You’ve likely heard of and even tried many time management systems and productivity techniques, such as the Pomodoro technique. But if the Pomodoro technique didn’t work for you, a variation known as the Flowtime technique may be a better fit. Here we’ll explore the Flowtime technique and how you can use it to improve time management.

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What is the Flowtime technique?

The Flowtime technique is a time management method for creatives, students, professionals, and anyone else aiming to improve their concentration. It involves selecting a task and working on it until you hit a wall. Then you simply repeat the steps until you’ve completed the job.

Teacher Zoe Read-Bivens created the Flowtime technique to help increase productivity. The goal is to help prevent intrusive thoughts, stress about personal duties, and other workflow disruptions when working on a task.

While this technique sounds simple, it’s proven effective for those struggling with time blocking and other strict time-based methods. The idea is to have each individual focus on a task at their own pace and take breaks when they get too tired — not when a calendar or timer tells them to.

Let’s take a look at how the Flowtime approach stacks up with a time management method like the Pomodoro technique.

Pomodoro technique vs. Flowtime technique

If you want to understand more about how the Flowtime technique can help you, consider the differences between this and the Pomodoro technique. First, let’s start with the Pomodoro technique.

The Pomodoro technique comes from Francesco Cirillo, who developed the method in the 1980s. He came up with the name based on the Italian word for “tomato,” as the kitchen timer he used to keep track of his progress resembled a pomodoro.

Cirillo found he worked best when completing 25 minutes of work before taking a brief five-minute break. Users can repeat four “Pomodoros”  before taking an extended 20-minute break. The user then continues this cycle until they’ve completed all of their tasks for the day.

The Pomodoro technique works for some. But like any other technique, it’s not for everyone. Instead, some find the Flowtime technique to be a viable alternative.

Creative professional using the Flowtime technique to complete tasks

The main issue with this technique pertains to the strict time frames. The Pomodoro technique might be ideal for completing many tasks you’re simply trying to get out of the way, from chores to taxes. However, it’s not often suitable for completing tasks that involve problem-solving, innovation, or creativity.

In some instances, the 25-minutes of work and five minutes of break time are problematic. For some projects, this isn’t enough time to enter the flow state. For other projects, it might be more than enough.

It’s important to remember that the proper conditions for productivity are unique to each of us as people. We all work on different projects at our own pace. The Flowtime technique allows you to choose how much time you want to focus on a single task.

Taking control of the way you work can improve your workflows and help you create healthier productivity habits. But before you customize it to your liking, let’s take a look at the basics of the Flowtime technique.

How to use the Flowtime technique

If you want to implement the Flowtime technique effectively, you can do so by taking the following steps:

  1. Avoid multitasking by selecting a specific task. If you have a long to-do list, you can divide it into different tasks to complete throughout the workday. Planning your work can help you eliminate distractions and become better at unitasking.
  2. Choose a specific start time for the job. Start by picking a start time for each task on your list.
  3. Don’t stop until you’re either distracted or too tired to continue. You may also find that unexpected interruptions keep you from focusing. 
  4. Record the end time for the task. Once you get too tired to continue or something disrupts your flow state, write down the time you stopped and the total time you worked on the task.
  5. Keep track of potential distractions. If you find that distractions keep you from focusing on the task, write them down and keep them in mind. You may be able to take steps to prevent them.
  6. Decide on a break period. Mandatory break periods are a must, but you have more flexibility with the Flowtime technique over the Pomodoro technique. Whether you choose an eight-minute, 10-minute, 15-minute, or longer break, choose one that’s right for you while avoiding procrastination.
  7. Repeat the process. You can repeat the Flowtime technique as much as you need to until you’ve completed your to-do list for the workday.
  8. Use a time-tracking app to help optimize your workflow. Similar to a Pomodoro timer, you can use a time-tracking app to keep track of work and break periods. This practice can help you decide the ideal time frames for each task. You can download these apps to Android or iOS devices for more convenience.

Advantages and disadvantages of the Flowtime technique

Although the Flowtime technique is potentially a more helpful productivity system than the Pomodoro technique, it does have its share of pitfalls. Here we’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of using this technique to improve your workflows.

Advantages

There are a few key advantages of using the Flowtime technique, including

Personalization

For some people, structured work and break times are simply ineffective. Scheduling challenges, behavioral needs, and even the nature of your work can dictate your ability to focus.

The Flowtime technique allows you to customize your workflow around your strengths. This could prove more effective than the Pomodoro and other time management strategies that use fixed intervals.

Improved estimation of time

With more varied time frames for each task, you can better gauge how to manage work periods, plan for free time, and avoid procrastination.

Improved overall focus

Certain jobs will require total concentration. Using the Flowtime technique, you can focus more on the tasks you need to complete and take breaks only when necessary. This ultimately increases efficiency.

Employee trying out the Flowtime technique to improve focus

Disadvantages

The Flowtime technique may have its advantages, but it does have some potential cons to keep in mind. When considering the Flowtime technique, keep in mind that: 

It requires sufficient planning

You must know what tasks you need to complete and when you need to complete them. This method also requires effectively prioritizing your to-do lists based on the importance and urgency of tasks.

Optimizing time frames and breaks is time-consuming

Unlike other techniques with a set time for work and break periods, the Flowtime technique requires fine-tuning when selecting the best time frame.

You won’t automatically know when to take a break or how long those breaks should be. Depending on your level of exhaustion and the distractions you experience, you may need to figure out your ideal work schedule.

In short, your first few times using the Flowtime technique may be less productive than other time management techniques like the Pomodoro method.

It may not work with less predictable schedules

If your schedule isn’t predictable enough to benefit from setting specific time frames, you may need to use a more flexible productivity technique.

For example, you might be on call and experience frequent distractions at unexpected times. It can be hard to gauge workflows using the Flowtime technique in that situation.

Final thoughts on the Flowtime technique

The Flowtime technique has the potential to increase focus and productivity. When properly integrated into your workflows, you can use this technique to optimize your work schedule and minimize potential distractions.

You’ll also benefit from generally better time management. The key is knowing how to get the most from this technique.

Do you want some help getting started with the Flowtime technique? Use Hubstaff’s template to begin planning your time frames today.

Or use our time-tracking app to start tracking your work periods and breaks. You’ll have tangible data to help you build a fixed work and break schedule to better budget your time.