with procrastination, this is absolutely worth giving a try. If you already have an established workflow, however, the Pomodoro Technique may be more disruptive than you like to your daily schedule. It made me realize that I work efficiently, already, and changing that structure is more difficult than I imagined. 

If anything, I’m set in my ways when it comes to my work habits! And while it gets the job done, certainly, it also involves more breaks than this method recommends. I’ll get a solid chunk of work done, and then work out. Then I’ll work some more before showering and making breakfast. Another chunk of work before a quick break to watch YouTube videos. More work, then lunch. And so on. In some ways, my typical workflow is a form of the Pomodoro Technique except my “alarm” rings every 45-50 minutes and my breaks are significantly longer each time with no “even longer” break ever given until the workday ends. While this isn’t possible during meeting-heavy days, it’s the routine that I naturally gravitate towards. 

Now, I’m not sure if that means my brain is “lazier” or “less focused” since I really do need a good thirty minutes to recharge for every almost-hour of work, but it did teach me that changing those habits are going to take a lot longer than a week. And, that perhaps the Pomodoro Technique can help you to find the workflow that you “naturally” gravitate towards, as well, even if it isn’t precisely 25-5-25-5-25-5-25-30 repeat.

Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.

Image via Unsplash

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