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My system is I have a MS Word document for my backlog. I add both work tasks, and small personal tasks (eg send email to so and so, ring such and such organisation, buy xyz, post on stack exchange about coffee etc).

Is the five minute break an appropriate time to do these tasks, or does that defeat the purpose of it being a break? (Being still cerebal).

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My opinion is 5 minute break is not only for total context switch but for a rest too: stand up from computer, make some physical exercises, make tea/coffee/your favourite drink here, etc.

I tended to do the same for sometime but noticed that I couldn't finish anything with such a schedule. What I've ended up is summing up all of these small tasks in 1 pomodoro set and adding it to the schedule for the day. This way I still have real breaks and my schedule is complete right in time.

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My rule is this:

A pomodoro break must begin with me getting up from my desk, walking (even if briefly), stretching, getting water, etc. Any time left over I will use to do whatever I want back at my desk.

Don't do it in the reverse. You'll never get up, and you'll find you'll get burned out easier.

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From what I've read, your rule is the rule. The point of the pomodoro technique is to force yourself to take a break while also forcing yourself to work productively during the "on" time. I tried this approach yesterday to knock out some stuff I've been putting off and it worked really well. –  jmort253 Dec 9 '13 at 21:12
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When I'm in a Pomodoro mode, any task that doesn't take a full Pomodoro gets bundled with other tasks into a "mixed activity" Pomodoro. The idea of the break is to refresh yourself, if you simply change to another task you're not getting that benefit.

I find physical exercise of some kind is most useful. Whether that's a walk around the office, a trip to the restroom or for coffee, or actual exercise varies. One tool I've just started using is from http://www.fitbolt.com, which presents a new exercise (60 seconds or less) every half hour. It fits into a Pomodoro approach pretty well.

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In my opinion, that cannot be counted as a break.

The main purpose of the break (in my experience) is to set you back to a "whole-picture-aware" state. By keeping focus on something, I think you maybe preventing that from happen. It's like you create a very short 5m pomodoro for yourself.

My advice is to let the mind ramble free, maybe you can keep your thoughts in your field of expertise, ex for me (software developer) works rambling about productivity, architectures, career... in this way my company benefits from my "downtimes" and as soon as I get back to more focused tasks chances are that I will be more motivated and confident (even if just a little bit).

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