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I have just started using the pomodoro technique. However, often after a 30 min work interval (I have changed the 25 minute interval to 30), I often don't feel exhausted and think I could go on without a break. Still, should I stop and take a break so that my next round would be completed properly or should I just aim for the timer to ring again?

Also my exhaustion times vary, sometimes 30 mins is a pretty good interval, sometimes it is less, depending on the material that I am reading, or the problem I am solving (Math and Physics Majors would understand it better). So increasing the 30 min interval won't necessarily work. Should I use varying work periods?

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No, just stick to the existing periods.

When you become creative with the work periods, you'll lose respect for the Pomodoro time limits and it will lose its effect.

Always take the break. You can forfeit the 15 minute break as a 5 minute if you have the energy and momentum to do so. Breaks aren't that long, use it to go to the restroom, get a cup of tea, check your email.

If you really don't have problems concentrating without a break, you might as well abandon the technique. If you can do well over 25 minutes without feeling tired, an alternative technique would just be to work as long as you like and set a stopwatch for a 15/30 minute break to make sure your breaks are not too long.

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Thanks! That really helps. – ramanujan_dirac Jan 30 '13 at 2:24

Note: It seems like this should really be a comment on one of the other answers, or an edit, but I couldn't decide where it fit best.

The length of the time period is not as important as its constancy.

One big benefit of fixed-time Pomodoros is the way you get into a rhythm of work and rest. After you've used the technique for a while, you'll find that you begin to wind up both work and breaks naturally.

Another benefit is planning. If a Pomodoro is a fixed size, you can use it for estimation. Once you know your rate of Pomodori/hour, you'll be able to plan out your work time realistically. I have written a "to do today" list for years, but I usually did not get everything on the list done in a day. This led to me always feeling behind. When I started using the Pomodoro technique, I found that I simply had unrealistic expectations for how much I would get done in a day. Now I'm able to plan a day reliably, and get done what I expect to get done. This is a big deal. I can keep promises to myself and others much better when I have a realistic plan.

Remember the length of a Pomodoro is not designed for you to work to exhaustion, but for you to work productively and also rest enjoyably. It's not just to get the most done; it's to get done what you want, and enjoy the rest of life too.

Perhaps as an aside, I find that the breaks themselves have a huge benefit in keeping me on track. Before I implemented the Pomodoro technique, I would often get "lost" in one of two ways. Either I would get so involved in one task that I'd lose track of time, and then not do other things on my list (losing track of the big picture); or else I'd get distracted by one thing after another, and never go deep on any task (being too scattered). A rhythm of work and rest allows me to dive into a task for a Pomodoro at a time, then come up for air and survey the landscape of the day, so that I can make better decisions about what to do next.

I suspect that this balance of deep focus and broad attention is supported by a predictable rhythm of Pomodoro intervals.

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I doubled the length of both work and break intervals and this worked fine for me.

I'm a software developer and found that 25 minutes wasn't enough time for me to accomplish many of my tasks. At the same time I found 5 minutes wasn't enough for me to write up what I had done, and at the time I needed to give a work summary of my day (in hourly blocks). So I doubled the recommended lengths to 50 min work and 10 min break - when I did this I found I was able to complete my tasks and didn't have to either roll them over to the next interval or extend the interval in order to complete them. The 10 min break was enough time for me to write up what I'd done and make a cup of tea.

My attention span generally seems fine for about 45 minutes and it wasn't much of a push to go the extra 5 minutes. OK maybe I found I got less done in the last 5 min, but overall I got more "complete" in the hour than I did when sticking to the 25/5min recommendation.

I would stick to a regular time period though, so if 30min works for you then do 30min, but keep it 30min and not sometimes 25min and other times 35min. I found I slipped into a rhythm naturally and without problem, but mixing it up... meant I wasn't ever sure where things were. Which was part of the problem I had with the 25 min time as I just had to extend it some times in order to finish something off.

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There are two important reasons why you should stick on the same length of focus period and always take a break after that:

  • Review: In one day, you have more than one thing to do. You plan to do five, maybe you will find in a day that in fact you need seven. So you need a time to review you list that what is the highest priority task to do first. In Pomodoro, you focus, after a little break, you have a time to review.
  • Interruption Management: Don't forget that interruption is one of the most important keys that make you cannot finish your tasks. You use Inform-Negotiate-Call method to deal with external interruptions. In Negotiate period, you need to tell them when you will call them, that's after you finish your Pomodoro. The 25 mins length of Pomodoro is not a magic or just a random length. It's a time that mostly acceptable to wait. This help you to deal with any interruptions easier.

I have found that the switch between focus-relax period also support the way our brains work. These are why you need to define you Pomodoro length and stick on it.

share|improve this answer lets you tweak the time increments to your needs, which could help this problem. Full disclosure - my company created the site for internal use and recently opened it up for others.

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