Ask HN: Alternatives to the Pomodoro technique?

The Pomodoro is the default standard for productivity. It's certainly concise and low-overhead, but can still be scaled into elaborate systems. However, I wonder if anyone ever has problems following it. And if so, what are alternative methods to focused work and productivity?

I've seen only one before- the Flowtime Technique, which is really just Pomodoro with no preset time blocks and with flexible breaks.

https://medium.com/@UrgentPigeon/the-flowtime-technique-7685101bd191

126 points | by Apocryphon 12 days ago

58 comments

  • liampulles 12 days ago
    What this boils down to for me is being able to stay in flow for (at least) a couple of hours a day. I've found that task-management-anxiety dropped once I had good flow.

    My flow recipe is as follows:

    * A comfortable environment, i.e.: a comfortable, pleasant, quiet place (can use noise cancelling headphones).

    * I mark on Slack that I am in deep work for an hour, set an alarm on my phone, and then close all communication tabs (slack, email, etc.)

    * I've found Youtube Music's "Focus" section to be pretty good for focus music, but I have a couple go-to albums and playlists I can use also.

    * I rigourously plan out my work before I get into it, and I also re-plan a bit as I get going. I don't want my brain to have to keep track of what I need to do and to the greatest degree reasonable I don't want to think about how to do XYZ. I wrote a bit about this: https://liampulles.com/blog/jira-tickets

    * I try not to keep snacks in my apartment. Again this is in service of not allowing there to be an avenue for the brain to shift to. I've settled on Almonds.

    * Being able to put work out of mind at the end of the day is important. For me, running helps relieve tension - but there are other ways.

    • Mavvie 12 days ago
      I strongly agree with this.

      I would add that, at least for me, planning each day out is beneficial as well. When I don't have a plan for a day, I often will sit there, not really doing anything, and not sure what to start doing. This typically ends when I get distracted by something (maybe a question on Slack), and overall leads to some very unproductive days.

      Even a simple high-level plan, like "today I want to get these tickets ready for review and work on this RFC", is incredibly helpful for me. A weekly plan may be even more effective, but I struggle to plan that far in advance.

    • numbers 12 days ago
      Planning work has made me way more productive. In years past, I would just start cranking on something and midway through the work, I'd realize I didn't understand or properly plan the work. Now, I ask a lot more questions (even if it's just me doing the work and planning) and then start work when most of the questions are answered.
    • funcDropShadow 11 days ago
      I couldn't agree more with your flow recipe. What pomodoro provides that your recipe doesn't provide or perhaps it does for you, is the following:

      * Remind me to drink water * Remind me to move, i.e. stand up, walk a few meter, stretch my arms, etc * Remind me to question myself, whether I dug myself into a rabbit hole or whether I am distracted

    • cushpush 11 days ago
      Snacklessness is masochism tho
  • bun_terminator 12 days ago
    Pomodoro always felt so strange to me. If I could just "start" things on command, I wouldn't need any of these special techniques in the first place. And if I do work, I absolutely don't want to stop, and certainly not because a clock tells me so. It's like the perfect antipattern to destroy any productivity in me. Not hating, just puzzled by it.
    • dkarl 12 days ago
      > If I could just "start" things on command, I wouldn't need any of these special techniques in the first place

      For me, it's the opposite. This is one of my favorite things about doing pomodoros.

      I hate to be the tactibro who sources inspirational quotes from special forces influencers, but I worked with a guy who introduced me to the phrase "go before you're ready," and I really took it to heart as a check against my natural tendency to leave problems alone and wait for them to get easier. I got this tendency from studying math in school, where I fell in love with the magic of getting stuck on a hard problem, putting it aside, and having the solution come to me hours later while I was thinking about something else.

      That approach works when my subconscious has everything it needs to work on the problem, like when writing proofs for a math class, but at my job I'm usually working in a different way, where the solution depends on concrete details that I'm in the process of learning, such as a new part of a codebase, a new library, a new API, etc. I can't delegate that kind of work to my subconscious, because my subconscious isn't going to read documentation and write exploratory code. But my brain keeps whispering, "You're stuck. Take a break."

      Because of this, I love the "go before you're ready" aspect of doing Pomodoros.

      • malfist 11 days ago
        "Go before you're ready" is such a brilliant reframing. I'm going to start using it.

        90% of my inability to start something is procrastinating because I don't know the full picture yet, but every time I get started I figure it out. Just have to go before you're ready

      • kristiandupont 12 days ago
        Hah, that's exactly what I do, I can see that clearly now but I hadn't articulated it. Thank you!
    • chrchr 12 days ago
      The part of pomodoro that's supposed to help you start is the limited time period. Many people find it much easier to undertake something if they know it's only for 25 minutes. If 25 minutes still seems daunting, by all means pick a lower number.
      • itronitron 12 days ago
        This is why I have never even considered pomodoro. Only being able to work on something for 25 minutes for me means it's not worth starting in the first place.
        • egypturnash 12 days ago
          The idea's not that you're done for good when the 25min are up. You just take a break. Then you come back to it for another 25min. Maybe you do this for the entire day, maybe you do this a couple times for an entire week. Or longer, I've had projects that stretch over a couple of years, that I rarely spent more than 1-3 hours of any particular day on.

          In practice I'll happily ignore the "take a 5 min break" part of the Pomodoro method but I definitely take real breaks every hour or two.

        • RandallBrown 12 days ago
          I don't think there's any reason you can't just continue the task you've been working on.
          • marginalia_nu 11 days ago
            Takes a good half hour to get back into what you're doing in my experience. You may get something done in that period, but it's not quality.
            • funcDropShadow 11 days ago
              On the contrary, when I walk around my home in those small pomodoro breaks, I often have similar small epiphanies that people describe when going to the coffee machine in the office.
        • sloxser 11 days ago
          Everyone is not the same. Imagine that.
    • hinkley 12 days ago
      The brain likes to defend itself, and it likes symmetry. It's just as likely that the reason you hate stopping is because your subconscious is trying to protect you from the minor catastrophe that is starting back up again.

      People used to being interrupted either get nothing done or weave practices into their routine that help them remember where they left off. Used to be when I was young and an enthusiastic proponent of Flow state (neither of which are true anymore), I would pretty confidently pull on threads until I had six or seven things on my todo list, and manage to almost always remember all of them.

      But these are moderately large rewrites pretending to be refactoring by misusing the tools and ignoring the goals and values. So these days I tend to use that mental model to do more reading and trying to get closer to the crux of the issue instead of starting to type and hoping for my brain to catch up with my fingers within a few dozen lines of code, which isn't happening if we've arrived at the adjective "large".

      I haven't articulated this before so I don't really have a handy list of all of the tools and tricks I utilize for this, but I can say that conditional breakpoints are one of the ways I augment that memory. Even if I get pulled off into a production issue, these breakpoints are a much better reminder of what I was thinking about than a simple breakpoint.

    • TheHideout 12 days ago
      There is this idea of thinking fast and slow aka the hare brain and tortoise mind. I use the active time for the hare (fast thinking), and the break time for the tortoise to pass up ideas from the subconscious (slow thinking).

      I've been using pomodoro for many years. Not continuously though because I find that my productivity level is extremely high while doing it and I start to get burned out because the intermittent breaks are not enough.

      You might be interested in something called the domino technique to help with getting started / getting into flow. Basically you do something that is difficult but short that you can do to get a meaningful psychological "win" in a short period of time (5 minutes) to kick start your motivation / flow. I would post a link but I don't have a good reference on hand.

    • coldblues 12 days ago
      I recommend FocusMate. You are forced to work by the social pressure of having someone else on the other end work alongside you.
      • willmacdonald 12 days ago
        Thanks for mentioning FocusMate! I used it many years ago, but had since forgotten it's name. No amount of googling found it.
        • eggdaft 12 days ago
          Aside: this is exactly the kind of query that ChatGPT is so good at. If you haven’t tried “I’m trying to remember the name of this thing…” please could you see if it works?
      • contctlink 12 days ago
        What do you mean by social pressure ?
        • 57FkMytWjyFu 12 days ago
          Your search term is 'body-doubling', where you feel like a slacker if someone is watching you not hustle while they hustle.
          • wkat4242 11 days ago
            Ah just like peer pressure? I've seen that also in sports where you have a virtual co-runner you try to keep to up with.

            It doesn't work for me though because I'm really independent and totally not competitive. I just don't care about my peers. I hate team sports also for this case because I'll always get kicked out for not caring about the team's goals.

            It's a bit difficult sometimes because all companies think they only need 'team players'. I can be extremely loyal to people I care about but I need to build up that care naturally, them being part of some arbitrary 'team' doesn't work for me. Hard to explain :)

    • tetha 12 days ago
      For me the hardest part is actually getting started.

      And as I notice, my problem at times is that my tasks are like "You are a Roman General. You have 3 Legions. Conquer Europe north of this line."

      For me personally, it's better to have a task like "Alternate pick the A-Minor scale on the bass 2 times up and down at 120bpm". Easy and simple to do I'd say. And then you realize that other thing. And then that other thing. And then you watch some Vids from Ola, Bernth, Glenn. And suddenly you've noodled 2 hours on the guitar.

      • funcDropShadow 11 days ago
        > And as I notice, my problem at times is that my tasks are like "You are a Roman General. You have 3 Legions. Conquer Europe north of this line."

        Since we all know how this goes, I would say procrastination is a survival instinct.

    • willsmith72 12 days ago
      I find it extremely useful. It's a reminder to take breaks and keeps me focused. I don't use it all day every day.

      Some days when I don't use it I end up working for many hours without a break, and my productivity would've been higher with regular breaks. I also find myself drifting to tasks which seem important but aren't, like a random refactor. Pomo helps me be conscious every half hour about what I want to work on

      If you don't have those problems, it probably won't offer you anything

    • escapedmoose 8 days ago
      Being stopped is a huge benefit of Pomodoro for me. It gives the brain a cooldown period to back out of stupid decisions/patterns, and to connect pieces that it wasn’t necessarily focusing on. It’s amazing the silly mistakes I’ll catch myself in, or the sudden revelations I’ll have, after coming back from tinkering with a LEGO set for 10 min.
    • chudi 11 days ago
      One of the best parts about Pomodoro it's that the few first session for me are about struggling with the anxiety that the work gives me. The idea behind is that the anxiety peaks and drops off rapidly in the first or second period, so just thinking that battling against the anxiety is actually work and time boxing it achieves great results
    • FaridIO 12 days ago
      This is exactly how I feel about it. I'm sure there are some tasks it works really well for, but I have yet to encounter one.
    • a-saleh 10 days ago
      Yeah, I get that. But it does sometimes genuinely help.

      Sometimes it is mostly a trick to get me started (ok, I need to do this only for $n minutes, I could do that) and then I ignore the pause, because the clock is not the boss of me and I am in the flow

    • lightbendover 12 days ago
      Engineering crushing stress from existential threats of my own creation is just about the only productivity trick I have. It works at least.
      • Apocryphon 12 days ago
        It probably is the most effective cure for procrastination.
    • notso411 12 days ago
      Reminds me of where I used to work everything was a “technique” or a “practice” or a “theorem”. Just… work.
  • mofeien 11 days ago
    I reward myself after each finished pomodoro with one sweet. This makes me eager to start a pomodoro at any time, and I am now also stopping work to collect my reward once the alarm rings, and not skipping on break time anymore. This turned pomodoros into a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

    To keep this from being a tradeoff between productivity and rotten teeth I bought a selection of sugar-free sweets on the internet.

    After the habit was formed, I introduced a gambling element by always having six different kinds of sweets on display, some more desirable than others. A dice roll decides which one I get. This is to approximate a variable-ratio reward schedule which is known to make the habit more resistant to extinction.

    • Reviving1514 11 days ago
      This is cool but also quite funny, thank you for sharing. Gives me something to think about.
  • Nzen 12 days ago
    What counts as an alternative ?

    Does Seah's Emergent Task Planning [0] count ? It involves choosing a couple of tasks for the day, blocking them out, but allowing and recording interruptions.

    [0] https://davidseah.com/node/the-emergent-task-planner/

    Does Allen's Getting Things Done count ? It involves sorting work at milestones (weekly, monthly), and doing each for some reasonable amount of time, chosen by the doer. Anything that takes five minutes or less, should be done immediately.

    [1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=36139432

    Does the Montessori method of teaching [2] count ? It seems to involve the student learner engaging with a single chosen subject for several hours at a time.

    [2] https://montessorifortoday.com/what-is-the-montessori-teachi...

    Do the dicta 'do something until you are bored', 'perservere until you are exhausted', and 'multitasking is okay' count ?

    I am of the impression that productivity strategies are just frameworks for thought. Each, with or without a formal Author's name attached, is just somewhere on the spectrum/surface of counting some work as more or less worthy of focus with heuristics for 'focus can last a some amount of time'.

  • jawon 12 days ago
    I do something similar to Flowtime but without the bookkeeping: Orodomops.

    Set a stopwatch going but out of sight. When you run out of steam check it. If it’s been less than 25 minutes keep going. If greater, have a break scaled to the time you worked.

    I started doing this because I couldn’t get on board with breaking up the work I enjoyed doing, but I recognized the utility of having breaks when that wasn’t the case.

    • g0ld2k 12 days ago
      This is very similar to my flow. I start a 25 minute timer, and work for at least that amount of time, if I get interrupted during that first 25 minutes I count that as an interruption (which I tally). From there I count the number of 25 minute blocks I work, which include any rolling timers (25 minute blocks after the first 25 minutes).

      I did this on paper for a few months and eventually turned it into an app called Contadino for macOS, iOS, watchOS, and visionOS (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/contadino/id1672167389).

    • vavooom 12 days ago
      Yes I use a similar method with Flowtime myself. Helps to track my study time and benchmark how many hours certain classes I am taking for grad school actually consume.
    • dinkleberg 11 days ago
      That sounds like a very sensible approach, I’ll have to give it a try.
  • egypturnash 12 days ago
    I just use a slacker version of Pomodoro.

    First: in the morning, I decide what things I would like to try do today, and make some checkboxes in my notebook - some of these are boxes representing a half hour of work on a larger project, some of these are boxes representing shopping lists, I know which is which. Unlike the Pomodoro method I am not deciding exactly what I am going to do today, so it's okay if I have several more half-hour boxes than I know I can complete in a day.

    Second: I do things. I don't pull out the timer, I just do things, and take breaks between them. The time I spent originally using the timer developed a pretty decent sense for a half hour of work, so I'll often find myself saying "how long have I been working on this project" and checking Time Sink's window at around a half an hour. Maybe I'll get up and take a serious break, maybe I'll blow it off. At some point I'll probably be climbing on my bike to go between my home and the various cafes/parks I work in so I've got a decent amount of "get off my ass and focus on something further than 4' away" built into my life.

    I'll check off time blocks in the notebook as I get a chance. I also keep running time track charts in my working files, I'm an artist and it's nice to pull up a finished piece months later and say "this took me 5h spread out over a week" when thinking about future prices, or to look at the time spent on a half-finished piece and think about how much more time I have on the clock before (agreed-upon price)/(hours worked) drops too low, and maybe stop obsessing over an area that's acceptable but not great to go make sure every other part of the piece is going to be acceptable before I run out of time.

    Third: repeat every work day for the rest of your life.

    This works for me as a freelance artist. Sometimes I get sick and don't do this. Sometimes I get depressed and don't do this. Sometimes if I've stopped doing this for a while I'll take out the physical timer and start doing a more serious Pomodoro Routine to kind of reset myself. But really as a general rule I don't need the whole formal procedure.

  • contctlink 12 days ago
    I use a variant of the Pomodoro technique: instead of having strict breaks when the time is over, I just receive a sound notification at the end of the focus and the end of the breaks.

    Then, every 10 minutes, I get a new notification.

    It's a small mod but it changes a lot my perception of the technique. It creates a lot less frustration as I can finish the task I am working on without losing track of the time passing.

    I coded a web version of this variant here: https://focusplus.io You can try it, it's 100% free (still in the early days tho)

    • modo_ 12 days ago
      Nice work on this! I love that it has a lightweight backlog built in and that I can describe what my current task is.

      One small feedback- the motion design is waaay too much. You should consider dialing it back 2-3x.

      • contctlink 12 days ago
        Thanks for the feedback!

        Yes the idea was to create a tool to help you go through your day, not something super complex (we all already have our systems in place)

        Gotcha for the motion, I'll reduce it a bit :)

  • al_borland 12 days ago
    I am not a pomodoro fan. I’m not a robot, so starting a task is the hardest part, continuing once I’m in a flow state is effortless. My most enjoyable days at work are ones where I’m left alone to work on something, I start, and just keep going. Some days I forget to eat lunch, and I usually end up naturally coming out of it after about 7 hours, but if it’s a good problem and I’m making progress it can go longer. If I do stop to go to the bathroom or eat, I don’t mentally disconnect from what I was working on, I stay in it and think about what I was trying to solve, so I can jump right back into it.

    On these days I start once, and never have to overcome that barrier again. If I was using pomodoro, I’d have to overcome that barrier 16 times, and lose time/energy to having to restart and remember what I was doing. Meetings and messages from people are bad enough for interruptions, I don’t need to manufacture extra ones.

    Sadly, due to excessive meetings, these days are rare, but when they happen I get so much done and feel so good afterward. Although sometimes my brain has this weird tingling sensation afterward. I’m not sure what to make of that.

    • tonyarkles 12 days ago
      I’m with you. A decade ago I was pretty gung ho on Pomodoro but as I’ve grown and now end up with significantly more challenging problems to solve (that take more thought and less code) I definitely prefer the long uninterrupted stretches. However… on days when there is a high volume of synchronous interruptions (meetings and messages), I do still fall back on a 25-30 minute timer if I can. In that case it’s not a disruption, it’s a sufficiently palatable pause on the interruptions. If someone has something urgent they need from you they might be pissed off if they don’t hear back from you until tomorrow; if you get back to them mean 12 minutes [0, 25] minutes later they’ll generally not even notice. Maybe you were in the washroom or had an early or late lunch or a break.
    • fullStackOasis 11 days ago
      > Some days I forget to eat lunch, and I usually end up naturally coming out of it after about 7 hours

      I used to be like this myself. In the last few years, alas, I realized that this behavior was unhealthy for my physical body. Just a word of caution. What your mind prefers to do is not necessarily the best for your entire self.

      • al_borland 11 days ago
        I only end up getting days like this a handful of times per year, due to all the meetings. Since it’s not an everyday thing, I find the boost I get from actually getting something done far outweighs having a late lunch. I can go from being in a pretty deep depression to having actual hope and some pride in my work.

        The last time I had one of these days I finished every user story I had in one day. These stories had been carried over for multiple sprints, I just couldn’t get the time. I was feeling really bad about them hanging out there for so long, like a failure. Finishing them all felt great and showed me that it wasn’t me, it was the company culture causing most of my issues. I’m actually in dire need of another one of these days.

  • mklepaczewski 12 days ago
    It depends on your issues with productivity. No method works for all people. Can you describe why you're not satisfied with your level of productivity? What are your top 3 issues? It will be easier to recommend something.

    If you want to test one method that works well and can be tested in literally minutes, try body doubling. It boils down to working in the presence of another person - preferably a stranger or someone with authority. It's a strange effect, but it works surprisingly well for some of the hardest procrastinators. You can try it online here: - https://workmode.net/ - if you want to use this method for work, or you suffer from social anxiety, - https://www.focus101.com/ - the community is pretty small, which might be a good thing if you like to feel cozy, - https://www.focusmate.com/ - the largest body-doubling portal.

    Disclaimer: I'm a co-founder of WorkMode.net

  • a-saleh 11 days ago
    While you might not be depressed, or might not have ADHD, looking for tips of people that have low executive function can help. Ok, I am not actually sure about the definition, but by low executive function I mean that state of being, where you have things you want to do,but just can't make yourself for some reason. Feels like trying to press a greyed-out option in the ui.

    As I am somebody that currently medicates with stimulants for their ADHD induced inattention, I still have a big bag of tricks to make me do stuff.

    And there are many hacks - you limit the scope (Tiny Habbits by BJ Fogg is a masterclass on this, and Unfck your habitat by Rachel Hoffman falls here too)

    I used to live by my work-playlist. I.e. Tron Legacy OST could give me more than an hour of uninterupted focus!

    Having another person can be helpful as well - doesn't matter if oyu work from home with partner or friend, go back to the office, to the library or stream your workflow - I sometimes make one where I am the only person in the meeting, but just the possibility that somebody joins while I am sharing my screen keeps me productive.

    I assume that pair-programming can similarily help.

    Having good break rituals as well - "Going to get coffee/soda" is well defined and I can return back.

    Having nice actual work environment where I don't need to remember too much and the feedback loop is tight. I am doing much of my prototiping in shell or in notebook environment, where answer to "so what will this actually do" is usually single key-stroke away.

    In the end you will need to figure this out. Some people live by library-rules and quiet. Other work better with people and abient conversation. Sometimes you will have a specific project that works in a way that just clicks and you won't need so many productivity hacks.

  • wouldbecouldbe 12 days ago
    Timeboxing creates a lot of peace for me.

    Lately been so busy that's it hard to get focus, I've been breaking up the day into 1 & 2 hour blocks.

    Gives me a pass to forget the rest and just focus on that item and the rest has it's own designated time.

    Of course doesn't always go right or work, but going back to it makes me understand where I have room & when I can relax.

    Also different from todo, since focus is not on finishing tasks.

  • mortallywounded 11 days ago
    I have tried the pomodoro technique for several months. In the end, I quit. I found the technique was only good for "starting" the work. After that, the technique only got in the way.

    1. If you're not a single person (ie, you have children and/or spouse) then the idea of an "uninterrupted pomodoro" is nothing but a dream. Things happen. If you don't pause or restart the pomodoro you leave it on and then you give up and move on to the next one, or you work through the break to make for the lost focus.

    2. Breaks can often feel like a waste of time when you're in a good flow state. Why stop because your timer says so? I'd often go for several breaks/pomodoros without paying any attention to my timer.

    3. Sometimes starting the pomodoro would take a lot of effort (more so than just working). I think it's because you know when you start you're locked in for 25 minutes... if you don't have a clear task and motivation to start you end up delaying.

    The list goes on and on... ultimately, I said to hell with it.

  • gituliar 12 days ago
    I gave pomodoro a try years ago, but failed. It simply doesn't fit my personality, don't like deadlines and time pressure.

    Instead, I put my tasks in a Moleskine notebook, mixed with other notes and ideas of mine. In front of each task I put a square box, to be checked when the task is completed in the future. Usually tasks are 1-2 hours long, they are for evenings, longer tasks are for weekends. It's crucial to keep tasks small, no longer than 1 day of work, so split big tasks into small. This is crucial, as abstract tasks lead to procrastination and make you lose focus. The checkbox gives satisfaction when done and remains in the notebook, so that you can see a lot of completed by reviewing your notes.

    I use this technique for 3 years now and it works for me. Not sure if it's known by other name as I came to it myself. Hopefully, this can be useful for others as well.

    • contctlink 12 days ago
      It's 2 different things to have a to-do list and use the Pomodoro technique.

      The first one is made to plan your day and clear your mind, whereas the latter is made to help you go through that list while being as productive as possible.

      You can totally use both

      • gituliar 12 days ago
        > You can totally use both

        Definitely, some can use both.

        Again, it very much depends on the persona. All I need to be productive is a clear to-do list and no destruction, to focus on my work. No extra techniques, like Pomodoro, is necessary in my case.

    • d1sxeyes 12 days ago
      Sounds a lot like bullet journaling.

      If you can get past the washi tape and calligraphy brigade, and sprinkle a few reviews/mid-term plans, it’s actually pretty effective (at least I have found it so).

  • jabroni_salad 12 days ago
    >I wonder if anyone ever has problems following it

    Pomo is best for people who have trouble staying on-task. You see the countdown in the corner of your screen and focusing isnt so bad because you have a specific end-time. But, in my experience it only works well if you are the sort who doesn't get a lot of interruptions.

    I use a printout system (Emergent Task Planner) plus Clockify to help track the real time spent on each task. It works ok and my time is billable so accurate timekeeping is a must.

    https://davidseah.com/node/the-emergent-task-planner/

    eta: i also keep an analog clock on my desk. I didn't bookmark it but sometime ago I read a piece on here about how digital clocks aren't good for measuring the passage of time and I think there really is something to it.

    • 57FkMytWjyFu 12 days ago
      For me, the problem with a digital clock is that the hours are signed duodecimal, and the minutes are sexagesimal. If I start from base ten mental math, the last half of every waking hour vanishes, in a divergent erroneous ratio.
    • tamiral 12 days ago
      I've never heard of this before, but it is amazing... i've built out something like this for myself after reading a lot of self help books, i love the idea of an analog clock!
  • binary132 11 days ago
    I start my day (when I'm mindful) by writing down a brief list of things I need to get done on an index card. I make sure to incorporate anything I didn't get handled from yesterday's card, plus meetings from my calendar, and daily necessities. Then I open my planner and write these things into available time slots. Then I sit down and do the things from my schedule. I start a new index card for each thing I work on. At the end of the day (ideally) I move these cards into my categories for "tomorrow", "next", "backlog" and whatnot. If I have an idea or thought I need to write down, I put it on an index card and set it aside. I also use them for notetaking during meetings.

    The goal is to maintain an index card database but I'm not there yet.

    • Lalabadie 11 days ago
      If you're interested in other people's take on index cards as a second brain, a good starting keyword is "zettelkasten"
      • binary132 11 days ago
        I’m not into zk simply because I personally don’t get along well in free interconnection spaces. My brain needs a lot of structure and order imposed on what otherwise quickly becomes a limitless sprawl of attention tunnels. Think the “Wikipedia game” except consuming every ounce of productivity because it’s built into your productivity framework.
  • throwuwu 12 days ago
    Pomodoro never worked for me since I work best when I get into flow and keep going for 1 to 4 hours. What I have found helps is planning as much as possible up front and dedicating time to do so. I braindump everything then when that’s exhausted I rewrite it in a structured way and add detail, breaking it up into sections and gathering resources I need, then I make an exhaustive todo list of tiny steps in chronological order and I mean really tiny steps with concrete outcomes. Then when I start working I just follow the plan and since I’m very familiar with it by this point I don’t have to refer back to it all the time but I do make sure to check it in order to stay on track usually when I reach a point where I’m uncertain of what to do next. I also add to the document when necessary.
  • Arubis 12 days ago
  • swiftsalary 8 days ago
    I just use a simple customized version of the Pomodoro technique. Setting the 25 minute timer itself helps me get going as I don't want a false record of the amount of time I've worked. So when the timer starts, I know I need to work.

    I typically do 2 pomodoros in a row, and then a 5-10 minute break. But if I feel like working longer (ie I'm in flow state) I keep going.

    The breaks are really helpful for getting up and stretching though. Walking around. Giving the eyes a break from the screen.

    I record each pomodoro I've finished in a notebook and on my pomodoro timer (a custom browser extension I made that stores a log of completed pomodoros with start and end dates, length, and notes all automatically). This helps me check how long I worked on each task that day. I can also go back and easily look at past days.

    In the end, this is just a more flexible version of the pomodoro method, which I find really helpful for keeping myself on task + taking necessary breaks for my body and mind.

  • sesm 12 days ago
    Gave up classic Pomodoro technique many years ago, but recently I've returned to it by listening to 'Pomodoro streamers' on Twitch. Idea is simple: the host starts/stops the timer on stream, works during work session and chats with audience during breaks. You don't have to follow the schedule strictly, but after a couple of rounds you get into the rhythm. As a plus, instead of mechanical timer you have a choice of background music and streamer persona.

    As for managing distractions, I use self-messages in Telegram as an inbox for any spontaneous ideas.

  • ParetoOptimal 12 days ago
    https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/RWu8eZqbwgB9zaerh/third-time...

    I used this to follow it in emacs before:

    https://git.sr.ht/~swflint/third-time

    However this one I haven't used looks more featureful:

    https://github.com/SqrtMinusOne/pomm.el

  • jazzyjackson 12 days ago
    I've started using the "NOW/LATER" feature of Logseq. It automatically starts a timer when I change a to-do item to 'NOW', that kind of keeps me in the headspace that I should remain on task. If I want to stop doing the task I have to alt-tab back over to logseq and admit to myself that I'm not working on it anymore, lest my timetracking include the minutes of me screwing around on HN, which, now that I think of it...
  • paulgb 12 days ago
    I wrote an internal Slack bot that my team uses to coordinate “deep work sessions”. It creates a thread, we say what we plan to do for the next 45-90 minutes (the time is up to the person who invokes the bot), and then we have an understanding that we will all be unreachable for that duration. When it’s over, the bot prompts everyone to say what they did. It’s simple, but I find it to be effective at squashing distractions and getting real work done.
    • thelastparadise 12 days ago
      This sounds like hell for ICs.

      They might play along, but internally I guarantee some of them are miserable.

      • ngokevin 12 days ago
        I see a lot of people do this voluntarily through online services with strangers. Even my neighborhood Facebook group was coordinating one of these at a cafe with a lot of interest.
        • paulgb 12 days ago
          Yeah, it was modeled after doing an in-person session like that and realizing that I liked it. Nobody is forced to do it, but by doing it over Slack they are aware that it's happening and know to expect not to expect an immediate response from those participating.
          • ngokevin 12 days ago
            I was using flow.club for a while and enjoyed it when I needed it.
      • lukas099 12 days ago
        It sounds good to me. I'm sure some would hate it.
      • nequo 12 days ago
        Why do you think that this would make ICs miserable?
        • dirtybirdnj 12 days ago
          Not the OP but a reminder to "tell me what you did in the last 45 mins" is definitely some level of micro-management. Daily check ins can be reasonable for a high velocity project... every 45 mins seems overkill unless you are war-room / disaster response mode.

          If a team needs this frequent check ins there is either a misalignment of goals via too many cooks (PM/PO) in the kitchen, or there is a serious lack of trust in the team from the top down.

          • paulgb 12 days ago
            It was modeled after “deep work” sessions I have participated in the past (with non-colleagues) where saying what I worked on at the end was a useful reflection and to get in the habit of not (e.g.) getting sucked into responding to an email that came in during the session. I can understand the skepticism of it, but the value is in writing them not in reading them. It's not required and some people don't do it.
  • gwbas1c 12 days ago
    I was really disturbed one day when the Asana desktop app updated and it put a giant "pomodoro" window on top of my screen. I almost uninstalled Asana because of it.

    Anyway, work that requires focus should have natural rhythms: There's things that need to stay in my head, and if I get interrupted it's very hard to find my place. So I work without stop (except to pee) while these things are in my head, and I take a break once I finish enough that I can "forget" what's in my head.

    It's something you'll understand if you've ever written complicated programs, or had to do something that requires intense concentration.

    For example: I had to tweak a server-side Blazor application to deny access in a certain situation. Last Friday I did it in the UI, but that's not a good solution because there's ways to accidentally bypass the UI. The right way to deny access is in the Middleware, but I didn't have a lot of experience working with ASP Middleware. Thus, I couldn't start working with the Middleware in the last few minutes of the day (too much to learn).

    I spent about 90 minutes this morning learning how to hook into ASP's middleware so I could deny access to the application. Once I learned how to do that, I ate lunch. After lunch, I closed all the browser windows that had the documentation for Middleware and wrote the error page. Now that I opened the PR, I'm taking a break on Hacker News.

    Trying to fit that into a timer is impossible: If the timer went off while I was trying to figure out how to work with the Middleware, I'd have to re-read a lot of the stuff to get back into the puzzle.

    • JohnAaronNelson 12 days ago
      Don't knock it till you try it. I was originally of a similar impression upon discovering the technique.

      The breaks are not so you stop thinking about what you're doing. They're to take you away from it. I continue to think during my breaks about what I'm doing.. I am just not allowed to do it.

      It allows me to step back from what I'm doing and re-evaluate if what I'm doing at this very moment is what I should be doing. Otherwise, it's easy to get stuck just wanting to finish what you're doin

      It also does allow me to stop thinking about what I'm doing, for a brief moment, while leaving the train of through intact in the subconscious.

      Typically, when someone loses their train of thought because of distractions, it is because they have to switch what they're focused on. The train gets derailed because it has to go along another track. Pomodoro breaks are more like stopping the train to look around than switching tracks.

      Furthermore, removing distractions and staying in your train of thought is what the technique is fundamentally all about. Once you start the technique, you'll notice that the requirement that you keep track of your distractions, allows you to focus on ridding yourself of distractions first and foremost. Once you have found a way to rid yourself of distractions, every moment of those 25 minutes becomes precious, your mind sharpens, and solutions become clear.

      The breaks allow you to dis-engage, providing greater focus and clarity.

      • gwbas1c 11 days ago
        > The breaks are not so you stop thinking about what you're doing. They're to take you away from it. I continue to think during my breaks about what I'm doing.. I am just not allowed to do it.

        They're called pee breaks. Do you drink enough water?

  • cushpush 11 days ago
    Productivity is an overloaded operator.

    One of the best methods I have in my personal inventory requires pen and sketchbook ("notebook without ruled lines") and revolves around keeping detailed, artful checklists and sequences that can easily be turned into checklists, present and floating in the front of my mind. Easily accessible via briefcase/bag, always available for you in your idle moment.

    I think your question in the original post is more about how to structure your time investiture into your projects. No easy answer -- you must explore what works for you -- in general keep an outcome-oriented approach and focus on being extra productive in the Intensive Innovation Bursts that come with technological work. Productivity is not a jam that is spread evenly over the toast of work, it is more like a giant fruit that suddenly ripens and falls off a tree you spent many months cultivating.

  • andy_ppp 12 days ago
    Pair programming. It’s so much better for loads of reasons but having two brains focused together creates more focus.
    • nemetroid 12 days ago
      My team has started using pomodoro timers specifically for pair programming. It’s difficult to gauge each others’ focus levels, so we use it to err on the safe side with frequent breaks.
  • oDot 12 days ago
    I follow my own "Spontaneous Productivity":

    https://blog.nestful.app/spontaneous-productivity/

    In short: Almost nothing is scheduled. The "what do to" is decided upon at the moment of doing. Defining granular enough tasks is a valid replacement to Pomodoro.

    This means a tool that always tells you "what's next" is needed, which is why I built https://Nestful.app.

    Nestful is undergoing heavy refactoring this month, and while data is safe and stable, features and bugs are not. If you like the idea but find the instability troubling, send a support request mentioning this and I'll waive a couple of months of payment.

  • 1123581321 12 days ago
    I do something similar to that FlowTime method where I write down what I’m working on and add a tally mark every time I’m interrupted.

    Have you encountered what’s called time-block planning or hyperscheduling?

    There are many of these ideas floating around; I wouldn’t say any is the standard.

    • fuzztester 12 days ago
      >Have you encountered what’s called time-block planning or hyperscheduling?

      IIRC (I read it a while ago), in his book, Rapid Development, Steve McConnell described timeboxing, which may be the same as time-block planning, which I had not heard of until now.

  • Matthew911 11 days ago
    Making time for yourself boosts your self-confidence and relieves stress. It positively impacts relationships with others and, more importantly, yourself. This article discusses the benefits of me time and the risks you might face if you ignore it - https://ivypanda.com/blog/make-time-for-me-time-who-needs-it....
  • teeeeeegz 11 days ago
    I did for rudimentary tasks and defaulted to 45mins focus / 15mins break time blocks.

    Recently jumped on the Flowmodoro train which has been helpful doing creative work (https://focusedwork.app has been great for this), since I can keep going until I really need a break and my breaks are a fraction of the time I spend focusing.

    But yeah Pomodoro is hard to use for anything that I need to focus on for a long period of time.

  • 331c8c71 12 days ago
    I fill a daily page of rocketbook planner as the day goes by (and in the morning).

    I almost never revisit the scans of these pages I fill daily (but i take dedicated separate notes when needed). Using the planner helps me to track time and to be productive as the day unfolds so the purpose is very much the same as the pomodoro.

    For me it works much better than pomodoro which is imo too much about micromanaging productivity and too little about the big picture (which matters the most in the end of the day).

  • garrickvanburen 12 days ago
    What’s the problem you’re trying to solve w/ Pomodoro?

    As I understand, Pomodoro’s purpose is to incrementally train you to stay on task for longer and longer durations.

    Is that not working for you or do you have a different goal?

    “The only technology that you need is deadlines“ - Paul Ford https://blog.jim-nielsen.com/2023/deadlines-as-technology/

  • mharig 12 days ago
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hvk_XylEmLo&pp=ygUgd29ya2luZyB...

    But apart from that, I personally need often 1 hour minimum to dive deeply into a problem and spend a considerable amount of time to begin or continue to solve it. I do not think that the pomodoro technique is apropriate for me.

  • paulcole 12 days ago
    > The Pomodoro is the default standard for productivity.

    According to who?

    > what are alternative methods to focused work and productivity?

    Set aside time at the beginning of your day to make a list of the things you want to do, prioritize that list and then do them.

    https://www.amazon.com/Work-Clean-life-changing-mise-en-plac...

    This book helped me quite a bit.

  • acchow 11 days ago
    Write down a list of tasks you need to do. Just a list. At least 5 or 10 of them should be very short (5 minutes max). If not, break down some of the larger ones into smaller ones.

    Now when you need to get stuff done, tell yourself you want to try doing a task and see how quickly you can get it done. It's a race! Glance at your list, and grab whatever grabs you the most. Start a timer. Race to the end.

  • muzzletov 8 days ago
    Kind of off-topic, but I wrote a pomodoro app that semi-forces me to comply with breaks, as it captures user input. https://github.com/muzzletov/Timer
  • coolThingsFirst 12 days ago
    Pomodoro to me is a sign that something is horribly wrong.

    When i have to resort to pomodoro i know Im burnt out or aren’t addressing issues of self care.

  • lukas099 12 days ago
    Work 2hr, break 1hr. Repeat as needed. That's what works for me personally.

    I suspect everyone has a different rhythm, or lack thereof.

    • contctlink 12 days ago
      break 1 hrs !
      • lukas099 12 days ago
        Yeah I work from 6am-5pm. I do other productive things during the breaks, though.
  • thisisit 11 days ago
    I read somewhere that the optimal flow time is 1.5 hrs and Pomodoro's short duration breaks it. So, I set a timer and block all distracting sites. That's all. If I feel like working. I do it. If not, I just sit and do nothing. So, it doubles as a dopamine free zone as well as productive zone.
  • nicbou 11 days ago
    The vacation responder technique.

    I tell everyone that I'm on vacation, set the vacation responder and all, and enjoy a few weeks of quiet productivity.

    Or the tea timer technique, which is just 1-hour periods, with longer breaks where I make tea, clean up, stretch, etc. This works better than short Pomodoros for me.

  • leros 11 days ago
    I do something like the Pomodoro technique but I keep working until I lose focus, then I take a break. I find that Pomodoro often cuts into my flow state.

    That being said, Pomodoro is great for trudging through work I don't want to do and can't get into flow state for.

  • highhedgehog 10 days ago
    Pomodoro for me doesn't work. I find that interrupting every 25 mins distracts me and then I need to spend energy to go back into what I was doing.

    My go to is having 1-1:30 hour sessions where I am really focused and don't get distracted.

  • turnsout 12 days ago
    I used to do a version of Pomodoro quite often. Now I find I get better results by turning off WiFi.
  • bowsamic 12 days ago
    In my experience pomodoros are usually best for things like revision and mundane studying. If you need it for your normal work then it's probably more of a psychological issue either internally arising or based on problems in the environment
  • eclectic29 12 days ago
    Did you try it? Did it work for you? I would first try it before looking for alternatives. This is what is called analysis-paralysis. You're simply wasting your precious time looking for alternatives without even giving it a shot.
    • Apocryphon 11 days ago
      Who’s to say I haven’t tried it already?
  • beretguy 12 days ago
    I just take a break when I get tired. The break is as long as I feel like it.
    • mrspuratic 12 days ago
      This. And in summertime I go tend to the tomato plants in my greenhouse, so I refer to it as my pomodoro technique.
  • fuzztester 12 days ago
    Have you tried Pomodoro yourself and found issues with it?
  • hnthrowaway0328 10 days ago
    Pomodoro IMHO is good for boring stuffs. It doesn't make sense to use it on in depth study, at least for me.
  • ltadeut 12 days ago
    None.

    Just schedule the work you need to do and have some standards for yourself and keep working on it.

    If you feel tired after a while you can train yourself to push through it if you really want to. Anyone who's ever run, lifted weights, done martial arts, etc, will tell you your real limit is well beyond your feelings.

    If you're still tired, take a break, get a tea or a coffee and just go back to work.

    The secret to get work done is to just sit down and do the work. Get used to being bored.

  • m000 12 days ago
    Anecdotally, salary raises work much better than Pomodoro for productivity. At least for the first few months.
  • haq2049 11 days ago
    First post, so I'll try to make it useful.

    I base my studies on how the ancient scholars studied. In my opinion, the The Scholastics, also known as Schoolmen, marks the pinnacle of intellectual productivity and focus.

    1. Stop speed reading

    2. Stop listening to music or background noise

    3. Stop taking frequent breaks

    4. Spend more time reflecting vs moving on

    5. Hit the "Runner's High of the Mind"

    Speed reading is a curse of the modern age. If we analyze scholars of the past, we'd find that they were actually reading at talking speed. It wasn't until much more recently that people studied and read quietly to themselves. Walter Ong discusses this at exactly at 1:00:00 in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2Z7ezRpz1c

    There is no such thing as "focus music" or "music for studying". It's all a distraction. Research repeatedly show that music is detrimental to study. If you're still unconvinced, then let me put it another way for you: How many "renaissance men" studied with music? The answer is: zero

    Reading a lot of books, articles, etc. does not make you smarter. Reflection is where real knowledge is created. The reflection processes forces one to recollect, which is crucial to solidifying whatever it is you learned into your memory so that it can be readily retrieved and used in the formation of new ideas. This is why hyperfocus always triumphs scattered focus, and why it is far better to study single subjects at a time over a span of months or years, rather than mixing up your days with many studies. Ultimately, the reason that reading lots of stuff doesn't make you smart is because nothing actually solidifies, so everything you read is more akin to entertainment than actual studying. Seneca discusses this: https://fs.blog/seneca-on-reading/ So yeah...read fewer books, but study more deeply! Naturally, this means you should be far more cautious as to what you should put your time towards reading.

    Taking frequent breaks, as encouraged by Pomodoro, actually hinders your thinking. William James wrote about this in Energies of Men and calls it "Second Wind". It's like a runner's high for the mind. There comes a difficult point in our studies where we give up and take a break. The idea is to push beyond this point to reach a new state of thinking. We rarely are able to do it, but everyone has done it at some point in their life. The issue is sustaining it. You can read a little on it here: https://www.themarginalian.org/2015/06/15/william-james-the-...

  • ryanwaggoner 12 days ago
    Focusmate.com - life changing
  • launchiterate 12 days ago
    find your calling
    • coolThingsFirst 12 days ago
      Yup this is it.

      What we love to do doesn’t need pomodoros.

  • NoCoding_Life 11 days ago
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  • aaron695 11 days ago
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  • BigParm 11 days ago
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  • chettriyuvraj 11 days ago
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  • thimp 12 days ago
    I don't know why people obsess about ritualising this stuff. Just have a todo list and put dates on stuff and train yourself to pick up tasks off it properly. I'm just using Apple Reminders. Is on my phone and mac. Works with Siri.

    It's fine to stop doing things. It's fine to procrastinate sometimes. Sometimes you need a time out on schedule. Forcing yourself to be productive leads to crap. Give yourself a break :)

    • lukas099 12 days ago
      That works for you and that is great. Other things work for other people.
    • tra3 11 days ago
      Ritual leads to repeatable results, hopefully.
    • mklepaczewski 11 days ago
      You don't understand the problem because you don't experience it. Imagine spending decades of your life running on 30% of your capabilities. Advising chronic procrastinators to "just do it" is as effective as telling a person with depression to just think positively.

      Nitpick: it's never a good time to procrastinate. Procrastination, by definition, is bad. You might be confusing procrastination with leisure time. I agree though, that people go overboard with trying to be productive and fail to include leisure time in their schedule.

      • 331c8c71 11 days ago
        > Imagine spending decades of your life running on 30% of your capabilities.

        It seems to me that someone suffering from procrastination would also be very likely to have insufficient self-esteem and self-shaming tendencies. IMO it would be hence more appropriate to use more neutral or compassionate statements like "imagine spending decades of your life focusing on goals different from your current ones" or "imagine spending decades of your life trying to be productive only to be caught in negative thought patterns". Sentences like the one you wrote might give one a short-term boost but the real improvement comes from acceptance of self and the past as well as from serenity and calmness (imo).