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The Flowtime Technique: Pros, Cons, and a Step-by-Step Guide

Learn about the flowtime technique, including how it compares to the Pomodoro technique and how to successfully implement it.

Jared Posey
Writer at Motion
Apr 26, 2024
Table of contents

We all want to be productive, but time management methods can sometimes leave us feeling boxed in.

Instead of starting and stopping at predetermined intervals, maybe you want to follow your own rhythm.

Thankfully, there’s a system for that. It’s called the flowtime technique.

In this article, we’ll show you how to get your “flow” on and boost your productivity. We’ll also compare flowtime to the Pomodoro technique, a more rigid time management method that sits on the other end of the spectrum. With both of these tools in your toolkit, you’ll always have a way to optimize your time.

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What is the flowtime technique?

The flowtime technique is a flexible time management method. It lets you choose when to work and when to rest.

Unlike structured techniques with strict intervals, such as 20 minutes on, then 5 minutes off, flowtime is personal. It’s tailored to your natural work rhythms.

Here’s how it works:

You start a task and continue working until your concentration starts to fade. Then, take a break.

With flowtime, you don't set the duration of your work and break times with a timer. You decide on the times based on your personal needs and the task at hand. This encourages you to listen to your own body and mind.

Worker experiences flow and rhythm

The flowtime system is based on the principles of flow psychology made popular by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Being in a “flow” state means you’re fully immersed in what you’re doing. As you practice flowtime, you let this flow state determine when to work and when it’s time to take a break.

What are the benefits of the flowtime technique?

Here’s what you can gain from this time management approach:


It doesn’t get any more flexible than flowtime. While traditional time management methods are structured, they can also feel overly strict.

The flowtime technique doesn’t set rules on your productivity. If you’re working effectively, you don’t have to stop. That helps you avoid the stress of getting back on task — and the time needed to do so.

One of the biggest advantages of this flexibility is that each day is different. You can adapt how to work based on your energy level and mental state.

For example, if you’re depleted, you can plan shorter sessions without feeling pressured by a schedule. You can also take longer or shorter breaks, depending on the work you’re doing. If you’ve just completed a particularly demanding task, for example, your break might be longer.

Suited for longer tasks

Some tasks, such as long-form writing, programming, and research, require sustained attention and deep focus. The flowtime approach can be invaluable in these scenarios since it facilitates long, uninterrupted periods of work. You can dive deeper into complex work or creative processes without being disrupted by a timer.

To put it simply, many creative and analytical tasks don’t fit neatly into intervals.

Flowtime is also particularly effective for project management. For instance, brainstorming might require long work sessions, while administrative tasks could be completed in short bursts.

Aligns with natural rhythms

Everyone has unique “rhythms” of productivity. With many time management methods, you can adjust your rhythm to the technique.

Flowtime flips this scenario on its head, adjusting to the individual’s rhythms instead of the other way around.

For example, if you’re feeling alert and well-rested, you can tackle your most challenging tasks. As you lose steam, you can take a short break and then jump into some busy work.

A system that accommodates personal rhythms can reduce stress and increase satisfaction.

Where does the flowtime technique fall short?

The primary limitation of flowtime is that, without a clear system, it requires a high level of self-discipline. There’s no structured framework to guide you.

In other words, it’s up to you to manage your time effectively.

Those who follow flowtime are also vulnerable to overworking. Because there isn’t a requirement for when to rest, some workers may take fewer breaks. They might convince themselves they’re still in a flow state and being productive when they’re actually setting themselves up for burnout.

Once again, the ambiguity of not having a clear structure means you have to be vigilant and disciplined.

How to implement the flowtime technique

In this section, we walk you through how to incorporate the flowtime technique into your workday, starting with the right foundation.

Worker prepares their workspace

‎Set yourself up for success

A distraction-free workspace is crucial for implementing the flowtime technique effectively. You want to feel organized and on top of your workflow. Clutter can lead to stress, which isn’t a good setup for the self-discipline you’ll need to follow through with using this approach.

You can use blue or green colors to decorate your work area and evoke calmness. Or incorporate natural lighting or greenery into your workspace.

Next, create a routine for planning out your day. Think of this as a daily ritual.

Start by not just mapping out your tasks but setting intentions for what you want to accomplish by the end of the day or week.

For example, a freelance graphic designer organizes tasks by priority and allocates time accordingly at the start of every morning. This starts their day with focus, making it easier for them to fall into a flow state as they begin each task.

Monitor the early stages

You start with a plan, but the first few trial runs will tell you a great deal about what you need to make this productivity method work.

Keep a work journal so that you can track your work and break times. Jot down when you start to lose focus and when you feel you’re at peak productivity.

Experiment with the flowtime intervals that work best for you. Over time, you’ll notice patterns that help you understand your natural rhythms. Figure out approximate standards for various tasks, too.

If you’re a software developer, for example, you could use a timing app to record the durations of your coding sessions. This data could help you understand how long you can typically code productively and how long of a break properly recharges you.

Bring in tools and strategies

Pairing flowtime with sophisticated tools is a winning strategy for working effectively.

You can use a time-tracking tool to measure the length of your flow states and breaks. Distraction blockers are another type of app that can help you stay focused and free of interruptions.

Worker uses productivity app

‎Notifications on your smartphone or computer can be customized to aid flow. Set reminders to assess your focus periodically. And silence frequent alerts while in your work sessions.

Motion is another powerful software to consider. Not only does it combine many different functions in one tool, but it also automates much of your planning and scheduling tasks. That way, you can maximize the amount of time you have to complete your tasks.

Aside from digital tools, here are three strategies you can use to increase your focus:

  1. Break large tasks into smaller chunks: Split bigger projects into manageable sections. This makes your tasks less daunting, and the clear checkpoints keep you motivated.
  2. Change up your environment: Modify your work environment occasionally to reset your mental state and boost your focus. This could be as simple as changing the lighting or moving to a different room.
  3. Use music for concentration: Classical or ambient music can enhance your cognitive performance and soften noisy distractions.

Evolve as you go

We learn by doing. Maximize the learning opportunities you get from doing your work by practicing daily reflection.

At the end of the day, reflect on what you accomplished and how you can do better tomorrow.

For example, a content creator might adjust their schedule based on the insights they glean into their work habits, realizing their prime working time is first thing in the morning.

Rather than being rigid, maintain a curious, experimental attitude. Flowtime is an iterative process that you refine over time.

Workers use the iterative process

‎If the flowtime technique starts to feel less effective than it did at first, combine it with structured methods, like the Pomodoro technique, during slumps. That way, you can maintain your momentum.

Additional tips and challenges

Let’s wrap up our how-to advice with a few challenges you’re likely to experience with the flowtime technique and what to do about them.

The biggest challenge to any time management is constant access to the internet and technology. Schedule specific times to check your emails or social media accounts.

Noise is another obstacle. Use noise-canceling headphones to avoid auditory distractions if your surroundings are outside of your control.

If you work with others, create a visual cue that acts as a do-not-disturb sign to your coworkers when you’re in deep focus.

Ease into the flowtime technique if you’re new to less structured methods. A support partner can also help you stick with it and remain accountable.

What is the Pomodoro technique?

The Pomodoro technique is a work approach that divides tasks into 25-minute intervals followed by short breaks. The 25-minute sessions are called “Pomodoros.” Breaks are typically five minutes long each.

After four Pomodoros, it's recommended that you take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

By using shorter time spans to do your work, you ward off mental fatigue. Regular breaks keep the mind fresh and reduce the risk of burnout.

The technique is adjustable, too. Some people prefer their Pomodoros to be 20 or 30 minutes long each. Plus, the method can also be adapted for team use.

Part of what makes the Pomodoro technique effective is that the individual doesn’t have to be responsible for fine-tuning a system and exercising willpower. The structure is straightforward, so there’s no need to overthink it.

When to use each technique

We’ve broken down each technique. The table below outlines the pros and cons of flowtime versus Pomodoro.

The pros and cons of each technique

‎Now, let’s discuss when to use each method.

Flowtime technique

The Flowtime technique should certainly be considered for tasks that require flexibility or extended flow.

Open-ended, creative work: Examples include brainstorming, strategic planning, design, and creating content. These tasks require the individual to immerse themself in the work. It can be easier to ride the wave of productivity rather than trying to get back on it after a break.

Research and development: Flowtime is good for professionals who work in R&D or similar fields where investigation and innovation are needed. It accommodates the unpredictable nature of tasks that may require you to go down a rabbit hole.

Varying energy levels: Some people experience significant fluctuations in their energy and focus levels throughout the day. The flowtime technique adapts to these fluctuations. It can also be beneficial for people who manage chronic illnesses or have irregular schedules.

Pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro technique is best used in scenarios that require frequent, short bursts of concentrated effort.

Short tasks: Pomodoro helps break down the workday into manageable parts, making short tasks quickly achievable. These consistent sessions also make longer tasks digestible.

Battling procrastination: The short, timed intervals don’t feel daunting; there’s a clear endpoint for each session. This can make it easier to start tasks you might otherwise put off.

High-intensity tasks: Splitting overwhelming tasks, such as intensive studying, writing a report, or doing complex data analysis, into smaller segments can help you maintain focus and reduce your mental burden.

Optimize your time with Motion

We covered everything you need to know about the flowtime technique, including its benefits, shortcomings, and steps for implementation. You can now decide when to use it and when to use other methods.

Motion’s advanced calendar app can help improve your productivity no matter what system you choose. With our powerful algorithms doing much of the behind-the-scenes work for you, you can focus on the tasks at hand.

We’re revolutionizing productivity. Try Motion for free today!

Jared Posey
Jared Posey is a business, SaaS, and productivity freelance writer with a passion for conencting readers with high-quality content. When he's not polishing up a sentence or conducting SERP research, you'll find him making his kids laugh and his wife shake her head.
Written by Jared Posey