Modifying the Pomodoro Technique to fit your needs might be the solution to disorganization or hyperfocus if you have ADHD.
Feeling overwhelmed with tasks and having difficulty managing time occasionally happens to everyone. But if you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or tend to be disorganized, this can be a daily struggle.
Maybe you’ve tried using daily planners, only to toss them into the trash out of frustration. Or perhaps you have dozens of organizational apps on your phone, all of which have failed miserably to do the thing they promised — manage your time.
Aside from planners and apps, another time management tool for ADHD called the Pomodoro Technique can help. Still, you might need to adapt it to your specific work style for this method to be successful.
The Pomodoro Technique is a straightforward six-step method for creating focused time. It is like time blocking, only it uses a timer to indicate short or longer breaks during a task.
Francesco Cirillo invented the Pomodoro Technique in the late 1980s. “Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato, representing Cirillo’s tomato shape to implement his technique.
Here’s how it works:
- Choose the assignment, task, or work project you want to complete.
- Set a timer to 25 minutes and plan on spending uninterrupted time working on the task.
- Work continuously until the timer stops.
- When the timer stops, pause the task and place a checkmark on a piece of paper to indicate you’ve completed one Pomodoro cycle.
- Take a short 5-minute break from the task. Then, when you begin work again, set the timer for another 25 minutes.
- After 4 Pomodoro cycles, take a longer 20- to 30-minute break.
Why it works
The ability to remain focused on tasks is essential for effectively navigating daily life. However, according to research, humans have an attention span from 8 seconds to 15 minutes, so time management is critical.
The Pomodoro Technique breaks up long stretches of task work into smaller, more managed time blocks to align with your brain’s sustained attention abilities. Still, the suggested task time/break time may not work for everyone.
Using the Pomodoro Technique for ADHD may be helpful because it structures tasks into short bursts of focus time. It also sets a time limit for work, which can help prevent hyperfocus on a specific task for too long.
Still, for people with ADHD, shifting into focus mode may take a bit longer, so the 25-minute work time allotted in the Pomodoro Technique may not be enough. For others, shorter task times followed by brief breaks of only a minute or 2 is the solution.
If you live with ADHD, you know yourself best, so don’t be afraid to modify the timed sessions to fit your work style.
For folks who have a hard time taking breaks
Taking breaks can be difficult for some people, even when signs of fatigue are present.
If you experience this and want to manage your time more productively, the Pomodoro Technique can help by giving you a visual and audible signal to pause for a few minutes to rest, recharge, and refresh.
But what if the timer goes off and you feel like you want to keep going?
If you find this happening often, you might consider modifying the length of time between breaks. The trick is identifying when your attention usually starts to wane and setting the timer to stop just before that point.
For people who have a hard time starting tasks
Sometimes time management problems happen because you have difficulty mustering up the desire to begin the task. To help with this, you could think about the Pomodoro Technique as a procrastination preventer.
For example, because the task is timed, you could say to yourself, “OK, I only have to do this task for 25 minutes, and then I can take a break.” This might help spur the motivation to begin, especially if it’s a chore you’re not particularly interested in.
As you’re modifying the Pomodoro Technique, you may be tempted to change things up a bit too much. And this may cause it to lose its effectiveness.
Here are a few of the most common temptations you might experience and how to deal with them:
Why can’t I take longer breaks?
Longer breaks between focus sessions might work for you if you get back on task and into focus mode quickly. But if you struggle to transition between free time and work time, a more extended break might be counterproductive.
If I’m focused why shouldn’t I extend the task time?
Although your brain can process information during a lengthy task, one scientific review suggests maintaining sustained attention for too long can cause mental fatigue. This tiredness may lead to impaired cognitive function and possibly an increase in errors.
However, extending task time might be a better option if it takes you more time to acclimate to the task and shift into focus mode. In this case, giving yourself a few extra minutes to transition before setting the timer might be more effective.
Also, if you have ADHD, adhering to the timer can help prevent hyperfocus from hampering your ability to move on to other items on your to-do list.
What to do if I get interrupted or switch gears in the middle of a task?
Even during designated work time, disruptions can sometimes get in the way. According to one study, these roadblocks can be challenging to overcome and may lead to errors in your work.
If you have diverted off your chosen task, try not to feel defeated. Instead, consider taking a minute to regroup and then work toward getting back on track as soon as possible.
Although the Pomodoro Technique is ideal for some, others with ADHD experience more productivity when they delve into hyperfocus mode without interruptions.
The bottom line with ADHD time management tools like the Pomodoro Technique is to allow yourself to play around with it until it meets your unique work style.
However, if you are still having difficulty managing time and need more insight on living with ADHD symptoms, these resources can help:
If you have ADHD, tend to overwork, or struggle with managing your time, there are solutions that can work for you.
The Pomodoro Technique is one method worth looking into, as it helps structure tasks into manageable time blocks. It also may help you avoid hyper-focusing on one activity for too long.
However, feel free to modify it to fit your personality and work style. When personalized to meet your needs, it might be the ideal solution to your time management challenges.