I have been using the pomodoro technique for a couple of weeks now and I came to realize that focusing on a single thing for 25 minutes without allowing any interruptions is no easy feat. So when I accomplished 16 pomodoros last Sunday, I was really proud of myself. However, the problem was that I actually did not take most of those 5-minute breaks which are as mandatory as the 25-minute runs.
Is that really a problem? One might argue that since pomodoro technique is all about getting more productive by “single-tasking”, as long as one is able to keep his focus, it should be OK to keep rushing the red light, so to speak.
Well, that’s not quite true. The 5 minute break is as important as the 25 minute work session. Here is why I think it is as important - if not more:
First of all, there is nothing magical about 25 or 5 minutes. While the occasional break from work is always welcome - to clear the mind and restore focus - I do believe that one can easily focus on one thing for, say 55 minutes which is the equivalent of two 25-minute work sessions plus a 5 minute break. So why bother stopping at the breaks? It is because the point the Pomodoro Technique is trying to make is different: The technique teaches you how to discipline the way you use the time available to you. The two typical failures of (1) not being able to go for 25 minutes and (2) not being able to stop and start again demonstrate fundamentally the same lack of discipline.
The bottomline is Pomodoro is all about discipline not endurance. So if you are ignoring the 5 minute rule, well, don’t. Follow the rules and learn to stop when you need to. You will find that it will take you to a new level of confidence in managing your time.