Why This Productivity Hack Doesn’t Work (and What To Do Instead)

When it comes to maximizing your productivity potential at home, at work, and everywhere in-between, do you find yourself falling a little bit short of your expectations?

If the answer is yes, then rest assured… you’re not alone!

On Episode 136 of the podcast this week, we’re tackling the concept of productivity itself—and why it may have failed you at one point or another. And while we touch on a lot of reasons that could be behind any of your #productivityfails of the past (or present), there’s one productivity “hack” buzzing around the Internet that I would like to go into a little bit more depth here and that I have found is one of the biggest root causes of most of the productivity pitfalls that so many of us fall into from time to time.

That hack—or technique, rather—is called the Pomodoro Technique.

Now, some of you may already be familiar with what the Pomodoro technique entails based on what you have heard from the rumor mill or from your own experience with it, but for those of you who may be new to the “productivity hack” game, then let me share some insight into exactly what the technique is… what it definitely is not… and what you can do instead to truly boost your productivity and get ahead of the game when it comes to your workload and any of your professional or personal goals.

Still with me? Let’s get started!


What the Pomodoro Technique Is

In a nutshell, the Pomodoro technique, which was created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, is considered a time management strategy that requires the use of a timer to break down work into intervals—usually of 25 minutes in length each.

Each interval is called a “pomodoro” (fun fact: the Italian word for tomato, inspired by Cirillo’s own kitchen timer that was shaped like a tomato), and is separated by a short break of about 5 minutes.

After four intervals have passed (i.e. 100 minutes of actual work), the strategy calls for you to take a 15-20-minute break to give yourself a chance to hit the Refresh button before digging in again.

What the technique claims to do is to give you a chance to maximize your focus while maintaining a bit of “creative freshness” so that you are able to complete work that requires optimum focus—without the mental fatigue or burnout that long periods of focused work often brings about.

Sounds pretty nice on paper, right? Most shortcuts, or hacks, usually do!

But I’m here to tell you right now that, despite the cult following that the Pomodoro technique has gained over the last few decades, it’s not at all what it’s cracked up to be.

Now, let’s take a look at what the Pomodoro technique isn’t, and why it just might promise you more than it can deliver… and wind up failing you in your quest for better productivity as a result.


What the Pomodoro technique IS NOT

Here’s the thing… While I will happily admit that there are some aspects of the Pomodoro technique that I like (i.e. that it gets you in the mindset of mono-tasking on one project by using time blocks and that it forces you to take breaks), let me break down some of the things that I truly don’t enjoy about the Pomodoro technique.

In short? It doesn’t allow any room for individuality! It’s one of those rigid, “one size fits all” tricks that promises a lot, but in actuality… delivers very little in the long-term. And here’s why:

Research has shown that most people’s brains don’t get into a deeper work state until about 23 minutes, which basically means that you’re only allowing yourself 2 minutes of truly focused work before your timer goes off to signal the end of your pomodoro and the start of a short break.

In effect, the theory just doesn’t take into consideration how the human brain works so that we can truly get our brains working at peak capacity, making things even easier.

Another point of my contention with the Pomodoro Technique? Simple.

As I mentioned before, it’s just far too rigid in that it doesn’t always work for real life when you apply it to your day-to-day activities. For far too many of us, it can be really difficult to find a bunch of consecutive, uninterrupted 25-minute chunks of time—especially during the work day!


What to do Instead to Boost Your Productivity

Again, while I truly love the concept of mono-tasking and of scheduling blocks of time into your day so that you can do some serious, focused work…

Instead of utilizing a method as rigid as the Pomodoro technique, it’s important that you create your own customized system that works best for you (your needs, your working style, and so on) and that puts YOU and YOUR priorities front and center.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to first, find your ideal planning system, and then to take a peek at your schedule and put the concept of time-blocking to good use. Beyond that, I recommend taking advantage of what I like to call the Priority List.

And while we go into this in more depth on the podcast this week (spoiler alert: I’ve recently updated the priority category names that I’ve used on my priority lists in the past to make your tasks and priorities even easier to keep track of!), for the sake of recapping here…

A priority list is essentially a to-do list—but with intention. It’s about thoughtfully putting items on your list so that you can truly make an impact on your day, and on your life as a whole…

Because when you focus on what is truly important every day, it becomes a small stepping stone towards the big impact that you’re aiming for!

And that’s the point about taking measures to boost our productivity, right? To take small steps each day that will ultimately make a big impact when it comes to transforming life as we know it now—for the better.


Have any #productivityfails of your own that you might like to share? We’ve all been there at one point or another! Feel free to offer up your experiences in the comments below…

And definitely check out Episode 136 of Productivity Paradox this week to learn even more about why productivity may have failed you in the past and exactly what you can do to set yourself up for REAL success in the future.

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton