Common misconceptions of the pomodoro technique

The pomodoro technique has its critics.

Do you always agree with the critics, though? I know I don't.

Some misconceptions are that the technique isn't for everyone, that it is too rigid and has to be used all the time to be successful.

But they are just that, misconceptions. Don't let them stop you from discovering what it is like to be truly productive.

The pomodoro technique, in its most basic form, is a methodology to transform how you think about time, how you approach work or study. It is adaptable and with the right application, it will make a positive difference in your life.

Here is why you should challenge the critics...

Misconception #1: The pomodoro technique isn't for everyone

Managers, anyone who thinks they are good at focusing, and creatives; listen up!

Everyone can benefit from the pomodoro technique.

Let's break it down.

If you manage people...

You might feel you have to be available to answer questions and help people, but this is the perfect reason to use the pomodoro technique.

Are you ever astonished that you can be at work and scarcely have a minute to yourself, but when you are away for a week, everything still works?

Empowering people to make decisions and challenge themselves to find a solution independently is an excellent way to help your team progress.

You might just limit the times when you use the pomodoro technique (and let your team know when they are), to ensure you are fulfilling your responsibility to manage and be available.

So schedule out the morning or even just a two-hour block (once your team is working away) to do your pomodoro sessions for the day. You will be amazed how much you can achieve in just four pomodoro sessions without interruptions!

If you can focus...

So, you work hard but do you work smart?

You think you are seriously focused, but you happily stop mid-task to answer an email. It is proven that it can take more than 20 minutes to get back to the same point of focus after a distraction, even something as simple as answering an email.

Multitasking, no matter how focused you think you are, is a huge drain on productivity. Time reported it to cause as much as a 40% decrease in productivity, not to mention lowering IQ and causing brain shrinkage (WTF!).

Multitasking is bad. It is worth avoiding.

The pomodoro technique will keep you on task for 25 minutes at a time, and the benefits from that streamlined focus are evident in an increased output and quality of work.

If you are creative...

Creative people often like to get into the groove but just because your work consumes you doesn't mean you are productive.

The pomodoro technique allows the mind time to rest. A reprieve from the challenges of creativity, the chance to step away from what you have created thus far.

A fresh mind and clear perspective, allows you look at your work with fresh eyes, to keep reimagining and improving upon your ideas. Often this step is left until the end of the creative process at which point it takes a lot longer to re-work and improve upon a complete work.

Misconception #2: By meaning, interruptions are uncontrollable

Sometimes as humans, we manage to make life a lot harder for ourselves than it needs to be. Interruptions are uncontrollable by interpretation, but we can take control and deal with them in ways that best encourage us to remain productive.

In the case of managing distractions, of the non-urgent variety, the worst that will happen is something or someone will wait 25 minutes.

Day to day emails, questions and phone calls can almost certainly be postponed until a break or a session that can deal specifically with them.

The pomodoro technique gives people an excuse to manage distractions in a way that positively affects productivity and enables them to take control of their time.

Misconception #3: Rigid rules around productivity

There are three pomodoro technique rules that cause concern when people evaluate whether the methodology will work for them.

  1. An abandoned pomodoro won't be included in the days total count.
  2. Each session should focus on one task only.
  3. Sessions must be 25 minutes long.

Abandoned pomodoro sessions

When using the pomodoro technique, there is no credit for partial pomodoros.

If you let a distraction take your focus away from your current pomodoro, it is void. It is considered to be an unproductive session.

Seems harsh doesn't it? But it is to keep you motivated, the same reason you cannot pause a pomodoro session.

People find it difficult to accept this because if you spend 20 minutes of a 25-minute session, you should be able to claim that time, especially if you are charging for it.

At focus booster we agree with this. So, if you have a non-negotiable interruption you can save the time you have spent in that pomodoro to your reports. You can however never pause a session. If you are disrupted, you need to start a new session once you return to work. So, stay motivated!

Accounting for short tasks

Sometimes there are occasions when we need to do more than one thing in a session.

For example, it would be silly to have one 25 minute session dedicated to making a phone call we know will only take 5 minutes.

The pomodoro technique is adaptable to the way you work, suggesting that when this is the case you can group similar types of activities into a single dedicated session. For example, I group support emails and social media into one session.

You might save up all your phone calls for one pomodoro session, encouraging you to keep them short and to the point, so you finish your session on time.

Sessions must be 25 minutes

Pomodoro sessions are known for being 25-minutes long, but the technique is flexible when it comes to setting a session length.

The average and suggested pomodoro session length is 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break but some people prefer 15-minute sessions, especially if they have learning difficulties or concentration issues. Alternatively, some people prefer 50-minute sessions with a 10-minute break. Experiment with session length to determine what best suits you.

You might like to use different length sessions for various activities. Replying to emails is less intensive than studying physics, so session length can be altered accordingly.

You can also change the duration of a session to fit into the time you have available. In some cases, people will assess that they only have 20 minutes before they need to leave so they won't start a session, ineffectively using the last part of their day. Just do a 20-minute session!

Consider the period you feel productive for when you work and use that to help determine a session length that will suit you. Don't forget that can change for different tasks or because of other factors.

Misconception #4: The pomodoro technique will be used at all times

The pomodoro technique won't need to be universally integrated to be successful.

The more habitually you use it, the better it is for your productivity but it by no means needs to be used at all times to be effective.

If you can't apply the technique all day, that is no reason to miss out on the tremendous productivity boost it could bring you. Just determine the times you can use the pomodoro technique efficiently and start there.

So, with the myths of the pomodoro technique debunked, it is time for you to experience just how effective the technique could be for you. Sign up for a free focus booster account today.

Written in 6 pomodoro sessions, this is our take on the common misconceptions around the pomodoro technique.