Accessing Flow State - The Pomodoro Technique

In today’s society we are using smartphones and other mobile devices more than ever before, and there is no shortage of evidence. Take a moment and observe any place where people have to wait: cross walks, bus stops, checkout lines, restaurants, and even restaurants. Despite the fact that high levels of screen time have been shown to have substantial negative effects, there’s no sign that this trend is reversing.

According to Anthony Ongaro, of, “the mere presence of your smartphone is reducing our cognitive capacity. Over-dependence on smartphones leads to user stress and is correlated to psychological traits including loss of control, social interaction anxiety, and materialism.” There is no doubt that dependency on technology is becoming out of control and we are only becoming more and more captivated with these alarming statistics.


  1. The average person receives 63.5 notifications per day (Telefonica, 2014).
  2. Meanwhile, 91% of millennials say they have a healthy relationship with tech, but still check their phones 150 times per day (Qualtrics, 2017).
  3. It’s not just millennials, though—52% of boomers use their phones during meal times, the highest percentage of any age group (Nielsen, 2015).
  4. S. users spend over 4 hours per day on mobile devices (eMarketer, 2016).
  5. 74% of mobile users ages 18 – 34 report an urge to immediately pull out their phone, open an app when bored (ComScore, 2017).


Arguably the most daunting statistic is the average user touches, swipes, and taps their phone 2,617 times per day (Discout, 2016) drastically syphoning our ability to get into flow state and or ‘deep work.’


Break it

What can we do, to ‘Break the Twitch’ – this seemingly overwhelming urge to touch, scroll and look at our phone throughout the day? What can we do to be more assertive and step away from our dependency of our smart phones, computers and tablets to live a more purposely and intentional life?

I’ve found that the answer is in a tomato shaped, Italian timer, the Pomodoro.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named pomodoros, the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.


Originally there were 6 steps, towards the goal of reducing the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. With the Pomodoro, we are empowered to shut down all technology, giving yourself the freedom to focus solely on the task that you deem is most important at this moment in time.


6 Original Steps of the Pomodoro.

  1. Decide on the task to be done. (writing, reading, cleaning, studying)
  2. Set your timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
  3. Work on said task
  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2. 6. After four Pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.


My personal (modern day) version of the Pomodoro technique

  1. Decide on the task to be done. (writing, reading, cleaning, studying)
  2. Put my phone on airplane mode, disconnect my computer from wi-fi (Zero external distractions)
  3. Set the timer (40 minutes)
  4. Work on said task until the timer goes off.
  5. 5-10 minute break to do whatever I want – Check Instagram, text, grab a snack (I’ve found most of the time, I skip this step and move to step 6)
  6. Return to step 1.


Whether it’s a text notification, suddenly realizing you need to check your Instagram, inspiration for a tweet or you’re simply curious to see what’s new on your Facebook feed, there are so many distracting thoughts and events that come up throughout the day. It shouldn’t surprise us as a research has shown that we have over 50,000 thoughts per day!

With the Pomodoro technique we are able to break this “Twitch” through removing any possible external interruptions while leaving no access to our phones or computers, leaving us in a pure task completion state.


Does it really matter?

In my first couple years overseas as a professional, I always felt some level of guilt at the end of the day. Even though I brought my complete attention and focus to training, I knew that I wasn’t working with that same intention off the court, sacrificing tons of time and energy to video games, Netflix and scrolling on my phone.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with playing video games or watching Netflix but my goal was (and still is) to become the best version I can be. This involves growing as much as I can, day after day, through intentional work off the court as well as on it.

The lack of personal growth during my free time overseas pushed me to create “The List” but even with my values and priorities written down in the form of micro tasks, I still found it hard to accomplish them as I found myself consistently drifting back to my phone and the guaranteed dopamine and comfort found in social media and video games.

With the Pomodoro technique, we can be intentional and get to work for what matters to us, a clear intention guiding us, without the thousands of distractions that bombard us throughout the day. With this technique, we can define what matters most to us throughout our day and make it a priority whether it be writing, reading, stretching, working out, learning a new recipe or making time for meditation. The Pomodoro Technique is a tool we can use to reach our own personal objectives and work with the passion, focus and drive each of us are capable of.


Put it into action

There is a great application for the phone now that can helps you set intention while locking your phone. The Forest app helps you beat “the twitch” by planting a seed in your virtual garden.Your ability to concentrate on your work and your discipline to not to use social media sites (while the timer you set is still on) will  boost the growth of the tree and ultimately grow it fully.

If you decide to check your email, Instagram or to answer a message, your tree will wither away and die. The longer you stay focused (you can use the timer up to 2 hours) the more the tree can evolve. To hold your accountable, you have a garden that shows your trees that grew fully as well as the trees that died due to you not staying true to your commitment to working intentionally.

 Have the best day ever and let me know if you use any other apps or tricks to increase productivity throughout the day.

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