In this post I’ve put together a list of 5 minute Pomodoro break ideas to split up today’s Pomodoros.
The Pomodoro Technique is a brilliant way to stay productive all day. After 25 minutes of hard work you arrive at your five-minute break but what can you do in a break that lasts just five minutes?
And at the end of this post find the worst mistakes you have to avoid during your five-minute breaks.
What Kind of Breaks Are Best for 5 Minutes Between Pomodoros?
The book, The Pomodoro Technique is a great read, however, one thing you wont learn from reading the book, is what to do during your breaks.
If you’ve been focusing on intensive tasks, such as writing, in your Pomodoro, you need to give your logical brain a rest during your 5 minute break. It’s for this reason that most of the suggestions on this list either require very little cognition or those that do are right hemisphere dominant.
Right hemisphere activities such as spacial and artistic activities allow the left hemisphere to rest and bring you out of the logic-heavy thinking of the left hemisphere. These will keep you more productive, longer.
Pomodoro Break Ideas You Can Do in A Short Time
Is there anything better than sitting down to work with a fresh cup of coffee? Not only does it warm you up on a cold morning but it also makes you more productive.
In this article on caffeine and Productivity on Entrepreneur, the author not only recognized the benefits to both memory and cognition of coffee drinking, but also cited studies that show that coffee drinking “May even improve cognitive function overall as we age.“
This is all great news that a cup of coffee is going to increase productivity in your next Pomodoro but is making coffee a good way to spend your five minute break?
As a thousand YouTube B-roll shots show us, making coffee can not only be artistic, but even therapeutic. So go grind some beans and pour over that water!
A change of location can keep things fresh and even trick your brain into thinking that you’re doing something different.
Of course you don’t want to be changing location every 25 minutes but the occasional change of location during the work day make a huge difference to your ability to stay productive.
You don’t have to go far. Sometimes simply turning your chair around to face the other direction is all it takes. Although you might want to experiment with other rooms, moving your desk or even just working on the floor for your next pomodoro.
I’ve never been much of a napper, but I have friends who swear by it. “Just putting my head down for 5 minutes makes me feel completely recharged”
If you’re anything like me you might not wake up though so set an alarm before you put your head down.
Why not just sit back, close your eyes and focus on your breath. feel the air filling your lungs and feel it being exhaled out.
There are too many benefits to mediation for me to list here. Greater concentration and focus, neuroplasticity and improved mood are just some of the things you might be missing out on if you’re not meditating regularly. Meditation has even been shown to thicken the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for high order brain function.
You can’t work without calories!
While some studies have shown that there are benefits to cognition when fasted, if you wanted to have a productive day with many pomodoro sessions, you need to fuel your body and mind. Not all snacks are created equally though.
Snacks high in carbohydrates or processed sugars are going to spike your blood sugar, which in turn will spike insulin which will make you feel like taking that mid afternoon nap.
The way around this is to pick a snack high in fats or protein which will keep your blood sugar stable.
- Greek Yogurt
- Beef Jerky
- Protein Bar
Listen to Motivation
Motivation comes in many different forms. It might be a motivational speech by David Goggins or Les Brown, but it could be as simple as listening to someone successful in your industry, a friend or even a colleague.
A quick 5 minute motivational speech might be all you need to complete another productive pomodoro.
“Literature suggests that even mild dehydration – a body water loss of 1–2% – can impair cognitive performance”The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance
Staying hydrated does more than just keep your Mom happy. The brain, which is 73% water, needs to be hydrated in order to create hormones and neurotransmitters. Of course there are other benefits to drinking water such as weight loss and a strengthened immune system
The bottom line is this: if you’re not hydrated, you wont be performing as well as you could be.
I’ve talked about juggling before and how it is a way to hack a flow state. Juggling can also be used as a form of meditation, or as a way to engage the right hemisphere because it forces the brain to think spatially rather than logically.
To use juggling as a meditation you need to juggling in a way that is easy for you and doesn’t require much concentration. This may mean using only one or two balls and throwing them back and forth.
To put yourself into a flow state you will need something more challenging so that it engages the brain, but that you are still able to do. Don’t choose a new trick or pattern which is going to cause you to drop the balls, this will frustrate you which is not what you want.
If you don’t know how to juggle, there are lot’s of videos on YouTube to learn from!
When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go!
You don’t need to be an experienced yoga practitioner to enjoy the benefits of stretching.
In The Benefits of Stretching and Why It Feels Good, Daniel Yetman of Healthline explains that one of the reasons that stretching feels so good is the release of endorphins it promotes. Endorphins are the feel good hormone which have a pain relieving effect and can even cause euphoria.
Who wouldn’t want a little burst of euphoria in between stretches of work?
Find a New Playlist
If you’re listening to a playlist while working, your 5 minute break might be the perfect time to choose a new playlist to start listening to. The last thing you want is for a playlist to end while your working. You then have to choose whether to finish the pomodoro in silence or to spend your time looking for a new one when you’re supposed to be working.
The best thing to do is check that your playlist has at least 25 minutes total playtime left, if not, find a new one
It doesn’t have to be push-ups, it could be air squats, sit-ups or pull-ups, anything to get the blood flowing. In How Exercise Affects Your Brain, Scientific American outlines that exercise is not only beneficial for growth of brain cells, brain plasticity, stimulation of new connections. It also releases hormones that give an effect similar to antidepressants, improving your mood and keeping your focused and motivated.
All in all, doing some form of exercise in your 5 minute pomodoro break is probably the best thing you could do.
It doesn’t take much brain power to declutter your work area in your short Pomodoro breaks. Studies have show that working in a tidy environment will allow you to focus more. So before you set the timer for the next 25 minutes why not:
- Throw away trash
- Put things back where they belong
- wipe your desk/screen
Talk to Someone
Go find someone to talk to. Not because it will improve your mood, or because it might force your thinking down new paths or even because it’s a good distraction from work for your short five minutes of break.
No just go talk to someone for a little human connection. Maybe you’ll find they needed someone to talk to more than you do.
Time’s article Being Outdoors May Change the Way Your Brain Works explains that simply being outside can stimulate the mind in a way quite opposite to deep focus on one task.
“while people were outside, their brains weren’t responding as robustly to the task at hand, perhaps because their attention was taxed by competing stimuli.”Kyle Mathewson, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Alberta
While they do mention that the results will vary depending on the outside environment but most studies seem to agree that being outside has positive benefits to the human mind.
Open the Window
If you can’t go outside, why not try to bring some of the outside in. Open a window and breathe some fresh air.
If you really want to have a workout in under 5 minutes, tabata is an excellent choice. It’s essentially a 4 minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session.
If you’ve never done it before, find a video on YouTube you can follow along with.
Changing your clothes is a fantastic way to frame the task you are working on. The clothes you wear will put you into a certain frame of mind. It’s why most workplaces want us to wear suits.
If you’re spending the next 25 minute pomodoro learning Chinese, why not put on some silks. If you need to write an article about your favorite baseball team, put your jersey on.
This is one reason that many people working from home for the first time find it difficult, they try working in their pajamas. Putting on something more formal usually signals to then mind that it’s time for work.
Much has been said about using self affirmations and whether or not they actually work. Regardless of whether you think they work or not, what they definitely do do is pull you out of the mind frame you are currently in and force you to think about something higher level.
It’s hard to think about the minutia of your previous pomodoro when you are face to face with yourself in the mirror telling yourself how great you are or what you want to accomplish.
So even if the affirmations don’t make your dreams come true, they are still a useful tool to use for your 5 minute pomodoro break.
Wash Your Face
If you’re starting to feel tired or just a little sluggish, splashing some water on your face can do wonders.
Similar to juggling, doing a Rubik’s cube puzzle puts your mind into spatial reasoning mode. This is great if you’ve spent the last 25 minutes in ‘logic mode.’
There is also some evidence that shows that when you leave your brain with a problem that you can’t solve and let it simmer in the background by coming out of that logical thinking mode, the subconscious takes over and can help you solve the problem.
Knowing this ahead of time and choosing to do a spatial reasoning task such as Rubix’s cube when you have a problem you can’t solve is the spitome of using your time wisely.
We’ve all doodled while talking to someone on the phone or listening to a lecture. It’s something you can do while your mind wanders. Use that to your advantage and when you want your mind to wander, start doodling.
It occupies your mind just enough to stop you doing any complex reasoning and gives you a good break from your last pomodoro.
If you really want to fit some cardio into your 5 minutes, you could consider jump rope.
Everyone has a jump rope lying around somewhere and even just 5 minutes is enough to get you breathing heavy!
Feed a Pet
If you have a dog, cat or fish, use your 5 minutes to feed them or if they don’t need food, just play with them!
Water Your Plants
You’ve probably been meaning to water that plant in the corner for the last few days but something more urgent always seemed to crop up.
Well, now’s the time, grab a bottle, cup or saucepan and water that poor plant before it dies!
There’s nothing that says you have to do anything in your rest time. You could just sit there and nothing. This is possibly the only item on the list that fully rests both body and mind.
Clean Your keyboard
Cleaning a keyboard is the ultimate switch-off-your-brain kind of activity. And just like a clean car drives better, a clean keyboard will make you work better. I don’t know how scientific that is, just take my work for it!
Can you take a cold shower and be ready for your next pomodoro in 5 minutes? If you’re quick you can!
Cold showers have been shown to give the following benefits.
- Help you relax
- Give a mental boost
- Boost immunity
- Reduce negative emotion
Since the outbreak of Covid it may seem some time ago that you hugged someone. Or at the very least it doesn’t seem a common part of life anymore.
But taking a few short moments to find someone you can hug might be the best idea for your 5-minute Pomodoro break.
In this article from Brain Fodder Julia Thomas discusses 6 ways hugging is good for your brain, including:
- Lowering your hear rate
- Reducing Stress
- Releasing Emotionally Positive Brain Chemicals
Think About After Work
Once you’ve checked off the last task of the day and you’ve heard the last timer go off where are you going to go? What are you going to do?
If you haven’t made any plans yet why not take a short break to think about what to do once the business suit comes off.
Change The Bed
Spending a short amount of time making the bed during your break is a great way to get a chore done that you need to anyway and take a rest from work at the same time.
Of course this is only possible if you work from home but if you’re in the office, changing a printer cartridge or clearing a drawer is the same idea.
Make A Phone call
5 minutes between pomodoros may not be the best time to call a long lost friend or make a real connection. But if you need to make a reservation or let your spouse know something real quick, you could do it on your break.
Make A Shopping List
Going into a shop is so much easier when you have a list. You know exactly what you’re there for, which saves you time and money! Not having to think about each thing you need to buy also reduces decision fatigue. So you come out of the store feeling great when you have a list.
But who has time to make a list? Making a quick shopping list is the perfect thing to do in a 5 minute pomodoro break. It’s a complete break away from whatever task you were doing and allows your mind to wander and makes your shopping trip a whole lot more efficient to boot!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these 5 minute break ideas and I hope you try them after you tomato timer goes off!
Before you start planning your next 5 minute Pomodoro break, you need to know what to avoid doing in your Pomodoro breaks. Don’t make these mistakes!