Is the Pomodoro Technique Effective for ADHD Entrepreneurs? - Phil Drinkwater Coach

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Is the Pomodoro Technique Effective for ADHD Entrepreneurs?

The Pomodoro Technique is regularly offered to ADHD individuals as a solution to their productivity challenges. But is it?
What we'll cover
ADHD can hinder your journey with entrepreneurship, which already has its own complications. Things like time management, focus and productivity are all things that can easily get in the way of your success.

One method that has been suggested to help navigate these challenges is the Pomodoro Technique. But how effective is this technique for entrepreneurs with ADHD? Let’s dive deeper into this concept.

Understanding the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The method is simple:

  1. Choose a task you want to work on.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (one “Pomodoro”).
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings.
  4. Take a five-minute break.
  5. After every fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

It wasn’t invented specifically for people with ADHD, but it’s commonly used as a method for time management and focus.

What is Burnout and Why Does the Pomodoro Technique Reduce It?

You may have heard of burnout, but what actually is it? Burnout is the result of the constant stress that your mind is under through prolonged periods of work without proper breaks. It’s a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion, like those days when you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck and have no idea why. While this is a normal experience, it kills productivity, as well as your motivation towards just about anything. As a consequence, your business and personal well-being suffers.

The Pomodoro Technique provides a solution to this problem. If used correctly, it provides regular breaks and prevents you from overworking yourself.

By breaking down work into smaller, manageable sprints, your likelihood of working yourself into unavoidable overwhelm is mitigated.

The Pomodoro technique gives you the opportunity to rest, recharge, and restore your motivation towards your work tasks.

How Might ADHD Entrepreneurs Benefit From This Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is beneficial to everyone, but it’s a goldmine for those with ADHD. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that’s marked by impulsivity, focus problems and hyperactivity. Therefore, entrepreneurs with ADHD have difficulties with time management, sustained attention towards tasks and lack of motivation.

The Pomodoro Technique, with its structured intervals of focus and rest, is a good resource for people that deal with these challenges.

For example, an entrepreneur could use the it to:

  1. Break down a large project into smaller, manageable tasks that can be completed in an interval.
  2. Clearly outline the task you’re going to complete during the Pomodoro session.
  3. Use break time to rest and recharge in whatever way works for you.
  4. Employ trial and error to track your process and adjust the Pomodoro sessions and break times according to your needs.

Anecdotal Evidence From Other Entrepreneurs

From social media research, other ADHD entrepreneurs that have used the Pomodoro Technique found it to be quite helpful.

One entrepreneur set a Pomodoro session for 20 minutes as a motivator to get them started on a new task they’d been avoiding.

The pressure to start, as well as the adrenaline rush from racing against the clock helped them to complete the task within the appropriate timeframe.

Another entrepreneur added that they sometimes skip the break time if they’re experiencing a positive work flow. They also adjusted the Pomodoro session in moments where the length of time felt too long, changing it to a 5 or 10 minute session. After that, they usually had enough motivation to do longer sessions once they started a task.

In addition to the solo benefits, this business founder also started to use it for group projects, as it gave the opportunity for check-ins and social chats during the break periods.

A third entrepreneur reported that the Pomodoro Technique helped reduce their feelings of overwhelm which caused them to procrastinate.

Because of this reduction in stress, they found that they never reached the point of mentally shutting down. They also noted that sometimes the breaks were an interruption to the positive workflow of an interesting task.

Not a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

While the Pomodoro Technique can be beneficial for some, it doesn’t work for everyone. As you’ve read, oftentimes it requires adjustment to work with individual needs. For some, other techniques may be more beneficial.

Some ADHD entrepreneurs experience better outcomes when they change the length of the work period or break time. In addition, others may experience more mental stress from a timer, negating the benefits that the Pomodoro Technique offers.

Through further research on social media, Reddit users reported their own experiences with the problems they had using the Pomodoro Technique.

  1. Trouble with task switching: Several users mentioned that they struggled to switch to other tasks after a period of focus. They found that a positive and productive work cycle was being displaced when the timer went off, almost causing a negative consequence.
  2. Inadequate break time: Some users felt that the 5-minute break time wasn’t enough time for them to fully relax or shut their minds off from the task at hand. When the break came, they couldn’t take their minds away from work, or even felt stressed from the pressure to relax before the break ended.
  3. Limited utility for complex tasks: Other users found that the Pomodoro Technique wasn’t a good option for complex tasks that couldn’t easily be broken down into smaller ones. Sometimes, there are tasks that require prolonged focus, and the technique doesn’t work for those. In short, they liked the technique for simple tasks, but not complex ones.

The Pomodoro Technique and Autism

Studies have shown that many people with ADHD may also lie on the Autism Spectrum. Consequently, individuals with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), seem to benefit greatly from the Pomodoro Technique as entrepreneurs. How does it work for them?

Much like people with ADHD, those with ASD also thrive off of structure with the addition of predictability. Breaking down tasks into manageable pieces reduces the anxiety and stress associated with larger tasks with an unforeseen finish line.

On the flip side, sometimes you’re simply not in the mood to do a certain task, and the stress of a timer make pushing yourself seem impossible and anxiety-inducing.

Should You Try It?

Despite mixed reviews, introducing the Pomodoro Technique into your routine is still worth a try for ADHD entrepreneurs. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Structure and Routine: The Pomodoro Technique provides a clear structure that can help manage time effectively.
  2. Overcoming Procrastination: The technique can help break the motivational barrier of getting started on a daunting task.
  3. Maintaining Focus: Where you otherwise might struggle with focus, the Pomodoro intervals might keep you on the task at hand and reduce possible distractions.
  4. Preventing Burnout: Burnout is a big problem, and the breaks that the Pomodoro Technique provides can both help you remember to take breaks as well as prevent burnout.

Summary of the Highs and Lows

Now, all of those highs and lows might be overwhelming to grasp, so let’s go over the major points.

The Pomodoro Technique serves as a valuable catalyst for some, mitigating the motivational barrier of starting new tasks and aiding in the indecision and organisation that many ADHD entrepreneurs struggle with.

Despite its benefits, opinions diverge regarding the utility of the timer for ADHD minds.

For some, the ticking clock serves as a buffer against the feelings of overwhelm and compartmentalises tasks into manageable portions of time, something that ADHD brains can’t do on their own.

Yet, for others, the rhythmic cadence of work and breaks is a disruption to workflows. It can interrupt a sprint of motivation and passion towards the project and encourage overwhelm towards restarting after the break.

The rigid schedule of a timer can stir feelings of anxiety and make the technique have more of a negative impact than a positive one.

Despite this barrier, the urgency that the technique introduces is extremely motivational for ADHD minds. The ticking clock can be perceived as a challenge, instilling motivation that otherwise might not have been there. This can be especially helpful for people that have trouble with starting new tasks.

The goal of the Pomodoro Technique on paper makes sense for ADHD entrepreneurs, igniting the fire of productivity and motivation for tackling tasks.

In my ADHD business coaching, this notion of ‘getting started’ is emphasised repeatedly, albeit approached with a different strategy. The methods may vary, but the objective remains the same: to conquer the inertia of inactivity and dive into the realm of productivity.

Now that you understand the Pomodoro Technique, you might still have some underlying questions, like how you can make it work for you, dealing with distractions or other strategies you can couple it with.

How Long Should Each Pomodoro Interval Be, and How Many Intervals Should Be Completed in a Day?

The traditional Technique recommends working for 25 minutes and then taking a five-minute break, with a longer break after every fourth Pomodoro.

However, you may find that you need longer or shorter work times depending on the task. Conversely, you might also find that you need longer break periods to truly rest. The number of intervals completed in a day can also vary depending on the individual’s schedule and workload.

Maybe your schedule allows for two intervals, and maybe it allows for six. It’s important to remember that you should work with your ADHD, not against it. Therefore, modify the strategies you implement to work for you.

Are There Any Recommended Strategies for Dealing with Distractions or Impulsivity During Pomodoro Intervals?

One strategy for dealing with distractions or impulsivity is to use the break times to address any distractions or impulses. Perhaps you have a thought or idea that’s been eating at you. Take the break time to write down that idea and decide a later time to deal with it.

Maybe you found yourself wanting to check your email or social media during your work time. Take a second to stop and make a note to address it during your break.

Can it be Combined with Other Productivity or Time-Management Strategies for Better Results?

The Pomodoro Technique can be combined with other productivity or time-management strategies for even better results. Again, it’s important to make your work time for you, not the other way around.

For example, implement a task-tracker or to-do list as a way to outline what you want to get done during intervals. You can also combine other techniques with your break times, such as mindfulness or meditation.

How Can I Integrate it into My Daily Workflow and Routines?

Integrating the Pomodoro Technique into your daily workflow and routines can be as simple as choosing a task, setting a timer, and getting to work. You can follow these steps to get you started and decide whether it works for you:

  1. Choose a task you want to work on.
  2. Set a timer for your chosen work period (e.g., 25 minutes).
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings.
  4. Take a short break.
  5. Repeat the process. After every fourth work period, take a longer break.
  6. Over a week, note down how it worked for you.
  7. Make changes to the period length and try again.

Remember, the key is to experiment and find what works best for you.

Do I Personally Find the Pomodoro Technique Helpful?

The Technique and I have a somewhat complex relationship. I often find myself in a state of hyperfocus, eager to complete tasks in one fell swoop. The fear of losing my train of thought or forgetting crucial details propels me to continue until I reach a natural stopping point.

In light of this, my approach is a bit unorthodox.

I tend to select tasks that I estimate will take between 20 and 60 minutes to complete. Once I’ve finished these tasks, I then allow myself a break. This approach somewhat mirrors the Pomodoro Technique, albeit in a less structured manner.

I should note that I generally don’t grapple with feelings of overwhelm, unless I’m tackling tasks that are particularly new or complex.

So, while it might not be a perfect fit for my workflow, I’ve found a way to adapt its principles in a way that works for me.

As a business coach, I work with ADHD entrepreneurs that do struggle with overwhelm towards new tasks. We regularly collaborate on their overall productivity, and we do experiment with the technique to see if it will work for them and their needs.

Conclusion

The Pomodoro Technique can be a useful tool for managing time and maintaining focus, particularly for entrepreneurs with ADHD.

However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution and may need to be adapted to fit individual needs.

As an entrepreneur, it’s worth giving it a try. It might just be the tool you need to boost your productivity and manage your time more effectively. Remember, the key is to find what works best for you and your unique needs. If the puzzle piece of Pomodoro doesn’t fit in your world, then don’t use it; but it’ll never hurt to try.

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