Today, there is no shortage of “productivity hacks” that promise to time management method similar to the flowtime technique as an alternative to the Pomodoro. The Pomodoro Technique is one of the most popular and effective of these tools. This time management strategy recommends scheduling work sessions of 25 minutes with 5-minute breaks in between.
The central idea is based on the observation that after 25 minutes of nonstop work, most people need to take a break to regain their concentration. However, there is a flaw in that reasoning: no two jobs are exactly alike. Further, no two individuals are alike. This means that there is no such thing as a universally applicable system for increasing productivity. However, there exists an alternative that is more adaptable and can be tailored to your needs. Learn the ins and outs of the Flowtime Technique so you can start getting more done right away.
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Why Do People Use Flowtime and How Does It Work?
However, the Flowtime Technique has been around for quite some time, even if it isn’t as well-known as the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a natural offspring of the Pomodoro technique in many respects. Zoe Read-Bivens came up with it to address some of the problems she had while employing the Pomodoro method.
She discovered that working in 25-minute blocks disrupted her flow (the state of being completely absorbed in the task at hand) and, rather than helping her productivity, actually hampered it. To address this issue, she set out to develop a method that would allow her to enter and remain in a state of productive flow while retaining the advantages of the Pomodoro Technique.
An Overview of the Flowtime Method
The first step in implementing the Flowtime Technique is to make a timesheet to keep track of your work hours. You can use a spreadsheet or do it by hand, whichever is more practical for you. Start your timesheet with the following column headers:
- Name of Task
- Time Begun
- Time Ending
Scheduled Work Hours and Rest Periods
The timesheet will be your primary tool for keeping tabs on your workday activities and finding a rhythm that works for you. Once everything is set up, you can begin using it as follows:
Pick an Activity
Choose an activity you’d like to complete as a starting point. It needs to be well-defined, and it must be something you can realistically accomplish in the time allotted. To rephrase, don’t go with something like “paint my house” as your first option. Pick something like, “I want you to paint my front door.” Choosing a task that is too broad can make it hard to stay focused. Therefore, try to chunk up your task into more manageable chunks.
Get to Work on Your Assignment
Working on your assignment is the next step. Fill out your timesheet’s project field with the name of the project you’ll be working on. Then, write down the time you plan to begin working. There is only one rule to follow once you begin working: do not switch between tasks. That way, you can concentrate on the tasks at hand and avoid unnecessary interruptions.
Keep Going Until You Can’t Go On
Afterward, you’re free to spend as much time as you like on your assigned task. After 15 minutes, you should stop working and rest. Likewise, if you find yourself in a particularly fruitful zone and find yourself working for an uninterrupted hour, that is perfectly acceptable. The point is to recognize your habits and schedule your work accordingly. Concentrate on them for shorter periods of time if you find that you can’t stay on task for long. If you find yourself distracted by other activities, you can still get the most done by focusing on the original task at hand for as long as you are able.
About 90 minutes is probably the longest you’ll be able to go without stopping. Our brains go through cycles of activity and rest that correspond to these times of day, and these cycles are called our Ultradian Rhythms. Numerous studies have shown that incorporating short breaks into the workday results in greater productivity. This is why the Pomodoro Technique includes breaks that you must take. However, there is proof that the Flowtime method of breaks, which is less regimented, is just as effective. In a recent experiment, a technology firm allowed workers to take an hour-long break whenever they liked, and the result was a 23% increase in output (with no additional incentives).
Take a Break of Sufficient Length
If you feel the need to pause for a while, do so whenever it is convenient for you. To keep things straight, just note your break time where it should go on your timesheet. You’re free to take a break of any length, but don’t take advantage of the situation. If you don’t, your breaks will quickly become the most important part of your day.
Take a five-minute break for every 25 minutes you work, and make those breaks proportionally longer if you need them. Set a timer to remind yourself to get back to work at the appropriate interval. Remember to note the time you returned to work after your break and the total time you were away from the office.
Make a Note of Interruptions as They Occur
There will inevitably be moments of distraction while you’re working. A phone call, an important email, or even the need to go to the restroom can all count as such an interruption. Put the time these things take up in the “interruptions” section of your timesheet. Try to limit interruptions as much as possible without completely shutting out the world.
One reason is that you’re not very likely to be successful, and another is that the things that distract you will often be more important than what you’re trying to accomplish. Instead of trying to force yourself to ignore interruptions, it’s better to deal with them as they arise.
Keep Going Until the Job Is Done
Simply keep doing what you have been doing until the tasks at hand are finished. Make sure to keep track of the exact time you stop working on each task. One option is to add up the time spent on each task as you complete them; another is to do the summation at the end of the day.
It’s not important how you break down your time, just that you don’t have any big omissions. When finished, your timesheets will be an invaluable tool in helping you design a work schedule that makes the most of each workday.
Guidelines for Filling Out Timesheets
You should keep track of your work and break times every day for more than just the fact that it will keep you focused on your work and breaks. The idea is that as you keep track of your time, a picture of your ideal daily schedule will emerge.
Take some time at the end of each week to review your timesheets and see if they match up. It’s possible that you’ll notice some repeating trends. Some people find that they are most productive in the morning, while others find that the afternoon is when they are most easily distracted. You can use this data to better prepare for the days to come.
Clustering your most vital tasks during your peak times is a good rule of thumb. Setting aside uninterrupted time is especially helpful for more involved tasks like reviewing property records. When you know you’ll be interrupted frequently, it’s best to save your less urgent tasks for then. For this reason, you will know exactly when to get back to people via email or phone. You’ll be more efficient overall, and your work will be better for it.
Key Parallels Between Flowtime and the Pomodoro Technique
You might see some parallels between the Pomodoro Technique and the Flowtime Technique if you’re familiar with its structure and methodology. This, as we have already established, is on purpose. Three essential elements of the Pomodoro Technique have been carried over into the Flowtime Technique:
Tracking Time Accurately
The Pomodoro Technique’s widespread success can be attributed, in part, to the fact that it establishes a strict framework for monitoring one’s time spent on a given task. By forcing yourself to break up your workday into 25-minute chunks, you will become keenly aware of the tasks at hand and the efficiency with which you are completing them. Simply keeping track of your time in this way helps you avoid squandering valuable working hours. This advantage is also offered by the Flowtime Method.
Dispensing With the Ability to Perform Multiple Tasks
Using the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll pick a project to focus on for 25-minute intervals. You’ll have a much easier time staying focused because you’ll know exactly what you need to get done from the moment you start the timer ticking.
Even though the Flowtime Technique does not require the use of a timer, the act of writing down your task does the same thing. As soon as you start keeping track of how long you’ve been working on a specific task, you’ll be more likely to stay on it until it’s done or you’ve reached your break time limit.
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Enabling Rest Periods
Exhaustion is a leading cause of lost productivity, and numerous studies have shown that taking regular breaks is crucial to preventing burnout and restoring productivity. This is the true genius behind the Pomodoro Technique’s widespread acclaim; by requiring fixed intervals of break time, it ensures that they will be taken.
In contrast, the Flowtime Technique recommends that you take frequent breaks. When you aren’t ready to take one, it won’t force you to. Accordingly, the Flowtime Technique calls for some extra self-discipline on the part of its users. But if you can pay attention to a timer, you can certainly learn to listen to the cues your body gives you when it needs a break.