My Own Pomodoro Technique that Works [Pomodoro Series: Part Two]

Last time I talked about the Pomodoro technique and why it utterly failed for me.

If you missed the post, go check it out. No seriously. Go.

In the briefest recap ever, I loved the idea of Pomodoro and kept attempting it over and over without success, then I assessed why I kept failing so hard at this and a new idea was born.

Here is what I now do on the weekdays when I work at my full-time job.

When I get to work, I open up shop, because customers come first. There are a number of small items I have to complete first thing in the day, including grabbing yesterday’s sales numbers, counting the money drawer, and turning on the open sign. When all that is done, I sit down for breakfast and to double check for emails and other assigned tasks that have come up.

With this in mind, I also check my calendar and brain dump a to-do list, then categorize it using the Rocks-Pebbles-Sand approach that I talked about in an earlier blog post. I also brain dump onto a separate list anything that needs to get done when I get off work and keep adding to both lists at any time during the day.

I have to put any distracting thoughts onto a sticky note or into my phone to not forget them (for the hundredth time) and to deal with on a break or at some other time. Yeah, I know I should call my aunt back, but does it have to be done right now–today–or can I do it this weekend?

I work 40 minutes on and then take 5 minutes off until noon (or until lunch), then I take a one hour lunch. Strictly speaking, this isn’t a traditional Pomodoro method. Depending on how early I got to work that day and how long my opening procedures take me, I could potentially get in 4 to 6 sets in before lunch.

During these 40 minute sets, I concentrate on work-related tasks, because I’m at work after all. It’s what they pay me to do. At lunch, I sit, eat, and do something writing-related for about 40 minutes while I take the other 15-20 minutes to use the bathroom and scarf down food.

It makes me feel good because I’m fueling my body and my passion at the same time. I feel super accomplished and it boosts my mood for after lunch. An hour is plenty of time to get a scene written, a chapter outlined, or edit a manuscript without dying. Bonus:

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After lunch, I continue the 40 minutes on, 5 minutes off even after I’m off work, usually doing housework after I get home while making dinner. Then I take one hour off for dinner and a shower. If I’m super motivated, I can continue this cycle until about 9:00 PM, and I usually get in a bit of gaming or reading books until it’s time for bed around 11:00 PM.

My days off look much the same.

I start out by having a bit of breakfast and brain dumping out a to-do list, then categorizing it. Again, keep adding and categorizing the brain dump list as new items come to your attention throughout the day, and put any distracting thoughts onto a notepad to not forget and to deal with on a break or at some other time.

I work 40 minutes on and take 5 minutes off until noon, then take a one hour lunch. Because I wake up at 7:00 AM on weekdays, I try to stick to the same sleep/wake schedule on weekends. The most I usually sleep in is until 9:00 AM, and I still try to go to bed around 11:00 PM. Again, I can get in a good 4-6 sets before lunch.

Typically, lunch is a relaxing time, and I often spend lunch on weekends with friends and my significant other. After lunch though, I dig right back in, and keep my 40 minutes on,  5 minutes off thing going until dinner.

If I’ve kept motivated all day on my day off, then I give myself permission to just go straight into free time after dinner and my shower, before heading to bed around 11:00 PM.

This is working so much better for me than a typical Pomodoro, keeping the spirit of the Pomodoro in mind while it is also tailored specifically to my situation.

I have some really bad energy blips sometimes, where I just fall into this black hole of not wanting to do anything. I want to mention that I am usually against self-diagnosing your health issues, but I’ve often noticed when I’ve hit these productive lows in my life, you’ll hear me say,

“Well I want to edit today, I just can’t even tho. It kills my soul.”

Putting potential mental health issues aside, when I’m using this modified Pomodoro, intention without motivation is no longer a thing, because I can kind of trick myself into just doing one small portion at a time. 

As I mentioned in the previous blog, the Pomodoro is so easy to combine with other tried and true methods I’m already using. I can integrate it into getting my quarterly goals accomplished, I can use it on a daily basis at work or at home to keep my to-do list under control, and most importantly, it keeps me productive without feeling burned out.

For me, it’s super motivational to cross work off the list. When work starts piling up, I feel more and more stressed about the situation, so completing Pomodoro sets and actively working to get on top of the issue is a huge factor in my life in order to ease anxiety and stress.

I have moments of super intent focus, with little to no wishy-washy distracting things (Simon’s Cat videos, I’m looking at you). Instead, I feel like every aspect of my life comes into balance, because I can rest at work without feeling super bad for sitting for a minute, I can accomplish housework without feeling like I’m missing out on something fun, and I can also still just do something fun, without feeling bad that I’m not doing housework or some other work. 

No, the Pomodoro Technique didn’t work for me.

Not even a little bit, and no matter how much I wanted it to. But I was able to figure out what was holding me back and then adapt it so that I have become much more efficient all around.

I’m not saying this the absolute answer to life, the universe, and everything. It’s not. That answer is 42. As always, find what you like and what works for you. Modify it if necessary, but don’t try to over-hack your productivity, or make it super complicated. The simpler you can make your tasks, the easier it will always be for you.

If you want to try the Pomodoro Technique out for yourself, go for it. Be serious, not vague, about your intentions to try it out, then hustle for it and good things will flow.

What kinds of things do you do to motivate yourself to get things done?

What does your to-do list look like?

Let me know in the comments below!

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