I tried the popular Pomodoro technique to improve my productivity, but it just made it worse — here's why

I tried the popular Pomodoro technique to improve my productivity, but it just made it worse — here's why
The Pomodoro technique says to follow intervals of working for 25 minutes and resting for five minutes.Santiaga/Getty Images

As the founder and sole employee of my business, I don't have higher-ups holding me to deadlines, so it's up to me to be productive and focused to make sure all of my work gets done.

I tried the popular Pomodoro technique to improve my productivity, but it just made it worse — here's why
Author Jen Glantz.Daphne Youree

But when I was stuck at home all day and night in the early days of the pandemic, I found myself getting distracted constantly, whether by household chores or the TV on in the background.

When I mentioned to a friend that I was getting less done and picking up bad work habits, she recommended trying out the popular Pomodoro Technique, which she said helped her be more productive and get through all of her daily tasks.

The Pomodoro Technique works like this: You pick one single task and work on it in intervals where you focus for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break, and repeat that cycle until the task is done.

I committed to trying this out for one week, but in the end, I found it to be ineffective for my work needs and a waste of time. Here's why.


1. I couldn't get in the zone

To make sure I was following this technique properly, I set a timer on my phone for 25 minutes. When the timer went off, I would stop the task and walk around for five minutes.

The problem was, when I start working on a task, I usually need a few minutes just to clear my head and settle in before I can get started. With the Pomodoro technique, I found that I wasn't able to get focused until about seven to 10 minutes into my 25-minute work interval. Then, by the time I was in the zone, the timer would go off and I'd have to stop what I was doing.

2. The breaks were too short

When I learned about this technique, I was most excited about the forced breaks, because during a typical work day I'd often find myself sitting in one spot for two to three hours straight.

But as promising as the five-minute breaks seemed, they were too short for me to do anything except walk a few circles around my apartment or scroll through my phone.

Usually, I'd take a 20 to 30 minute break to go for a walk outside, sit and eat lunch, or even take a power nap. These short five-minute breaks just had me scrolling on social media more than I did before.


3. It was hard to regain focus

After the short breaks ended, I'd then be faced with the tough task of sitting back down again and trying to regain focus on a partially completed task. I found that as the intervals went on, coming back after each break to work on the same task again became harder and harder to do.

As the week went on, I started to skip breaks. I'd work for 45 minutes or an hour and then take a 15-minute break. Then, I skipped the breaks all together and worked either until I lost focus or finished the task.

It seemed like less structure worked better for me and my productivity, and this forced interval approach just hurt my focus more than it needed to.

4. It took longer than usual to finish each task

In the end, I found that the Pomodoro Technique made many of my tasks take longer than they should have. I spent more time trying to settle back into my desk chair and focus on what I was doing than I used to by just getting through the task at my normal rate, without the forced pauses.

I'm glad I tried the Pomodoro technique out, but in the end it didn't work for me. Instead, I found that simply silencing my phone and refraining from browsing irrelevant websites helped me to be more focused and knock off tasks on my to-do list faster.