Being time-efficient and staying focused on tasks in a world full of distractions can be difficult, especially if you have ADHD. And sometimes, sticky notes or marked calendars aren't enough to help you manage your deadlines. If you’re looking for an efficient way to manage your time, try using the Pomodoro technique or Flowtime technique. They’re both simple but effective strategies that divide your workload into manageable pieces.
Whether you have ADHD or you struggle to focus on lengthy tasks, working in sprints can help you work smarter, not harder. You’re also less prone to burnout and stress when you become more intentional with your time. Spend less time stressing about work, and more time doing things you enjoy.
Use time management strategies like the Pomodoro and Flowtime techniques to make the most out of your time and boost your productivity. Let’s dive into these techniques to help determine which method is better for you.
How time blindness and hyper-focus impact those with ADHD
Many people with ADHD commonly experience “time-blindness” or are prone to hyper-focus. Hyper-focused activities include any task that can engage your maximum focus for long periods of time. You can be hyper-focused on scrolling through social media, watching TV, playing video games and more. Hyper-focusing goes hand-in-hand with time blindness, which is a lack of awareness of time passing. Both traits can make it difficult to manage your tasks each day, leading to procrastination and missed deadlines. While anyone can struggle with time management, adults with ADHD often have a different perception of time from others. ADHD impacts executive dysfunction, which makes it difficult to plan, organize, solve problems and manage time. If you have ADHD, you might struggle to anticipate future consequences and rewards because you're too focused on the present. But using strategies like the Pomodoro and Flowtime techniques can help overcome these challenges.
What is the Pomodoro technique?
The word “Pomodoro” actually means “tomato” in Italian because the creator of this technique (Francesco Cirillo) used a tomato-shaped egg timer to manage his time. However, the Pomodoro technique is a time management strategy of working in 25-minute intervals, separated by five-minute breaks. This technique is a simple and helpful tool to master your productivity. Here are the five steps to the Pomodoro method:
- Choose your task
- Work on the task for 25 minutes and avoid all distractions
- Take a 5-minute break for energy renewal
- Repeat this process 4 times to complete 4 pomodoros or time blocks
- Take a 20-30 minute break after 4 pomodoros
To get the most out of this method, there are a few rules to keep in mind. For example, you should treat each time block as indivisible units of time. Stick to the tasks you planned for each 25-minute sprint, or each pomodoro. If an unexpected task comes up, you can visit those tasks later after your planned pomodoros.The strategic use of breaks and alarms with the Pomodoro technique will help you avoid losing track of time or falling into hyper-focus mode. You can condition your mind to recognize each alarm as a cue point for the start or end of each sprint. If you have ADHD, it can be helpful to use different sounds for each alarm. This will help stimulate your brain to move on to the next break or task. Whether or not you have ADHD, the Pomodoro technique is a great way to keep track of time with alarms and timed sprints. If you can follow these simple rules, you'll find it easier to get your mind "in the zone" and accomplish your tasks in a timely manner.
Adjusting the Pomodoro technique to fit your needs
The Pomodoro Technique can be helpful for those with ADHD, but it’s not “one-size fits all.” For some people, the time limits of the Pomodoro technique may feel too rigid to meet their productivity needs. Others might find it difficult to focus on tasks for set time blocks. Or some might experience bursts of energy and focus in varying lengths of time. Try to customize the Pomodoro technique for your specific needs. You can modify the number of pomodoros you need, the amount of time for each, the length of your breaks and more. The key to finding the right time management system is to adjust each part to make it work for you.
Pomodoro technique vs. Flowtime technique
A great alternative version of the Pomodoro technique is the “Flowmodoro” method, or the Flowtime technique. With the Pomodoro, you use alarms and predetermined amounts of time to get things done. Using the Flowtime technique, you don’t need alarms or time blocks to work. Instead, you work for as long as you can focus. With the Pomodoro technique, the alarms might interrupt your ability to get into a “flow state”. When you’re in a flow state, you're fully engaged and immersed in a task for a long period of time. A flow state makes it easier to stay focused and productive.That’s where the Flowtime technique comes in. This method is perfect for those who feel limited or interrupted by Pomodoro’s constant alarms. The rule is to choose one main task to achieve your flow state in. Once you've chosen your task, start working on that task until you feel like you need a break. Give yourself more time to achieve a flow state without interruptions. And instead of focusing on a timer, prioritize maintaining your flow state. When you start feeling tired or distracted, take a break. The length of your break is entirely up to you.With the Flowtime technique, you're still breaking your tasks into pieces and rewarding yourself with breaks when you need them just like in Pomodoro. But because there’s no timer, Flowtime is a great alternative for those who need more time to become engaged and focused.
When to use the Pomodoro technique vs. Flowtime technique
If you don’t know whether to use Pomodoro or Flowtime, try using both techniques. You can split your time between using both techniques based on whether your tasks are “deep work” or “shallow work”.Deep work includes activities that require longer and deeper focus. These activities can push your cognitive abilities to their limits. Researching ideas, writing an article, coding, analyzing data, or creating art are all examples of deep work that require deep thinking and distraction-free concentration. If you have deep work to do, try using the Flowtime method. The Flowtime method allows you more flexibility and time to achieve a flow state for heavy-thinking tasks.Shallow work includes tasks that require less brainpower and are easy to replicate. This includes responding to emails, updating spreadsheets, or other organizational tasks. The Pomodoro method is a great strategy for these less demanding tasks because you can set a timer for each task and get them done quickly. Shallow work often doesn’t require long periods of focus, so you may not need a flow state to complete these tasks. When you're deciding between the Pomodoro or Flowtime technique, it’s important to understand the nature of each task. Does it require deep thinking, or can you complete it with less brainpower? Is this task your main priority for the day, or is it a smaller, less significant task? Keep these considerations in mind when structuring your schedule.
Tracking your progress
As you look for new ways to improve your time management skills, it’s important to keep track of your progress. This helps you evaluate your current productivity levels and identify areas that need adjustment. Tracking your progress can be as simple as keeping a journal or a spreadsheet. You can update these at the end of each day, or at the end of each week to see your progress. There are also many Pomodoro time management apps with built-in features to help you stay on track. Such apps can help you identify patterns in your productivity habits, set alarms and more.Some variables you can track are the length of each task, the length of your breaks, the number of sprints or even the number of distractions. After logging your progress for a week or two, you will start to notice patterns in your productivity.For example, after logging your pomodoros or flow times, you might notice that you are spending more time on shallow work than deep work. This means you should plan for more pomodoros and shorter breaks. Or you might notice that you encounter more distractions when you take shorter breaks. This indicates you should try taking longer breaks to reduce the number of distractions. Once you start noticing certain patterns in your time logs, start implementing changes to your strategy accordingly.Whether you decide to track your time using a digital app or pen and paper is up to you. The key is to keep track of your progress so you can fine-tune your time management strategy as you go.
Change your perspective on time management with productivity techniques
There’s no right or wrong answer to time management, but strategies like the Pomodoro and Flowtime techniques can help you navigate stressful workloads. As you start making changes, keep in mind that switching from a state of distraction to concentration isn't easy. Good habits take time and practice. Start making incremental changes to your habits, see what's working, and adjust as needed.If you’re struggling with ADHD, it might be helpful to talk with a mental health provider about time management strategies that work with your needs. At Ahead, our providers are ready to listen to your concerns and help you build a treatment plan that addresses all aspects of your mental health. They can even help you with practical strategies to help you boost your productivity and improve your wellness. With a personalized treatment plan, you’ll find it easier to accomplish your goals and get things done.