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Why does the Pomodoro Technique work so well

andrewlucker profile image Andrew Lucker Originally published at Medium on ・2 min read

It trains your brain to “flow” and focus

During high school I liked to try different brain hacks. My favorite was what I called triggers. A brain trigger is simply a deferred memory: “when I get to homeroom, take out my physics book and open it to page 146”. Phrasing an action as the posterior of a condition is one of the most basic building blocks in the human brain. In computers this would be the if statement. However the brain version is more powerful because this structure is time sensitive. It is due to this time sensitivity that the Pomodoro Technique works so well. Pomodoro takes one of our most primitive control structures and aligns it with a higher state of mind: task focus.

In a previous post I talked about how scheduled events can cloud your working memory and make you lose focus. The Pomodoro Technique is interesting because it uses the exact same phenomena to create the exact reverse effect: by deliberately scheduling a focus event, you push out other concerns from your working memory, effectively clearing space for the future use.

The brain is really interesting in its ability to switch between very low level semantics, like a logical if statement, to higher level thoughts such as scheduling time to read and reflect on the philosophical works of Kant. Reading text is one of the highest faculties and something that completely separates humans from other living things with regards to intellectual capacity. Pomodoro Technique is just one example of simple techniques used for high level effect.

This post was originally published on medium.com

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damcosset profile image
Damien Cosset

I am curious about the length people choose. 25 minutes feels short for me, so I tried between 45 minutes and 1 hour of work time. I just can't seem to find the period that works just fine for me.

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fenbf profile image
Bartlomiej Filipek

I think you can be flexible. If you feel you can work 45min and you have a good task for it... then why not.
But then you can switch to 25 min and do some other type of tasks.

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Patrick God

I know what you mean. 25 minutes were quite short for me too, but I got used to it over time. A good opportunity to practice this technique for me was kanbanflow.com. Works well if you want to get a better overview of your tasks.

The only problem I have with the Pomodoro technique is interruptions in the office.. Sometimes you just can't prevent them and you're focus is gone.

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Aizaz Khaja

This is how I feel about this technique when it comes to development work. With anything else, I can block things in chunks, but with coding, once I'm in flow I want to keep going. So the real question is, figuring out how to maximize this flow state while still having consistent breaks in between 🤔

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Damien Cosset

Update: for a few days, I have been doing 45 minutes work/15 minutes break. I like it better than the 25/5. I'll see how long it lasts

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Lasse Schultebraucks

themuse.com/advice/the-rule-of-52-...
This is maybe the reason, I tried this too and it worked for me better than the Pomodoro technique.

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Damien Cosset

Interesting. I have to figure this stuff out. I know I can be way more productive than I am right now.

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Tracy P Holmes

25 minutes does not work for me! I'm usually only just getting my teeth deep into the issue, so the 25 minute checkpoint makes me feel like I'm breaking a groove. Once I switched to 50 & 10, things evened out a bit better.

I'll also do 45 minutes at times so I can get a bit of play in with my office mates (my dogs).

Does anyone try longer than 45 - 50 minutes? If so, do you feel like the point of the exercise is lost?

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Jon Bristow

Does anyone else feel that ADHD symptoms don't play nicely with Pomodoro? Dropping out of flow state (hyperfocus, in my case) is extremely difficult once I'm there (so I "miss" the bell) or difficult to kick on (so I feel down on myself about not being able to sit there for 10-25 minutes and focus on what I'm doing).

Engaging in hyperfocus on something I'm not 100% interested in takes quite a bit of effort, and has some nasty side-effects like time-loss and ignoring my cues for discomfort and hunger.

Not engaging the hyperfocus means that if my surroundings are too distracting, I may wander off task and never return to what I started (or failed to start).

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Lena Runner

I love the pomodoro technique! For me it perfectly combines with WIPs on my kanban (kanbantool.com/kanban-library/kanb... ) as it helps you to choose the focus events, prioritize them, choose This One You Focus On ;) and give more space in your working memory, as you don't have to remember other tasks - you have them on the board.

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Baris Can Ceylan

I have used pomodoro 25/5 back when I was doing transcribing work and it was super effective. It increased my productivity and I didn't suffered from fuzzyness like I had after long periods of work.
Ive been thinking to implement it into my development workflow for a while now but I was unsure if this breaking pattern would be good or bad on focus. Different tasks and problems require different periods of time. This post and comments provided some insight, thanks for writing.

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leojpod

I tend to miss the pomodoro "deadline" even though when I manage to stay on track it's great and I love it.
Any tips?
Also what do people do during the 5 min break?
I like to play a bit of codewar, to stretch and to read emails and/or dev.to

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Tracy P Holmes

I think I mentioned it above, but I use my break to stretch or play with my dogs (when possible). The little one is going to guarantee I get some exercise with throwing his ball! Otherwise, I try to jot down notes on what I was doing or how I feel about the direction I'm going - especially if it's the first one of the day.

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aar

Pomodoro technique really helps to focus on solving the problems, reading books, coding etc. I use 30/10 min loop.