I am confident that the best productivity technique is the one that fits your personality, style, and the type of work you’re doing. If you’re doing tedious, repetitive tasks that require concentration but no thought or creativity, Pomodoro’s 25-minute series is perfect. It keeps you focused on less pleasant work and promises a break soon.
On the other hand, work that requires creative thinking is constrained by the 25-minute cycles of Pomodoro. Precisely when you’re getting in a groove, the timer stops you. That’s why I looked into other ways to manage my focus to be most productive.
The Flowtime Technique Is a Variation on the Pomodoro Timer
Flowtime is a tweaked Pomodoro, so let’s review for a moment how and why the Pomodoro Concept came about.
While studying in college, Francesco Cirillo—the architect of the Pomodoro Technique—found that two simple things could help him stay focused better. He needed a time limit on how long he focused on a single task and a reward of frequent breaks for remaining focused.
From that finding, the Pomodoro Technique was born. Cirillo advises doing focused work in 25-minute periods as you work on your tasks. After each Pomodoro (25-minute focus session), take a five-minute pause from your work. And after concluding four successive segments, take a more extended break, between 15 and 30 minutes.
Cirillo used a cooking timer shaped like a tomato to time his sessions, which is how the Pomodoro Technique got its name—”pomodoro” means tomato in the Italian language.
Now, you can personalize your sessions with many available Pomodoro timer apps.
Related article about time management.
The Problem With Standard Pomodoro Timing
The issue with the Pomodoro Technique is that the timer can be a taskmaster. It forces you to break precisely when you’re immersed, and your creative thoughts reach a peak. Peak stretches of creative production are called a flow state. The Pomodoro interrupts that state and damages your creative flow.
For example, if you’re writing, coding, or creating art, you need to be creative and innovative. You have to be able to think and solve problems. When you limit your time to 25 minutes, the constant breaks interrupt a flow state, and you lose the benefits of innovative and creative genius.
The Flowtime Technique Solves Pomodoro’s Big Problems
You start by writing down what one task you plan to work on during a focus session. Picking one task and working only on that task is crucial for setting up the Flowtime Technique.
After selecting a task:
- Begin working and record your start time.
- Work until you feel like you need a break.
- Make a note if you’re interrupted.
- Stop, and record the time.
You’re not working for a set time, and no timer signals when to take a break. Instead, you monitor your concentration and production. When you become tired or distracted, stop working, record the end time, and take a rest.
How long of a break you take is up to you. Here are suggestedFlowtime Technique intervals you can experiment with:
- Work for 25 minutes or less and pause for five minutes.
- For 25-50 minutes of work, try resting for eight-minutes.
- For 50-90 minutes of work, take 10 minutes pause.
- For over 90 minutes of work, relax for 15 minutes.
These aren’t hard and fast rules. They’re guidelines you can follow to experiment to find your best pattern. So pause for however long you require to be refreshed.
If you’re struggling to find your ideal work and break time distribution, start with smaller tasks until you understand your perfect work and rest times.
Finally, use the information you collect about when you need breaks and personalize your timing for Pomodoros.
For example, if you see that you usually focus for about 50 minutes at a time in the morning and 20 minutes at a time in the afternoon, you might set your Pomodoro timers for those times to keep a Pomodoro style without affecting your flow state. You can also record the length of your breaks to find their ideal length and frequency.
Tools That Help with the Flowtime
You can use a simple timer and a spreadsheet, like Google Sheets, to track your time.
Or you can use a pen and paper.
There are also tools available that work on PC, Android, macOS, iOS, Chrome, Edge, and Firefox browsers. One example is Toggl. It’s free for up to 5 users and Starts at $10/month for bigger plans.
Toggl (Web, iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux, Chrome, Firefox)
You can start tracking time for tasks by typing in the name of your task and clicking Start. That starts the timer, which then runs until you press stop. You can type in “break” and click enter to record break periods also.
The advantage of this kind of tool is that it automatically records all of your task and break sessions, and you can produce a report to analyze.
The Toggl program saves all of your tasks, breaks, and session lengths, and you create reports to evaluate and discover your best timing for work and rest.
Here’s a short video about Toggl:
Another program you can use to save and organize your time in reports is TMetric (Web, iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Edge).
TMetric works well for tracking your Flowtime. TMetric presents a visual timeline of how you spent your day. Focus periods are dark gray, and breaks are light gray. Hover over an entry to reveal the exact time you spent on it. It also shows you a total of the time you spent working and taking breaks.
TMetric is free for up to five users. There is also a $5 and $7 a month plan with expanded features.
Here’s a short tutorial:
Choosing the Best Productivity Strategy for You
Ordinary people looking for better productivity and focus developed both the Pomodoro Flowtime Techniques. And Flowtime is an excellent example of taking a current technique and putting a different spin on it.
The purpose of using a productivity strategy isn’t to follow the rules to the letter. It’s to uncover new ways to stay focused, get things done even when they’re tedious, or find better ways to prioritize and work.
Maybe neither Pomodoro nor Flowtime is suited to you. Maybe your best solution for a blend—a Flowtimodoro where you use timers when working on monotonous tasks and don’t when working on things that motivate you. Whatever works best for you is fantastic.
Related Article: How to Stay Focused.
Final Word About Productivity Techniques
I have found by experimenting with the Flowtime Technique, that working without a timer and then using a timer for my breaks works best for me. I work sometimes for hours and take anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes break.
I only set a timer for tasks when I’m doing tedious work I find unpleasant like researching keywords. Then I set a short 25-minute timer and take 10-minute breaks.
Find what works best for you and the type work you do.
Best wishes for your success and happiness!