Maintaining momentum between pomodoros

Any advice for maintaining momentum between pomodoros?

I have had really good success using 25/5 minute pomodoros to stay focused on a task, but I struggle with the breaks in between - it is easy to procrastinate sitting back down at my desk. Once I procrastinate 10 or 15 minutes I convince myself I don’t have time to finish my goal so I might as well do something else. Sometimes I just work through the break if I am in a focused mood but that kind of defeats the purpose.

My days are really varied so I can’t really commit to a certain number of pomodoros every day or week. But when I do start a pomodoro I need some way to commit to finishing my plan of 3 or 4 sessions instead of stopping after the first half hour.

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While I like the idea of Pomodoros, I’ve found the work sessions to be too short. Too frequently they end when I’ve really just gotten into a groove and it would ruin my concentration to take a break, so I don’t do it, which defeats the whole philosophy. The breaks are also too short. Five minutes is really just too short for anything but a quick drink of water and maybe a trip to the bathroom. I much prefer doing the 50-min sessions with ten-min break. Fifty minutes really lets me focus in and do a good amount of work before taking a break and 10 minutes feels like more of a real break that I can enjoy instead of feeling rushed - a rushed break is not a break if it just makes me feel stressed. You might try the longer sessions instead of the shorter official Pomodoro time.

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I will definitely try 50/10, if I only get one done then at least it’s 50 minutes of work.

After I wrote this question, I thought of something. I make a list at the start of my session but when I finish a work timer I should circle the task that I am going to work on after the break, or if I am in the middle of a task I should write down the next step. Because if I don’t have at the top of my mind what I will do next, I am more likely to procrastinate.

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Makes sense. Reminds me of interstitial journaling .

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Two things: I echo that 50/10s feel way better for involved work than 25/5s. You don’t feel like you’re just getting started when the timer goes off.

Second, I had never seen interstitial journaling but that seems like a really neat idea. I think it’d work great with an org-journal workflow or something else where new timestamped entries are trivial to make.

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I’ve come to the same rough timing as @lmb independently (currently using 45/15 – but because I’m doing “work cycles” the 15 includes deciding what to do the next cycle, which takes a few minutes, so really it’s identical to 50/10!).

I do let myself work through the 15m boundary sometimes, but it sounds like you need to take it to the opposite extreme of sticking to it rigidly.

This has a tiny bit more structure and may help: "Work cycles" - #4 by halfplane

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Ah that’s funny. I noticed for myself that 25/5 and 50/10 inhibit me from actually ever starting a Pomodoro. Then I saw a talk that suggested doing work-sessions with a 10/3/10 scheme.

  • 10 minutes work.
  • 3 minutes short break.
  • 10-minute break after 4 full cycles.

And I noticed that the 3-minute break is just enough to work through the little distractions that came up, or fill up the coffee, but not enough to actually fall out of the flow. Works for me, and I figured I’d give another option to the 50/10 consensus :slight_smile:

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I have that problem too. I get around it (most of the time) by telling myself that all I have to do is START a pom, and I am allowed to cancel it early if I want to. Almost always I don’t stop early.

10/3 is interesting! I think that would help me for when I have tasks to do that don’t require longer focus or for tasks that I’m procrastinating on savagely.

(10+3)*4+10 is 62 minutes. I may have to do (10+3)*4+8 or (10+2.5)*4+10 for neatness. :laughing:

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I find that using FocusMate helps since the start of the next 50-minute (or 25-minute) session is already booked and so the path of least resistance is to just start at that time. (You need to have either a decent computer or a second device, though. The site is very weighty, I’m afraid, and can really slow your work down if you’re not on a lightening fast device.)

Other than that, when I’m doing well at keeping my breaks short, it’s usually cause I’m also avoiding doing distracting things in between pomodoros. I avoid things that might suck me in (emails, messaging, audiobooks, podcasts, etc.) and stick to things that give my mind a break but don’t keep me stuck (hopping on the elliptical for a few minutes, dusting a corner of the room, putting something away, etc.).

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I use PomoDoneApp on my phone with auto breaks and auto timers, so the timer goes off at the end of the break audibly on my phone, even if I’ve gone for a walk or something. I also have the times set to 26 minutes and 4 minutes so that I have 1 minute to get back to my desk when the end-of-break timer goes off.

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What works for me is to schedule a focusmate session for the end of the break time. This is particularly good for longer breaks, like lunch, where I’m often tempted to delay getting back to work.

Focusmate sessions always start on the quarter hour, so sometimes I’ll deliberately leave an extra 15 minute gap with the idea of dealing with email or other small tasks.

Mark Forster says it’s important to stop working when the timer goes, especially when it’s going well and you want to continue. Partly because your subconscious will keep working on the task even during the break, and partly you’re training yourself to work intentionally.

Yeah, I know this works for a lot of people. For some reason my brain structure doesn’t do the “just start” trick. Because internally I will always know the goal is to do actual work. So I rather get stuck than start. It’s a struggle, but yeah, not really sure why it doesn’t work for me.

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What if you really, really gave yourself the permission to just do 5 minutes and then walk away if you wanted to?

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How strict are you about no distractions?

I wonder if us 50/10 people just have lower standards – a bit of window-staring doesn’t make us feel we’ve failed at the pomodoro maybe.

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Wouldn’t be the first time I interpreted “the rules” too literally.

But since the Pomodoro technique is a “25-minute work session focusing on a single task” and you “restart the session when you get distracted” that basically means bathroom breaks and “just quickly checking emails” would be off the table and break the pomodoro session.

Remember this: the pomodoro technique is just one guy’s productivity hack that fit how his brain worked. You’re not him, your brain may need different support.

Heck, he might only have been successful with it for a while and then it stopped working for his brain too. If I’ve learned one thing from a decade of beeminding it’s that my goals don’t always work with my brain the way I expect them to, and even the ones that work will need to be adjusted over time.

These days, focusmate sessions work for me, iff I can bring myself to schedule them. I’m going to see whether the five-to-ten minute hack that @alys pointed out also works for me, because that sounds like it might sneak under the resistance.

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Following up a few months later - 50 minute pomodoros have been working much better for me and I have also experimented pretty successfully with Focusmate (though I think I need to beemind myself to use it otherwise I find myself getting anxious and chickening out). For some tasks I have also tried much shorter timers - even a 5 or 10 minute timer for a task with a high mental barrier.

I totally forgot about keeping lists before the break though! I haven’t used this at all and I really should.

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Mark Forster has a technique where you list a few tasks and work on each of them for just five minutes, then for ten minutes, then 15, etc. Any tasks added to the list start with a five minute timer.

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Ooh, intriguing!

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Hi all,

I have a completely different approach I might have described elsewhere. I wrote myself a pretty simple app which tracks how much time I spend working and computes my “efficiency”, i.e., the ratio of the time spent working to the overall time passed. It does it in real time (well, almost – updates are every 30 seconds); also, it has a “target efficiency” setting (currently 85%). If I’m above 85%, it shows me how much time I can slack off without falling below 85%; if I’m under, it shows me how long I should work from now on to get to 85%.

A bit of gamification goes a long way. :wink:

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