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The Pomodoro Technique for Productive Remote Work

1. Pomodoro Technique Overview

The Pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo as a way to remove distractions and complete tasks more efficiently. His method is designed to keep your mind free of interruptions and focused on accomplishing specific goals. It relies on small, incremental steps toward your goal instead of a marathon approach to it.

The term “Pomodoro” refers to the tomato-shaped timer Cirillo used while developing his productivity technique. Cirillo’s system has been used by millions of people around the world, including founders of high-tech companies like Skype and Evernote. A number of apps are available that allow you to track your pomodoros (25-minute time increments) and statistics, keeping an at-a-glance record of how much you’re working per day.

The Pomodoro Technique is a cyclic process that consists of three phases: planning, tracking, and results. During the planning phase, you determine which tasks you want to complete and how much time you will give to each task. The tracking phase is when you work on the tasks without interruption until the Pomodoro technique timer expires. 

You then take a short break and return to the final phase—the results—to evaluate how well you did with your goals. In the results phase, you can adjust your goals for the next cycle of the Pomodoro technique or celebrate your achievements from past cycles.

How it works:

  1. Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break.
  2. Repeat four times.
  3. Take a 15-minute break, then repeat.

Always stay focused on your task until the Pomodoro technique timer rings, and then take a short break before starting again. Put a check on your to-do list as a record of that work session.

If you finish early, do something productive or have fun. Don’t start any other tasks or projects during that time. When your break is over, start over at the first step.

What kinds of activities are suited to this technique?

Pomodoro is best suited for activities that require sustained concentration, such as writing a report, responding to emails, reading, and studying. Of course, you can also use it for more creative tasks like designing a website or writing a blog post. Basically, it can be used for anything that doesn’t involve too much mind mapping or brainstorming, which requires some time to incubate ideas.

You might find it helpful with repetitive tasks that don’t require much effort but still leave you feeling drained, like answering emails or preparing your taxes. With this technique, you’re only doing one thing at a time. You have time between each “snack” to rest your brain.

2. Flowtime Technique Overview

  1. The primary approach is to break down your task into smaller tasks.
  2. Pick a time for each task and write it on your calendar or calendar software.
  3. When that time comes, turn off all distractions (phone, email, etc.) and work on that task for a set amount of time.
  4. When the time is up, reward yourself.
  5. Rinse and repeat until all the tasks are complete.

Sounds pretty simple, right? So far, so good, but here’s where things get interesting, the tasks don’t necessarily have to be done in order — you can do them in any order you want! This gives you a lot of flexibility.

By changing the order of your tasks, you can jump between different pieces of work regardless of whether or not they’re dependent on each other. 

You can hop back and forth between projects or pieces of work without getting too distracted or losing track of things. It’s like having multiple tabs open in your browser without all the clutter or distraction! (Or like having several different workspaces open at once.)

Flowtime Technique Example: Getting Work Done Faster Through Multitasking

Suppose I want to get some writing done, including a big project I’ve been putting off for far too long, writing a review for my upcoming book launch. (Bear with me here!) 

Here’s what my schedule might look like:

I’ve got my times blocked out for doing the work in 20-minute increments. Although some of these are longer than 20 minutes (the business reading, for example), I’ll still try to keep them within that time limit — but if I finish early, then great! 

And if I finish later than planned, I’ll just move on to another task instead of sitting there working past the end time (this is key). 

To help me follow this schedule and keep track of my progress, I’ve set up a reminder using Google Calendar. 

Every hour (on the hour), I’ll get an alert reminding me to check in and move on to my next task when appropriate.

Flowtime Technique Vs. Pomodoro Technique

Every productivity method is different, so the Pomodoro approach doesn’t map exactly to Flowtime. The most significant difference between Pomodoro Technique and Flowtime Technique is the visual feedback giving you the ability to see progress towards your goals at the moment, not just at the end of your Pomodoro technique timer.

Flowtime Technique also provides more flexibility for when you take a break, as you can schedule breaks at any time that suits you. This might be as soon as you finish a work block or at a predefined interval.

Flowtime Technique is based on how much time you currently spend on activities. In contrast, the Pomodoro technique timer is more about dividing time into blocks. Instead of having fixed Pomodoro blocks, the Flowtime Technique gives you more control over how much time you want to spend on each activity.

How Do I know If Flowtime Technique Is Right For Me?

If you’ve read this far, and it sounds like the Flowtime Technique could be what you’re looking for, there are several ways to make that determination. 

Flowtime has a basic account that is free forever, which allows users to get started and experiment with the site to see if they like it. 

Choose to upgrade at any point (using Flowtime’s flexible, hassle-free subscription model). The site will keep all your tracking data so that if you decide to come back and try again, it will look very similar to where you left off.

3. Seinfeld Method (Don’t Break The Chain) Overview

Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret is a popular technique used by Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian. It’s based on using a chart where you put stickers (or check) every day you complete a task. If you don’t finish, there’s no need for a sticker.

Jerry Seinfeld introduced his idea in an interview with David Letterman on the Late Show in 2007. In the interview, he explains how he used this technique every day to write jokes every single day for years. Using this method, he built up a huge stockpile of jokes that propelled him to stand-up comedy stardom.

How does the Seinfeld method work?

The basic idea behind the Seinfeld method is simple. If you do something every day, it becomes routine and second nature, like brushing your teeth. It becomes so familiar that missing it would feel weird and awkward and cause you discomfort. With tooth brushing, missing a day here or there will not make much difference to your oral health, but with other things, like exercise or writing a book, it can be crucial for success. By not breaking the chain, you are strengthening your muscle habit again and again until it becomes so easy that you won’t have to think about doing it.

Does it work? Yes! Unarguably, Jerry Seinfeld has built his unique comedic style using the Seinfeld method — an incredible stockpile of jokes that has earned him millions of dollars over time and multiple Emmy awards as a writer and producer of a TV show as well as many others he has guest-starred on.

Don’t break the chain works because it simplifies your work by breaking it up into bite-sized tasks that are easy to accomplish and forget. At the same time, this method builds up positive habits bit by bit over time. When used properly, not breaking the chain will significantly increase your chances of accomplishing some important goal or project that may otherwise seem overwhelming because we are often too lazy and busy for something like this.

Don’t break the chain works partly because daily repetition makes actions automatic and habitual over time until it becomes achievable without conscious effort or thought — even if what you’re attempting to achieve is a major task.

Seinfeld Method (Don’t Break The Chain) Vs. Pomodoro Technique

I like both methods (Seinfeld, Pomodoro), but I don’t think you can call yourself a productivity geek if you don’t know about Pomodoro Technique.

The most significant difference between the Pomodoro technique and the Seinfeld method is the time focus. The Seinfeld method is about hours, which you can break up as you want, not just 30-minute blocks. Moreover, the Seinfeld method focuses on forming good habits, so many of your tasks become automatic.

4. Getting Things Done (GTD) Overview

Summary of Getting Things Done (GTD):

  1. Identify the things you have to do (GTD-in).
  2. Assign a context to each thing (GTD-on).
  3. Set aside a time and place to do each thing you have to do. Put those things at the top of your list (GTD-do).
  4. When you get to the top of your list, do the first thing there. When it’s done, remove it from your list and move on to the next thing (GTD-delegate).
  5. Repeat.

Getting Things Done (GTD) vs. Pomodoro Technique

The biggest difference between Pomodoro Technique and Getting Things Done (GTD) is how you should use your timer.

In the Pomodoro method, you set the Pomodoro technique timer for 25 minutes and work for those 25 minutes.

Some productivity experts tell you not to use timers. Instead, they recommend that you wait until an appropriate amount of time has passed before starting something new after finishing your last task or project.

GTD suggests that this is two hours per day if you’re working with smaller tasks or 30 minutes per day if you’re working with large chunks or projects.

If your projects are consistent enough in length (and complexity), I would recommend using timers overestimating how long your projects will take. You might consider leaving some work unfinished after two hours or if your final task is still incomplete or not fully completed (because you underestimated how long it would take).

5. Eisenhower Matrix

Summary of Eisenhower Matrix

What to do: Focus on essential tasks first and then the urgent ones.

What not to do: Don’t work on unimportant tasks that steal your time.

The goal of the Eisenhower Matrix is to focus on important and urgent tasks and ignore unimportant and non-urgent ones.

Eisenhower Matrix Categories and Definitions

a) Important:

Important activities are those that contribute to your long-term goals. They make a significant impact on your life, for example, reading, writing, building skills, making new friends, meditating, and exercising.

b) Urgent:

Urgent activities need immediate attention because they could have a negative impact on your life, such as having a deadline or a problem/crisis. Examples of urgent activities are answering emails, paying bills, doing chores, and meeting up with friends.

c) Non-urgent:

Non-urgent activities are things you’ve been procrastinating about because they don’t contribute much to your life, or you enjoy doing them, for example, watching TV, surfing the Internet (Facebook), and shopping online (Amazon).

Here’s How To Use Eisenhower Matrix In Your Daily Life:

Set priorities for the day, based on your current situation/context (e.g., time of the day), by category:

  1. Important = Priority 1
  2. Urgent = Priority 2
  3. Non-urgent = Priority 3

For example: If you’re 18 years old and this is your first time using Eisenhower Matrix, I recommend setting “Read books” as priority #1.

Make it a priority because it’s important. It doesn’t require immediate action/attention from you but needs your consistent efforts over time.

It’s urgent but not so critical that you’ll waste energy worrying about it if it’s not accomplished today, tomorrow, or next week — not urgent enough to make it a priority for today or tomorrow (which is very important).

If you’re 35 years old, I recommend setting “Save money for retirement” as priority #1.

Again, make it a priority because it’s important, and it doesn’t require immediate action but needs your consistent efforts over time.

Proceed by identifying your urgent (Priority #2) tasks for the day. Then, set aside blocks of time to achieve your important and urgent tasks.

Eisenhower Matrix Vs. Pomodoro Technique

The biggest difference between the Pomodoro technique and Eisenhower Matrix is that the Pomodoro technique focuses on activities rather than projects.

So, a to-do list with time estimates for each task can be more useful than the Eisenhower Matrix. While these methods focus on different aspects of our daily lives, they offer a similar way of scheduling your day by dividing it into blocks.

6. 90 Minute Focus Block Overview

Ninety-minute Focus Block allows you to completely focus on the task at hand.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Select a task that you can focus on for 90 minutes.
  2. Set a goal for the end of the time block, which will help you focus your energy.
  3. List the actions you need to take to achieve the end point.
  4. Eliminate all distractions for the 90-minute block.
  5. Work at full speed for 90 minutes.
  6. Take a break.

If you don’t finish your task in 90 minutes, incorporate the work left to do into another 90-minute block. If you finish ahead of time, take a (longer) break. You deserve it.

For small tasks, group them together into one block. You need to make a rough estimate of the timing for each task, but again, if you don’t get them all done, you’ve worked intensively for 90 minutes.

This is more productive than working from a to-do list because you aren’t switching from one task to another, which is when energy is lost during multitasking.

90 Minute Focus Block vs. Pomodoro Technique

The biggest difference between the Pomodoro technique and the 90 Minute Focus Block is that you’re working on a single task until the timer goes off with a Pomodoro technique timer. The Pomodoro technique is more restrictive than 90 Minute Focus Block.

With 90 Minute Focus Block, you can work on one project for several focus blocks if you choose to or several projects in one block, but you would not have multiple tabs open in the same browser window in the Pomodoro technique.

Both techniques are designed to help people stay focused on a single task, even for only 25 minutes at a time, but a 90-minute focus pushes you further!

7. Flow State Overview

Here’s a summary of the Flow State

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first elaborated on the concept of flow.

His research showed that being in a state of flow increases your happiness and work productivity.

To enter a flow state, pick a sufficiently challenging task that captures your attention. You will need to have the skills to finish this task. Also, the task must be an important life task.

Once these factors are in place, as you begin working, you will move into a state where nothing else but your task consumes your mental processing. You are “in the flow!”

Flow State Vs. Pomodoro Technique

The most significant difference between the Pomodoro technique and Flow State is that while Pomodoro focuses on work/life balance, Flow State focuses on deep work and the level of concentration that you can achieve.

To make this clearer through an example, suppose you’re working on a minor feature of your product, and during that time, you’re asked to do another urgent task.

It’s not what you should be working on, and it’s not part of your current flow. When you work in deep work mode, your flow is uninterrupted by irrelevant tasks and distractions. 

A flow state is achieved with complete absorption in the present moment during a quiet setting, avoiding distractions and interruptions.

Having said that, Csikszentmihalyi disagrees with completely silencing all interruptions as it might disrupt the focus that you were previously enjoying.

The key is to focus first by concentrating deeply and then respond to the needs of others. This means that being interrupted is fine as long as you can be focused again quickly after the interruption.

Another difference between Pomodoro and Flow State techniques is that Pomodoro asks you to work for 25 minutes before taking a five-minute break.

In contrast, Flow State asks for an uninterrupted block of time without any disruptions for as long as necessary.

8. Tocks Productivity Method Overview

Phases of the Tocks Productivity Method

  1. Achieve clarity of purpose
  2. Identify 10 big rocks to focus on
  3. Develop a plan to accomplish them
  4. Get feedback on the plan
  5. Adjust and repeat

a) Clarity of Purpose

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.” In other words, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re unlikely to get there.

I would express clarity of purpose like this: “I want to improve my business and my life. I want to be a better leader, better husband, and better father. My wish is to have time for hobbies and time for myself. I want more income, and I want less stress. So, clearly defined goals will help me achieve these things.”

By being clear about your goals, you can identify the activities that will help you get there, delegate tasks that others can do for you, or eliminate tasks that are not your responsibility or are unnecessary.

b) The 10 Big Rocks

Once you identify your primary goal, break it down into smaller pieces. Then, when you’re moving ahead with your big goal in mind, you can make sure that each step along the way is helping you move toward that goal.

It’s called the 10 Big Rocks Method because there are 10 big rocks in any given project. Let’s look at the most critical rock.

The Rock That Makes It All Possible — this is the goal for which all other rocks are created.

The activity or project serves as the foundation for everything else, including accountability for results. In other words, if this one falls down or gets dropped on its way over the goal line, then nothing else matters.

If you don’t have this one identified, all the other rocks will eventually fall down because they won’t hold up without it.

Examples are launching a product line, signing a new customer, getting an award, finishing a book, and reaching $100K in sales.

Your number one rock is the rock responsible for leading all other rocks over the goal line—it’s your highest priority right now because it helps you achieve all other rocks.

Identify your other rocks and their relationships with the number one rock. Prioritize your time each day, each week and each month to get those rocks over the line and achieve your primary goal.

Tocks Productivity Method Vs. Pomodoro Technique

The biggest difference between the Pomodoro Technique and the Tocks Productivity Method is how you focus.

In the Pomodoro technique, you focus on a single task. You do not open your email, speak to coworkers, or do anything else that is not related to that task at hand. You focus on one thing and one thing only. When you are finished with your task, you can reward yourself with a short break.

Tocks Productivity Method differs from this because it does allow you to work on multiple tasks when you are not in the middle of one of your focused times.

You can spend 10 minutes on one task and 10 minutes on another and then switch back and forth between them when you need to. This makes your day go faster than it would if you were working on just one task at a time because you can move back and forth between tasks quickly without losing steam or feeling as if you have wasted time getting started again.

The Pomodoro method focuses on being productive during certain hours of the day, while Tocks Productivity Method allows for flexibility that will help make your day go faster.

An added benefit is that when you use Tocks, it helps keep your energy level up all day long.

You are switching from one task to another so frequently that there is never an opportunity for boredom or fatigue to set in.

And since there is no clock ticking down the minutes for each interval, there is never any pressure to stop what you are doing, even if the duration is over before you realize it.

9. The 2-Minute Rule Overview

Here’s how to apply the 2 Minute Rule:

  1. Grab two sheets of paper.
  2. Print the word “CURRENT” at the top of one sheet and the word “GOAL” at the top of the other.
  3. Write down five things you are CURRENTLY doing well on the first sheet.
  4. On the second sheet, write down five things you WANT to be doing better and the associated tasks you can tackle now.
  5. As you start, stop and think about what you’re doing well or not so well. Say to yourself, “I’m doing [this thing] really well!” or “I need to work on [this other thing].” You literally say it aloud to yourself. You can use whatever language helps you be positive about what you’re working on or not so positive about what you’re not working on. For example, “What am I doing well? What am I not so good at? Am I a master at this? How much progress have I made?”
  6. Leave the first sheet on your nightstand to look at when you wake up.
  7. Take your second sheet and put it somewhere where you’ll see it during your day — on your desk or in the kitchen or bathroom.
  8. As you start your day, study your second list. If a task can be done in less than two minutes, do it now. By looking at your tasks, discover how to break them down so you can begin with a two-minute chunk.
  9. Proceed with the next two-minute chunk until the entire job is completed.

The 2 Minute Rule Vs. Pomodoro Technique

The biggest difference between the Pomodoro technique and the 2 Minute Rule is the tasks’ length. Both are useful, but if you’re like me, I’d go with The 2 Minute Rule.

You’ll be able to focus on a single task instead of switching between several different ones. Plus, nothing can keep you from finishing a two-minute task!

10. 1-3-5 Productivity Hack Overview

Here’s how it works:

Work on five simple tasks, three medium tasks, and one major task each day (or each week).

This technique will make you more productive because we know that a major task takes more time and energy. Less important tasks will usually have to be done more often.

Even simpler tasks will often be repeated throughout your week, like doing the dishes and laundry.

This method forces you to focus on setting priorities and ensures that you get everything off your to-do list.

You may also find it helpful to plan what you’ll do the following day (or week) before starting work.

Deciding what to do as you start your day is a huge waste of time.

Decide in advance what needs to be done and put those tasks on your weekly schedule. You’ll have an end point in sight that motivates you to finish tasks quickly. If it’s not on the schedule, it doesn’t get done for many of us!

Plan ahead so that if a block of time becomes available, you have a task to fill that spot. If nothing comes to mind, give yourself permission to goof off for five minutes — but be sure to actually goof off; don’t let yourself get distracted by checking e-mail or playing games online. Then get back at it!

1-3-5 Productivity Hack Vs. Pomodoro Technique

The most significant difference between the Pomodoro technique and 1-3-5 productivity hacks is that with Pomodoro Technique, you time your work.

With the 1-3-5 productivity hack, your brain decides when the break is over.

11. The Four-day Workweek Overview

Here’s how to implement the four-day workweek:

  1. Get in the habit of using your favorite time-blocking method to get your work done.
  2. Cut your commute times by at least 1/3 by working from a co-working space or home.
  3. Take one- or two-day “mini-retreats” each month to work on your most important projects.
  4. Take one day each month to work on achieving a long-term goal in your life or business.
  5. Take one to three days off each week (depending on what you’re trying to accomplish).
  6. Make your weekends all about fun and family time (a break from work).
  7. If you have trouble staying focused and productive, use the Pomodoro Method to stay on track during the day and on weekdays.
  8. By following this plan, you’ll be able to achieve more results and enjoy life more than ever before!

The Four-day Workweek Vs. Pomodoro Technique

The biggest difference between the Pomodoro technique and the four-day workweek is that you take regular breaks between your 25-minute-long timeboxes unless you’re having an exceptional streak (four or five+ hours of straight focus). 

The four-day workweek allows for extended breaks, up to three days, while also using time blocks (which ideally will not last more than 45 minutes!).

12. Parkinson’s Law Overview

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

The Law is a humorous observation on the human tendency to overcommit and underestimate the time necessary to complete tasks. Parkinson’s Law tries to explain why tasks usually seem to take much longer than was initially thought.

However, the Law can also be seen as a profound explanation for why productivity is often low in most organizations.

The Law does not actually say that work expands to fill all the time available.

In fact, it states that work expands until it fills the time available, plus some of the additional time you might have added had you known how long it would take!

Parkinson’s Law was first expressed by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in 1957 and has since been revised several times. It is based on a series of lectures he gave at University College, London, where he was a Professor of Economics from 1945 until his retirement in 1971.

Parkinson’s Law Vs. Pomodoro Technique

The difference between the Pomodoro technique and Parkinson’s Law is that the Pomodoro technique is flexible.

In Parkinson’s Law-like approaches, your work schedule should be fixed. You should be rigid in the amount of work you do per day. In contrast, you can use a Pomodoro technique timer to work for any period of time. By doing so, you can better allocate your tasks during the day and make the most use of your time.

For example, if you have three tasks that take one hour each, you could:

  1. Work for one hour with a 25-minute break following (the Pomodoro technique)
  2. Work for two hours straight without taking a break (Parkinson’s Law-like approach)
  3. Take a one-hour break before starting the next task (alternating work and breaks schedule)

These methods would result in the same outcome, yet each has its own advantages. By following the Pomodoro technique on separate days, you can better balance your energy throughout the day.

Alternating work/break schedules allow for better working conditions and more flexibility. Breaking for one hour per task leaves more time for longer breaks throughout the day.

Instead of scheduling your entire day from morning to night, use a Pomodoro technique timer to focus on work in specific periods and take breaks in between.

Conclusion

Productivity requires intention. You need to think about the way you work as an individual and as a team. Productivity also depends on the right tools, like CloudApp, to keep you and your team in sync, asynchronously. With CloudApp you can capture images, gifs, and screen recordings, annotate your captures and share in seconds. Try it for free today or get a demo to see how CloudApp can save you time and help you communicate faster.

Hunter Amato

Hunter Amato

Freelance Writer & Editor