Do you ALWAYS respect the timebox?

Timbox and Flow

Timbox and Flow

Hi Staffan! Do you ALWAYS respect the 25 minute timebox when you’re in the zone? Can’t this break your flow?

Yes, I always respect the timebox:

  • A short break won’t make me forget everything. I can go on from exactly the point where I left.
  • The break means that I can recharge my brain. Goal free play encourages background processing and right brain thinking. If I put enough effort in last iteration, it will even be guilt free play, which helps me avoid procrastination.
  • Humans love rhythm. From the day we were born to the day we die, our life is filled with rhythms. They make us feel safe and helps us to have sustainable pace.
  • Flow means totally focused on one task. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m doing the most important task. Sometimes flow means efficiency, without effectiveness. To recurrently take a short break and then asses if I’m doing the most important thing will help me navigate in task land.
  • When I’m in the flow, I’m so focused so I’m not really aware that I’m in the flow. When the timebox is finished, it’s impossible to immediately say if I should continue or not.
  • To take a break when arousal is high, makes me eager when it’s time to start the next timebox.
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4 Responses to “Do you ALWAYS respect the timebox?”


  1. 1 Victor 2010-06-15 at 18.57

    Hello Staffan, I just purchased your book and I’m more than halfway through it. It’s well written, insightful and the illustrations are just excellent. I’m excited about implementing the Pomodoro technique in my work as a developer but I’m uncertain about the length of time for each Pomodori.

    Specifically, my question is this: If psychologists have concluded that it takes the brain at least 15 minutes to achieve “flow”, as described in Chapter 10 of Peopleware, then isn’t the 25 minute time limit for each pomodori too short? It would seem that 25 minutes would only allow you 10 minutes in this heightened sense of productivity before taking your break.

    What do you think?

  2. 2 Staffan Nöteberg 2010-06-15 at 19.40

    Thanks for positive feedback, Victor!

    1) I’m pretty sure that there is no global (minimum) number of minutes to achieve flow*. It depends on how skilled you are in that task, how eager you are to start, how tired you are, how noisy your environment is, what kind of person you are etc. However, I don’t deny that there’s a setup time, even though it can differ from almost nothing to almost infinity.

    2) Flow* can be good, but it can also be bad. Sometimes you dig down in a problem and you perform very well – you’re in flow. But, you didn’t realize that you’re sub optimizing. You’re performing very well on a not so important subtask.

    3) A Pomodoro doesn’t have to be 25 minutes. Pomodoro Technique is adaptive. Start with 25 minutes. If you realize after two weeks that the clock always interrupts you exactly when you’re in a “heightened sense of productivity” then do extend the Pomodori to 40 minutes for two weeks. Track after every Pomodoro if you feel exhausted or interrupted.

    4) “A short break won’t make me forget everything.”

    5) Pomodoro Technique is a constructive theory. Just like Scrum and most processes with unpredictable tasks it can’t be proven. Try, then adapt. If you don’t like after you have tried, then skip.

    * = flow in the way Csikszentmihalyi uses this term.

  3. 3 Victor 2010-06-18 at 14.17

    Hi Staffan,

    Thanks so much for the thoughtful reply. You bring up some great points. I’m going to take your advice and start with the 25 minute intervals, in fact I’ve already started doing it and I’m already seeing positive results in my productivity and output.

    Thanks again for writing the book!

  4. 4 Vsevolod 2013-02-13 at 19.05

    Hi! Stumbled upon your blog from Chuck’s. I like your Productivity site and have subscribed.This was a very ueusfl blog post for me.I’ve always struggled with time management and continually look for new ways to improve myself. My blog is also about my journey.With the sausage analogy, I’m reminded of the Swiss Cheese method one tiny bite at a time and also of Brian Tracy’s re-egineering idea that you should eliminate as many irrelevant steps as you can in a given task.


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