It’s been proven time and time again that tracking time has a positive effect on our productivity. After all, by tracking our time, we know where we dedicate our time and whether that time was spent on something useful or loitering around and watching Netflix.
However, “time tracking” is a rather broad term, and there are more ways than one to tackle it. You may have used a traditional stopwatch time or a Pomodoro timer before, but we’re here to argue that there’s an even better choice - a countdown timer.
Tracking time the old-fashioned way
Most time trackers you see online work in one and the same way. You hit a button and it starts tracking time for a certain task and application (if it has an integration with that app). Once you’re done with that task, you hit a button and the time tracking stops.
The second way is automatic: you use an app that tells you how long you have interacted with certain websites or files. Once you’re done, the app gives you statistics, showing that you spent 3 hours per day working in Figma or Photoshop, for example.
If you’re using an app like PomoDone, you can get some really nice extras in the process. For example, starting the tracking process within a certain app, blocking certain websites while time tracking, and many other useful features our customers love.
However, it’s not for everyone.
Why a stopwatch is not the only or ultimate time tracker?
The biggest problem with using a stopwatch? There is no certain ending. Once a task starts, you keep going until you’ve finished, not until the timer says so.
In speaking with our customers, most of the people who use stopwatches use them because they were forced to do so by their managers. Even if they weren’t forced directly, they probably have to analyze how they spent their time and send reports to their superiors.
In essence, time tracking is more about control than productivity.
In essence, there are three main ways to track time:
- Standard (start tracking, stop tracking: check in and check out)
- Automated (the tools you use automatically measure what you do and how while running in the background)
- Mindful (you mindfully and willingly decide that you’ll work on a specific task and enjoy your rest afterward)
Stopwatches belong in the first group, and they’re good for reporting. When measuring time with a stopwatch, you can report on how much time you spent on a certain task to your manager, CEO, or yourself at the end of the month. It’s also a neat way to manage billable hours if you work in an agency or you do hourly pricing as a freelancer.
However, at PomoDone, we’re all about the third approach - mindfulness. There is far less stress involved, and since you know you can start any time, and for any period of time, it’s easier to get started. It’s the reason why this type of timer is recommended for people with ADHD. And it's good for reporting too!
Countdown timers - similar but better
When tracking time with a countdown timer, you still have the same goal, you’re just starting from the opposite direction. You set the time that you want to accomplish something in and let the clock run out.
Accomplishing is great on its own, but think about the alternative - not accomplishing it. Frustrating and, unfortunately, very realistic. Instead of focusing on accomplishments, focus on the very state of focusing: set the time when you need to be in a deep state of undivided attention.
Sometimes, all it takes is setting aside 5 to 10 minutes just to get into that state of focus. You don’t have actually to DO anything meaningful in the beginning - take baby steps and just focus.
Speaking of timers, you can choose the time intervals as you please, but the Pomodoro timer offers to work on 25-minute intervals, which was suggested for most people - but not all. While Pomodoro ™ does work, it was invented in the 1980s, and in 40 years, lots of things have changed.
For one, the human attention span is shorter than ever across generations. And given the tech that we use and the number of notifications that come to us each minute, it’s no wonder.
The best possible practice is to choose time intervals that suit our attention spans, our habits and our goals. Based on our own statistics, we see that timers that are 25 minutes long get interrupted quite frequently. On the other hand, timers that are 15, 20, and surprisingly, 45 minutes long get completed rather than paused.
The conclusion? Pomodoro is a concept that works in the modern day and age, just not with the same time interval as it had 40 years ago. Also, it can be used for anything, from studying to building something with your hands.
There is an added element of discipline as you can assign yourself certain milestones that you need to hit in that time period. For example, writing 300 new words of text in 25 minutes or creating a mockup of a landing page that you can work on later.
Where Pomodoro™ fits in
Traditional time tracking is all about using a stopwatch or monitoring your time automatically. On the other hand, Pomodoro works on the principle of 25-minute work blocks, followed by a 5-minute break. After four such blocks, you take a longer break.
The idea is simple - to do work and work only for 25 minutes and give yourself a 5-minute “reward” period to grab your phone, take a walk or do something else to zone out. Pomodoro really works as it instills a sense of urgency.
In essence, you realize that you have finite time as it’s divided into measurable chunks. Instead of measuring “infinite” time with a stopwatch, you know how much you have in a given day, and you have to use it in the best possible way.
When your day at work (or home) is structured this way, you don’t get to aimlessly start the tracker and hope to finish something by the end of the day. Instead, you map out the tasks you need to complete and think about the structure of your day in advance, increasing your productivity and reducing stress.
The new Pomodoro reality
Thanks to the many distractions of today’s world, many of us have problems with attention. ADHD is becoming increasingly common, and our own research shows that the 25-minute time block for Pomodoro time tracking does not work out for people with attention disorders.
Based on findings from our customers, longer time periods for countdowns result in more anxiety for people with ADHD. Simply put, time intervals that are too long do not mean more productivity. It just means they have more chances of falling off the wagon and getting distracted.
ADHD - more interruptions and fewer completed tasks
Gathering data from our own customers, we found that the longer the countdown sessions were, the fewer completed tasks there were for those users. At the same time, the longer the sessions, the more interruptions there were for these tasks.
In the end, people with longer sessions had more stress and struggled to stay on track with their tasks and productivity goals.
And the solution is…
While the suggested Pomodoro countdown time frame is 25 minutes, this is exactly that - a suggestion. In the end, you must find a workflow and a time frame that suits you best and works for your productivity goals.
Use your timer based on your state rather than sticking to arbitrary 25-minute time frames. Depending on how tired you are or how active you feel, you’ll use a different time frame. The length of your timer and the break will depend on the time of the day and the activity you pursue as well.
One thing is for certain, our users find countdowns to be less stress-inducing and beneficial for productivity compared to a stopwatch. If 25 minutes is too much for you, just take another time frame that works better for your attention span, workload, and goals.
The important thing is that you’re building a habit of focusing for a certain time of the day. You’re practicing your mind and creating a muscle memory that each time you hit the timer, you’re in focus mode - and that’s what matters.
Start tracking your time and become more productive today
The best way to reach your productivity goals and manage your time is to keep track of it. And tracking time doesn’t have to be complicated or tedious - if you use the right app. Sign up for PomoDone today so you can start tracking your time in a way that suits your work style and maximizes your productivity.
Sign up for a free trial to get started!
About the author:
Mile Živković is a content writer and work-life balance expert. When Mile isn’t busy writing epic posts on productivity, work-life balance, and time management, he’s probably driving somewhere. His hobbies include cars, photography, and collecting pocket knives. You can catch him on LinkedIn.
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