My beef with the Pomodoro Technique

Image of Pomodoro book
(Marco Verch, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.)/Creative Commons
(Marco Verch, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.)

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If you’re anything like me and are fascinated by the concepts of productivity, efficiency and concentration to the point at which you end up wasting your time researching implementations of these concepts, then you’ve definitely heard of the Pomodoro Technique.

If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro Technique, it’s a form of time management that requires you work for 25 minutes straight without any distractions, before taking a 5-minute break. You repeat this cycle four times and on your fourth break, you take a 20-minute break. Then, you return to the 25 to 5-minute ratio, and the cycle repeats. Many people swear by it and say that it changed the very rhythm of their daily lives. I wish I could say the same.

I’m someone who can either work for four hours straight or a mere 10 minutes before I get distracted. There is no in-between. So I tried out this technique, like many others, hoping that it would solve my relentless oscillation between working until I drop and literally being unable to sit down. I admit — for a while, the Pomodoro Technique was helpful. It made me sit down and say to myself, “Okay, all you need to do is work on this for 25 minutes.” But then, we went into quarantine, school was online and the studying and time management skills that I once possessed completely dissipated. Now, I’m left flailing in this whirlwind of assignment after assignment. 

My first issue with the Pomodoro Technique is the restrictiveness of it. I don’t like this cookie-cutter ratio of 25 to 5 minutes. I would just be getting into the flow of writing an essay, when suddenly, the notorious “Radar” Apple ringtone starts blaring, rocking me to my core as it leaves me both startled and out of my rhythm. If I wasn’t startled by the ringtone and simply ignored it, I would continue to write. And then suddenly, three hours have passed and my brain feels dead. Thus, I’ve once again pushed myself to the point of mental exhaustion leaving me unable to finish that assignment or the many others that were due. 

Then there are these 5-minute breaks. What’s up with that? What could I possibly do in 5 minutes that would leave me feeling satisfied? I found it weird to say to myself, “now relax for 5 minutes.” Either I would scroll through my phone (spending even more time on a screen) or I would completely lose track of time, only to realize an hour later, making me feel unproductive and unaccomplished.

Lastly, I don’t believe that every task is a 25-minute task. Working on a math problem set and writing an essay each requires different time limits that are individualized to our own needs. I became overwhelmed by this 25-minute interval. It made me either produce work as fast as I could just to get it done before the time limit (costing of the quality of the work) or lose concentration 15 minutes in and waste time until the alarm went off, fooling myself into believing that what I just accomplished was productive. 

This is not to say that the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t work. For some, it really does perform miracles. But if you’re anything like me, or if you’ve tried it yourself and it left you feeling more anxious, know that you aren’t alone. 

I’ve found that timing how long certain tasks will take me to complete allows me to determine how much time is realistic for me to work efficiently. Take breaks as needed, and it also might be helpful to plan things for each break.

It’s okay if you take a break for a little longer than you anticipated and it’s okay if you can’t work for 25 minutes. We all have our individualized limits, so find what’s best for you.

Contact Paloma Torres at [email protected].