The Flowtime Technique
If you’re looking for a quick explanation check out The Flowtime Technique Cheatsheet.
I have all kinds of problems with the Pomodoro Technique, so I started brainstorming an alternative that eliminates the PomoStress I’ve been experiencing while still 1.Tracking my time 2. Encouraging unitasking, and 3. Enabling breaks.
The Flowtime Technique does all these things, while also encouraging Flow. Flow is when you are completely focused and immersed in a task. It feels great, it’s very productive, and it’s the kind of productive feeling that we all strive for. It’s hard to achieve flow when you’re worried about being interrupted.
This is what it looks like:
Or you could do it by (Very Messy) hand
First, pick a specific task. Make sure it has an end in sight. If you have something in mind that doesn’t have an end in sight, set your sights a little shorter. This goes under tasks.
Next, start your work. Don’t set any kind of timer but record the time under Start. Now, when you are working, you can only work on the thing that you have written down. And unless you’ve written a stop time you cant switch it up. This is the ONE Hard Fast Rule of the Flowtime Technique: Unitasking
The next step is the hardest step. When you feel like you need to take a break, take a break. If you want to stop the task, stop and take a break. If you’re having difficulty focusing or you notice your attention slipping, stop and take a break. If you’re getting mentally fatigued, take a break. If you’re frustrated, take a break. It’s better, at first, to start breaks more frequently than you think you might need to. It takes time to learn what “I need a break” feels like.
When you decide to take a break, write down the time you stop under Stop. Then decide how long your break will be and set a timer for that length of time. Right now I’m going with 5 minutes for around less than 25 minutes of work time, 8 for around 25–50, 10 for around 50–90 and 15 for more than that. The break times I suggest aren’t rules. If you need 10 minutes of break time after 40 minutes of work that’s fine, refreshed work is orders of magnitude better work than fatigued work. Less time is fine too, as long as you are letting yourself get enough of a break in. It’s better to break longer than wear yourself out with tiny breaks.
Sometimes you get interrupted or distracted, either internally or by someone else. When this happens, thats fine. Just record the time you get interrupted, deal with whatever has come up, check the — | part of the table and then continue as normal.
Repeat until you’re done with what you have to do!
You can record your Work Time (in minutes) as you go, or when you finish a task, or even at the end of the day. This is important data you can use to plan your day, notice your most productive times, and notice any correlation between lengths of breaks and sustained work time.
How the Flowtime Technique fulfills the 3 characteristics that make Pomodoro effective
1. Tracking time
- With the Flowtime Technique you input your start time, end time, break time, work time, and whether or not you were interrupted.
- With the raw data you can see when and how long you worked, and thats enough for most people
- With a bit of data mining and maybe plugging stuff into exel, you can graph your productive times of day, how long you can work after an x minute long break, what your average work length is what times of day you are most productive, etc.
- With the data you gather with FlowTime you don’t only see how many big chunks it takes to complete a certain type of task, you see the exact time the task took, you will see your patterns of fatigue and recovery, and you will learn to schedule your most difficult and fatiguing tasks in your most energized part of your day.
- By picking one task and writing it down you commit to only doing that one task between the time you start and the time you choose to stop.
- A timer might not be watching you work but you are still putting yourself on the hook by writing down your one task.
- The flexible breaking makes necessary switching between tasks easy, so you never have to “just take this one call” while you’re trying to finish a Pomodoro.
3. Taking Breaks
- With Flowtime you never interrupt flow with a mandatory break.
- You always get a break when you need one
- Because you’re paying attention to the state of your mind and body, your skill in self awareness gets a +1
- A timer will never interrupt your train of thought or your time in flow.
- Flowtime Technique Troubleshooting: If you find yourself not taking breaks