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You might already know and love the Pomodoro technique—the method of working for 25 minutes and taking a five-minute break before getting back to it—and appreciate its long-standing reputation for making adherents more productive. But sometimes, 25 minutes just isn’t long enough to get into the groove. For big tasks, consider modifying the technique to your needs, while keeping the general idea the same.

How should you modify the Pomodoro technique?

Sure, the Pomodoro technique is pretty solidly entrenched in our work culture; but that doesn’t mean that following it exactly will yield the best results in every instance. In some cases, you might find that your 25-minute timer is going off right about as you’re hitting your productivity stride. In 2008, researchers from the University of California, Irvine, and Humboldt University looked into what interruptions during work sessions really mean for productivity. They found interruptions did make people work faster, but that work resulted in more stress and frustration. In general, it took participants about 23 minutes to perform various tasks with no interruptions, and their work was better quality. With interruptions, they got work done faster, but it contained more errors and their emails were shorter and less polite.

You don’t want error-riddled, rude, or rushed correspondence, but if it takes almost 23 minutes to do decent work without interruptions, on average, that leaves you with just two minutes before your Pomodoro timer goes off to bang out quality work. There are a lot more tasks out there in the working world to do beyond sending emails, and some of them just can’t be broken down into 25-minute chunks.

Ready… set… time thyself:

There are really no hard and fast rules to productivity hacks; everyone is different. You definitely do need breaks in your work, but you can space them out in a way that’s most appropriate for whatever you’re doing. For instance, if you’re collaborating on a project with a colleague, it might take you longer than 25 minutes to get things accomplished back and forth. If you’re mopping your floors, it might take you longer than 25 minutes to get all the soapy water down, sloshed around, and sopped back up. Consider bumping up your work time allocation, maybe to 45 minutes or so depending on the project, but also bumping up your break time, to about 10 minutes.

Productivity does come in “peaks,” as demonstrated by the Yerkes-Dodson law, which suggests that people are their most productive when they don’t have too little or too much stress. Interruptions every 25 minutes can cause too much stress, but knowing you only have 45 minutes to complete a task might add just enough push to get you into that golden zone, without the fear that your break is coming up too quickly.

How to time yourself for work breaks

Regardless of whether the task at hand can be taken care of using the traditional Pomodoro method or a modified version, you still need to time yourself and make sure you’re taking those breaks. Try a big, easy-to-read kitchen countdown timer or one designed for Pomodoro fans, like this, which is pre-set for durations of three, five, 10, 15, 25 and 30 minutes.

If changing up an established technique gives you the ick, you can pay good old Pomodoro homage with one of the tomato-shaped timers it was named for. This one is just $6.99 but goes up to 60 minutes.

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