Abandoning Pomodoros, Part One: The Pros and Cons of Pomos

I am abandoning the Pomodoro Technique. This might just be temporary insanity, but I have encountered several problems with the way P and I get along. This post will come to you in three parts.

First, in this post, I’m going to explain the Very Important Ideas of the Pomodoro System and the things I like and don’t like about it,

Next, I will explain the system I have designed.

Then, In a week or so after using my new system, if I am still alive, I’ll post an update on how it went.

People everywhere credit the Pomodoro Technique for revolutionizing their productivity. If the Pomodoro Technique is the first time management system someone uses there are three characteristics the Pomodoros that will undoubtedly improve their productivity. These three characteristics are vital for any effective time management system, and these three characteristics will guide me in creating a new system.

The three Important Characteristics are:
1. Recording how you spend your time
2. Sustained focus on one thing (no multitasking)
3. Taking breaks

When an athlete is trying to run faster or get stronger, the first thing they have to do is measure how fast they run or how much they can lift. When we are trying to become more productive, we have to measure ourselves first and foremost. The Pomodoro technique gives you a strategy for measuring your productivity. When you use it you record how many Pomodoros a task takes, how many Pomodoros you do in a day, and how frequently you have internal or external interruptions. If you know exactly how much time a task took you, you’re better prepared to combat the planning fallacy and accurately predict how long a similar task will take and set aside that much time when it comes up.

When you’re focused on one thing for a long period of time, you are able to get deeper into it. Becoming engaged in your work takes time. When you approach your work you have to reorient yourself: What do I have to do? What have I already completed? Where were my trains of thought headed? The more often you disengage from your work the more time you spend re-engaging with what you actually want to be doing. You waste time and prevent sustained engaged work.

Using the Pomodoro technique to get from multitasking to unitasking (Not monotasking) saves time and gets you into a flow state.

Taking breaks refreshes your mind and prevents burn out. Just as walking around or stretching a little gives your body a break from sitting in one spot, letting your mind wander gives it a break too, and gives it a chance to solve problems without you getting in the way. This type of thinking is casually referred to as diffuse thinking.

Part of The Pomodoro technique is taking regular breaks, so it’s great for that

There are other things I like about the Pomodoro Technique. Their blocky nature makes it easy to build my day. A (kosher) Pomodoro is always 25 minutes plus 5 for a break. I can think about my time like “Oh I should do two Pomodoros before lunch and 4 afterwords”

I like being accountable to the timer. Starting it forces me to start my work. Knowing it’s running pressures me to keep working and avoid distraction. I like that the break timer keeps from getting lost in Reddit for eighteen hours.

Also, it’s such a universally awknoleged concept. It’s a fixture in productivity advice. There are apps everywhere, there are even online pomodoro co-working chatrooms. There is so much infrastructure for the Pomodoro-er.

There are a lot of good reasons to use the Pomodoro Technique, and it might work for a lot of people but it just isn’t working for me:

It stresses me out

The first sign of the PomoStress was that I normally can’t do more than four a day. That’s 2 hours. 100 minutes of actual work, not including breaks. In A day.

The first problem with the Pomodoro Technique is that the Timer is a tyrant. The indivisibility of a Pomodoro is supposed to prevent interruptions. But instead it often forces an exhausted me to work longer than I’m comfortable with, or it interrupts me when I’m engaged and working well. When the Pomodoro drags on, all I am thinking about is the five minute break. Towards the end of the Pomo I am fatigued and I get frustrated by my lack of progress. When it finally ends I’m grumpy, and frazzled The break is too short.

Sometimes I’m excited about my work. I’m figuring out the puzzles of the problems I’m facing, I’m piecing together concepts and I feel like I’m in a different world, at least I’m seeing this one better and then with a pleasant jingle I am WRENCHED out of my flow state. Again the frustration.

This TooLong TooShort duality leads to watching the timer. Checking the timer is a kind of disengagement. When I’m so conscious of time passing it’s impossible to let myself do my work with all my attention.

A Pomodoro is TooLong and TooShort and there is nothing you can do about it. Part of The Technique is that a Pomodoro is Indivisible (at least to a Pomodoro Zealot). So, when following The Technique you can’t avoid the TooLong and Tooshort . And, on top of that sometimes life happens. Having to break a Pomodoro makes me feel guilty. What If I’ve been doing good quality work for 18 minutes and my family invites me out to lunch? What if I suddenly ReALLY HAVE TO PEE?? There are lot’s of good reasons to break a Pomodoro, but the system tells you that doing so means that you fail.

Going into a Pomodoro, — putting myself under the Tyrannical Timer — knowing that it will take twenty five whole minutes of my life is daunting and stressful and often I just don’t want to do it. Twenty five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time. But, after a long day (or even a medium day), with all the Problems that come with Pomo-ing a Pomodoro seems like a big commitment.

So, I need something new. Something that eliminates the stress and guilt that come with the Pomodoro Technique but something that still still holds the 3 Important Characteristics that make it effective.

In Part 2 I introduce my method, The FlowTime Technique.

Studying cognitive science and education at UCSC, but I’m always thinking about how we can learn and teach Metacognitive Skills. I do lots of other things too.

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