To focus or not to focus, that is the productivity trick 🧘

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

Early this week, when I started a discussion to see if people find productivity timers helpful, I didn't find anyone strongly advocate their use. Even I've never been a big fan of productivity techniques.

But I've found some parts to be appealing & useful. It's particularly helped to know why certain things work well for me so that I can consciously do those things.

So I am going to share very specific points I've learnt & found useful. If you have something more to add or if you disagree, pour in your thoughts below.


Hyperfocus is when you have deep & intense concentration on only one topic or task. We typically want to be in a hyperfocus state while doing the most critical tasks in a day.

As you would already know, it is tough to achieve this given the numerous distractions & the natural tendency of our brain to wander. So it helps to -

1. Have realistic # of times you want to achieve hyperfocus in a day, say 2-3 bouts

2. Get rid of all distractions when you want to focus

3. Take breaks


Work for 25 mins, then break for 5 mins. Each 25-min work period is called a 'pomodoro'. After 4 'pomodoros' (100 mins of work, 15 mins of break), take a 15-20 min break.

Sounds easy? Only that it isn't so practical.

Stopping after 25 mins especially when you're in a hyperfocus state (say you're in the middle of writing a blog or fixing a bug) is going to be tough and well, unproductive. This is also why a lot of people quit using these timers - Alda for testimony πŸ˜Ž

So there are 2 workarounds here -

1. Figure the duration of work period that works for you & configure it. Feel free to vary it even daily.

2. Use pomodoro for tasks that aren't variable or don't need you to have extreme focus e.g. clearing your inbox, documentation etc.


Ever wondered why you sometimes get the best ideas when you're the most distracted? Say while taking a shower or doing the most mundane tasks e.g. washing dishes.

It isn't coincidence but just the way our mind works. Our brain's natural tendency is to wander or get distracted and this happens strongly when you're doing nothing or something boring. The good news is that this period of distraction helps you get recharged & be creative.

So you can consciously get distracted to be creative by -

1. Letting your mind roam freely & grasping whatever useful comes up (Capture mode)

2. Holding a problem loosely & thinking freely around it (Problem crunching mode)

3. Engaging in a simple, mundane task & get ideas as they come (Habitual mode)

Here's what our users had to say:

  • Eric Wilson said "I think of Pomodoros as "at least 25 minutes" because if I achieve a flow state, I'm going to ride that wave until it breaks. I'd like to see a Pomodoro app that allows / encourages this. I would call it "Pomoflowro" πŸ˜€ It should present an option after each pomodoro: "break" or "keep it going!" It would be cool to see how many "flow state pomodoros" were achieved from hitting "keep it going" and those could be colored yellow instead of red. Pomodoros are helpful in general because of the discrete units that allow for better goal-setting and planning. I can feel good about my day if I hit 8 pomodoros, and if I don't, it gives reason to reflect on what distractions entered my field of attention and whether I could have anticipated or controlled those better. And if my schedule seems to allow for 8 pomodoros, it gets me thinking about what I can reasonably fit in that time so that I prioritize better."

  • Cathy T said "Haha, I actually searched if there was a term called 'Pomoflowro' πŸ˜… Great perspective Eric! There you have it people - an actually novel take on the Pomodoro technique πŸ‘ Over the last year or so, I've seen so many Pomodoro timer apps launch on PH but the only difference I could see was in the interface. Your observation around 'flow state' directly tackles the problem @hrishikesh mentions here. I am curious, do you regularly use a Pomodoro timer? And do you have the interval configured beyond 25 mins?"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Interesting take on this Eric. Agree that Pomodoros surely help bring structure and you get actual numbers to see how productive a particular day was. Do you use anything for unstructured or creative thinking? I like the idea behind Scatterfocus but I not able to infuse it consciously in my daily schedule (or even few times a week). It's just that I know the concept but there's not much for me to act upon consciously."

  • Eric Wilson said "I use this one, which is simple and to the point: I leave it at 25m and when 25m passes, I know that I've banked a break that I can use as soon as I feel like I've reached a stopping point."

  • asyraf said "I use the Pomodoros technique, not 25 minutes.. but 1 hour per session and break time about 5-10 minutes doing nothing (sometimes I do plankπŸ˜‚)... I need to be in a Deep Work environment to laser focus on my task, so I put my phone away from my desk(another room)"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Ha, I love planks 😎Interesting points, Asyraf. What's your ideal deep focus environment? And how did you arrive at an interval of 1 hr?"

  • Alda Lima said "The plank during the break is an awesome idea, actually :)"

  • Azhar Shams said "From my experience, I'd suggest to use Pomodoro for daily cadence activities. As a marketer, I have a focused set of Tasks and then daily exercises. These daily exercises include, but are not limited to: Commenting on Twitter/LinkedIn posts, answers to questions on Quora, pushing out social media posts etc.  I completely agree with your point Hrishikesh and that is the reason I plan on taking a maximum of 4 Pomodoros (25 mins each) in a day.  In one Pomodoro, I stick to one daily exercise. This way, I am able to ensure, these daily exercises are not time consuming and not being missed.  But Pomodoro is a very efficient way to focus, this is because you are not multitasking. One big drawback of multitasking, which is scientifically proven is that it reduces productivity by 60% and IQ by 10 points.  One more technique I've recently read about is, don't see any screen during your 1st hour after you wake up and the last hour before you fall asleep. Have not tried this yet, but would love to know if anyone here has experienced it."

  • Cathy T said "Great point Azhar & aligns with what Hrishikesh said in #2. big drawback of multitasking, which is scientifically proven is that it reduces productivity by 60% and IQ by 10 points.  Haha, I'm going to plug this stat everywhere when I'm talking about focus or -ves of multi-tasking πŸ˜… don't see any screen during your 1st hour after you wake up and the last hour before you fall asleep. This is an interesting hack. I'm curious what @lindsayalissa @aldalima @scottpdawson @justin-465 have to say about this."

  • Alda Lima said "Haha, I'm still so bad at both! I can't believe multitasking actually decreases your IQ! 😳That's enough reason to stop doing it right this minute! I liked @azharshams-575 idea of using Pomodoro for activities like replying to comments, etc - that may give you some control over social media use and its interruption isn't a problem, like it could be for focused work. As for the no screen hack, I'm curious to try... maybe starting at night. Since I have clients in different time zones, by the time I wake up, it's almost lunchtime for a few clients and I always try to let them know I've at least read their email, if they sent one. But maybe waking up earlier, which is something I want to do, can help. πŸ€”"

  • Azhar Shams said "Would love to hear your experience once you've tried them out. :)"

  • Azhar Shams said "@cathyt, glad you found it useful. To set more context and help you validate it, this was discussed in the book Ikigai.  Would love to hear from them as well πŸ™Œ"