Staying productive can be challenging at times. You start out motivated and ready to hit the ground running! But maintaining that high level of motivation and energy becomes harder as you get deeper into your work. One hour, two hours, and three hours in, your productivity starts slowing down, drastically.
This is perfectly normal. Us humans aren’t really designed to work straight for a very long period of time. We’re able to hyper-focus, but only for short periods of time, especially when our work involves staring at a computer screen. You need to get up, and stretch, and eat and drink water, all the natural things that are built-in to our evolution.
This means that working hard for more than a few hours straight is an ineffective strategy. It’s unnatural. It doesn’t take into account that you’ll get fatigued halfway through, making the second half of your work session much less productive.
But there is a better way, one that I personally use quite often: timeboxing. Timeboxing involves doing work in short, fixed intervals.
One of the most famous timeboxing techniques out there is called the Pomodoro Technique.
How the Pomodoro Technique works
The Pomodoro Technique is one of the simplest productivity hacks to implement. All you’ll need is a timer. There are no other fancy apps, calendars, or tools.
There is a book written by the founder of the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a helpful read if you’re interested, but not 100% necessary because the method is so simple. All you’ll need are these 5 steps:
- Choose a task to be accomplished
- Set your timer to 25 minutes (standard length of time for this technique)
- Work on the task until the timer rings. You’ve now completed your first time box
- Take a short break, 3 to 5 minutes
- Every 4 boxes of time you take a longer break, between 15 to 30 minutes
This process can be repeated a few times throughout the workday.
One of the most important components of this is that each timebox must be a hyper-focused unit of work. That means that if you’re writing a blog post, you’re only typing or perhaps brainstorming about what to write, nothing else. If you’re a coder, you’re only designing and writing code during that time, and so on.
That’s one of the main advantages that you get from this technique. You develop an understanding and a habit that this timebox is for super productive work. You’re a productivity machine during that timebox where nothing can distract or deter you from moving forward.
Then, you take a break. To recharge, and once again turn into a productivity machine. The combination of hyper-focused work and recharging breaks provides the perfect balance for productive work.
The Pomodoro Technique can be used for any kind of work, but it is especially valuable for creatives. Creative energy is valuable and not something you can expend for 3 or 4 hours straight. Pomodoro takes this into account, giving you bursts of time for your creative work, and then separate time to refuel your creative energy.
Although the Pomodoro Technique has worked for many people, from coders to writers, to designers, it’s not without its complaints.
Some people find the technique to be too rigid with the fixed time blocks. 25 minutes might be too short if you’re trying to get into Deep Work. You also might find that at times, you’d prefer a longer break.
Personally, I like to modify the productivity methods I come across to be more practical.
Flexible time boxing
First-off, your timeboxes do not have to be 25-minutes. Perhaps the original inventor of this technique, Francesco Cirillo, found that 25-minutes was right for him. Or maybe he took an average after doing some studies.
Frankly, I don’t really care.
What I do know for sure is that anyone or anything that says “it has to be this number” is usually just too rigid.
You can make your timeboxes however long you want. Personally, I like to set my time boxes between 15 minutes and 90 minutes. The amount of time depends on the task I’m doing. If I’m writing an article, I’ll pick a time between 60 and 90 minutes depending on the length. If I’m getting ready for work, I’ll timebox to 30 minutes.
Adapting your timebox time in the way is a lot more practical. You’re adjusting the method to be optimized for your specific situation. That’s a lot better than hard and rigid rules.
The same can be done with taking breaks. Take as long of a break as you need to regain your energy. If you need extra time for a bite to eat or a glass of what, take it. Do what you feel is best for you, not what the rules say.
I also find that it’s helpful for the break to be in a different environment than where I usually work. If you’re writing at your computer, don’t take a YouTube break. Get up and go for a walk.
The change in environment will help get those creative juices flowing again. Plus, taking your mind off the work for a bit might be just the thing you need to regain your focus.
Productivity methods should be made adaptable to the many different situations you’ll face throughout the workday. These two tips will make the Pomodoro Technique a lot more practical. If you find other things that help with your productivity, go ahead and them in!