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16 - Nebula
16 - Nebula

Raise your hand if you can relate… You’re so close to solving a complex problem in Alteryx. Just a few more tools and the workflow will finally be complete. You’ve been working on this problem all day and haven’t taken any breaks because you’re so excited that you’re on the verge of a breakthrough. Your brain is so fatigued, but if only you just push a little further for a little longer, you’ll be sure to finish soon.

Pomodoro technique.pngSource: Vectorstock


But is this the best way to be most productive? What if, instead of working straight through the day, we forced ourselves to take brain breaks?


Introducing, the Pomodoro Technique. For my Italian friends, I’m not talking about a tomato-based pasta dish. Rather, this is a time management technique that helps you to break down a larger project into smaller, more manageable pieces in order to improve your productivity. With this method, you work in 25 minute segments (pomodoros), separated by 5 minute breaks. After 4 pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15-20 minutes.


The idea with this is that the time spent working will be more focused due to the time constraint and the specific, allotted breaks. This will help you to create better work products while staying refreshed all day long. Building workflows in Alteryx provides the perfect opportunity to try this technique because you can click run when you start your break, and the workflow will be ready for you when you get back.




Source: Amazon



  • Fewer distractions: This technique helps you to eliminate disruptions because there is time allotted specifically for breaks. This way, you’re encouraged to work distraction-free for longer periods rather than checking your phone willy-nilly and allowing these interruptions to last longer than planned.


  • Less lost work: Although rare, Alteryx may crash. There are autorecover files, but it is better to try to save your workflow more frequently rather than relying on these files. Working in pomodoros can help you to get into the habit of saving your workflow at the end of each active period, hedging yourself in case of crashes.


  • Tackle complicated problems: It can be easy to push back a to-do list item because it is so big/complex and you don’t even know where to start. Working in pomodoros helps to break down large problems into smaller, more manageable pieces so that it is not only easier to get started but also makes tasks seem less daunting.


  • Gamification: As Alteryx users, we tend to like to gamify our solving anyway (i.e. Grand Prix, Weekly Challenge, etc.). Here we aren’t competing against others, though. It’s more of a game against ourselves or the clock with an incentive of a short break at the end.


  • Less brain-melting, more efficient workflow building: Forcing yourself to step away and allowing your brain a couple of minutes of rest means that you can start each pomodoro refreshed. This will ultimately help you to work more efficiently, and you won’t be as fatigued at the end of the day. This will lead to greater productivity and likely even smarter workflows. You may even add some documentation to your workflow that you never remembered to do previously.




  • Take care of your body: During your break, get up and move around. Drink a glass of water. Also, try to avoid using your entire break to look at your phone. Give your eyes a rest from the screen.


  • Set a timer: Either use a physical timer, like the one pictured above, or a digital one to alert you when to begin/end each segment. There are many apps and websites that do all the heavy lifting for you and help organize your time.


  • Adhere to the schedule: This can feel unnatural. If you’re anything like me when I first heard about this, you’re thinking that there’s no way that not working equals more work done. It can be difficult to force ourselves to walk away, even if it’s for a couple of minutes. Don’t tempt yourself into skipping the break periods because that will just lead you straight back to one full day pomodoro.


  • Customize pomodoros to you/your task: You may find that the 25 minute pomodoro default doesn’t precisely fit your needs. For example, in talking with @Erin_Wagner, she told me, “I personally find breaks every 25 minutes to be too frequent and it can interrupt my flow.” Instead, she prefers to, “work in 45-50 minute blocks, then take 10 minute breaks.” As you can see, the specifics are flexible, but the important thing is to remain diligent and keep up with the general structure.  


Ideas for what to do during your breaks


  • Get the mail
  • Play with your dogs
  • Eat a snack
  • Do jumping jacks or sit-ups
  • Create this week’s grocery list

Start a load of laundry


BrainAwareness.jpegSource: advocatesforindependentliving


Don’t let the thrill of solving hinder your productivity. Give it a try on your next Alteryx project, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.