The Flowtime Technique: An Alternative to Pomodoro

There are a plethora of productivity tactics available today that claim to help you work more efficiently. The Pomodoro Technique is one of the most well-known and commonly used among them.

It’s a time management technique that involves breaking down job assignments into 25-minute chunks and taking breaks in between.

The concept is based on the belief that after 25 minutes of continuous work, most people lose focus and want a reset to stay productive. But there’s a flaw in that approach: no two assignments are the same.

Neither are any two persons, for that matter! That means there’s no way a one-size-fits-all productivity system can be the optimum fit for everyone.

However, there is an alternative that gives you more versatility and allows you to tailor it to your exact needs. The Flowtime Technique is what it’s called, and here’s all you need to know about it so you can start getting more done with it.

What Is the Flowtime Technique?

While not as well-known as the Pomodoro Technique, the Flowtime Technique has been around for a while. It’s a direct descendant of Pomodoro in many aspects.

It’s the brainchild of Zoe Read-Bivens, who devised it as a way to address some of the flaws she encountered while utilizing the Pomodoro approach. [1]

She discovered that working in 25-minute chunks disrupted her flow—the sensation of being completely engrossed in a task—and actually harmed rather than helped her productivity.

To solve the problem, she set out to build a system that would keep the Pomodoro Technique’s benefits while also allowing her to enter into a pleasant flow and stay there.

The Basics of the Flowtime Technique

The first step in implementing the Flowtime Technique is to establish a timesheet to assist you to keep track of your daily activities. You can use a spreadsheet or do it by hand, whichever is more convenient for you. Include the following column titles at the top of your timesheet:

  • Interruptions by task name
  • start time
  • end time
  • Time to Work
  • Time to Relax

Your timesheet will be the primary tool you use to keep track of your daily tasks and create a system that works for you. Here’s how to utilize it once you’ve got it set up:

1. Choose a Task

To begin, pick a task that you want to complete. It should be particular and something you can finish in the time you have available. To put it another way, don’t pick a task like “paint my house.” Choose something like “paint my house’s front door.”

If you choose a task that is too broad, you will struggle to complete it. As a result, strive to break down what you’re doing into the smallest portions possible.

2. Begin Working on Your Task

The next step is to get started on your project. Begin by filling in the appropriate field on your timesheet with the task you’ll be working on. Then, write down the time you’ll begin working.

Once you’ve started working on your task, the one restriction you must follow is that no multitasking is permitted. This will allow you to concentrate on what needs to be done while minimizing self-inflicted distractions.

3. Work Until You Need a Break

After then, you are free to work on your listed assignment for as long as you choose. Take a break after 15 minutes if you’re starting to feel tired. It’s fine if you get into a productive rut, lose track of time, and wind up working for an hour straight.

The goal is to become familiar with your own habits and work in segments that are most comfortable for you. If you have trouble focusing on specific jobs, work on them for shorter periods of time.

If you become distracted by other duties, increase your production by working as long as you feel capable of staying concentrated.

The longest duration of time you’ll likely be able to maintain is roughly 90 minutes. This matches your Ultradian Rhythm, which is the day’s alternating intervals of alertness and slumber that our brains experience. [2]

There are numerous case studies demonstrating the benefits of taking regular breaks. It’s one of the reasons why the Pomodoro Technique includes required breaks. However, there is evidence that the Flowtime method to breaks, which is less regimented, works just as well.

With no compulsion, one technology firm that recently directed its staff to take breaks every hour as they saw fit noticed a 23 percent increase in productivity. [3]

4. Take an Appropriate-Length Break

Allow yourself to take a break whenever you feel the need. Just make sure to record your stop time in the appropriate spot on your timesheet.

You can take as long or as short a break as you want, but don’t take advantage of the opportunity. Otherwise, your breaks will quickly consume the majority of your time.

Take a five-minute break for every 25-minute work period as a general rule of thumb, and extend your break time accordingly for longer work periods.

To ensure that you return to your task in the appropriate length of time, set a timer. When your break is over, don’t forget to record the time you returned to work and the length of your break.

5. Record Distractions as They Happen

There will always be moments when you are sidetracked while working. It could be a phone call, an urgent email, or the need to go to the bathroom.

Keep track of these occurrences in your timesheet’s interruption column. Keep distractions to a minimum, but don’t strive to eliminate them completely.

The reason for this is because you’re unlikely to succeed, and your distractions may take precedence over your task. As a result, instead of merely working through distractions, it’s critical to deal with them as you see fit.

6. Repeat Until Your Work Is Complete

All you have to do now is repeat the steps above until you’ve completed all of the tasks you’re working on. Make a note of your final stop time as you complete each activity. You can either calculate (and fill in) your total work time when you finish a task, or you can do all of the arithmetic at the end of the day.

 It’s only important that you don’t leave any gaps in your timekeeping. Once completed, your timesheets will become an asset that will help you establish a work schedule that maximizes your daily productivity. 

What to Do With Your Timesheets

Although keeping track of your work hours and break times may help you stay on track throughout the day, there’s another reason you’re doing it. It’s the fact that your timesheets will progressively show you how to create an optimum daily routine for yourself.

Take some time at the end of each week to compare your timesheets. You could notice that certain patterns emerge. For example, you might discover that your longest work times are usually before lunch, or that certain parts of your day are particularly distracting. You can utilize this information to better organize your days ahead.

In general, you’ll want to schedule your most important chores during your busiest periods. So, if you’re going over extensive property data, you can schedule a time when you know you’ll be able to focus without distractions.

In contrast, you should schedule less important work during the periods when you’re most likely to be interrupted. So you’ll know exactly when to respond to emails or return phone calls if you need to.

This will not only increase your productivity but will also reduce the number of errors in your work.

Key Similarities Between Flowtime and Pomodoro

If you’re familiar with how the Pomodoro Technique works, you may have noticed some similarities with the Flowtime Technique. As we’ve discussed earlier, this is intentional.

The Flowtime Technique is specifically designed to retain three critical features of the Pomodoro Technique, which are:

1. Precise Time Tracking

One of the reasons the Pomodoro Technique works for so many individuals is that it establishes a strict structure for time tracking. You become intensely aware of the duties you have in front of you and how you’re using your time when you have to divide your work activities into 25-minute parts.

Because you must account for every minute, this alone helps you avoid wasting valuable work time. This is also a benefit of the Flowtime Technique.

2. Eliminating Multitasking

You must choose a job to work on and use a 25-minute timer to measure each work period when using the Pomodoro Technique.

He performs an amazing job of keeping you on target because you know what you’re aiming to accomplish from the minute you set the timer, and you’re less likely to stray onto another task as a result.

Even while the Flowtime Technique does not require the use of a timer, the act of writing down your assignment accomplishes the same goal.

You’ll be more likely to continue with a task until it’s finished or it’s time to take a break if you know you’ll be measuring your time spent working on it.

3. Facilitating Breaks

Exhaustion is one of the biggest productivity killers, and there’s lots of evidence that regular breaks are critical to maintaining optimal work performance. The Pomodoro Technique’s effectiveness is due to the fact that it makes breaks essential and inescapable. 
By contrast, the Flowtime Technique also requires you to take rests. It just doesn’t compel you to take one until you’re ready.

To succeed with the Flowtime Technique, some more self-discipline is required. However, if you can learn to obey a timer, there’s no reason you can’t learn to obey the signals your body sends you when it’s time to eat.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the Pomodoro Technique might work for you. After all, there’s a reason it’s so popular. However, if you’ve been using it for a while and are frustrated by its rigid structures, you’re not alone. So, for at least a week or two, give the Flowtime Technique a shot.

It’s possible that it’ll be a lot better fit for your work style, and you’ll get even more done than before.

Reference:

Urgent Pigeon: Asset-Based Thinking: What can I build upon?

Harvard Business Review: For Real Productivity, Less is Truly More

Solitaire: How we improved our remote work productivity by 23%

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