What is the Pomodoro Technique?

What is the pomodoro technique? This increasingly popular time management system is a breath of fresh air in our increasingly complex lives.

The Pomodoro technique is a time-management strategy developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s and involves working in 25-minute intervals followed by a five-minute break. 

Cirillo’s technique is based on the theory that you'll be more productive if you break down your work into short, manageable blocks of time.

By focusing on completing one task at a time and taking breaks every four “pomodoros” (25 minutes), you should be able to stay focused and motivated throughout the day.  

 If you're looking for a time-management method that can help you get more done in less time, the Pomodoro technique may be perfect for you. But if you've never tried it before, you might wonder what the rules are or how to get started. Luckily, we're here to help!

Here's how to get started using the Pomodoro method, plus a few tips for ensuring your pomodoros are successful.

And yes, pomodoro is Italian for tomato. More on that in a moment. 

How to Use the Pomodoro Technique

Things you'll need to begin: 

  • A task you can focus on.
  • A timer. You can use the stopwatch function on your phone or a Pomodoro-based timer you can find online for free – this is a good one. 

Step 1
Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working.
 

Step 2
When the timer goes off, take a five-minute break
to relax and assess your progress. Congratulations, you've successfully completed one pomodoro.  

Step 3
After completing four rounds, take a more extended break of 15 to 30 minutes to let your mind and body rest. Continue with this cycle until the task is completed.
 

Step 4
After completing your entire Pomodoro session, reward yourself for a job well done! You've accomplished a lot in a short amount of time and deserve to celebrate that achievement.

If you're someone who suffers from habitual procrastination, then the Pomodoro technique may be a perfect fit for your situation.

However, it’s not a cure-all for all forms of procrastination. To implement the Pomodoro technique successfully, it is important to find the right balance between work and relaxation.  

If you find yourself spending too much time on your phone, for example, designating the space between pomodoros as time to scroll social media is a good way to isolate and incorporate that time normally spent slacking off, while still staying productive. 

Okay, so what’s with the reference to tomatoes? 

Francesco Cirillo developed this productivity system while in college in the eighties. Working at his kitchen table, he used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to measure each block of productive work time.

That’s it, it’s that simple.

The kitchen timer may have migrated to phones and browser-based apps, but the name remains.

Things to Consider Before Using the Pomodoro Technique

What are you trying to accomplish?

If your goal is to get things done that move your business forward, the Pomodoro method will be useful.

However, if your goal is to get tasks done that you typically avoid, it might be better to outsource those tasks to an assistant or use an app that will help you automate them. 

How does the Pomodoro technique help you achieve your goals?

Productivity methods only work well when there's a bigger goal they push you toward. If you're not utilizing the Pomodoro method as part of your overall strategy but rather as taskwork or to make yourself feel "busy," you won't achieve your goals.  

What distractions will be present during your work time?

You can do anything you want during your break, as long as it doesn't take longer than five minutes. However, during your work time, you must avoid any distractions that take you away from your work, especially since you have such short bursts of productivity time.

Consider silencing your phone, closing your inbox, and closing all browser tabs that aren't directly associated with your task at hand.

A Few Tips for Your Pomodoros 

If you want to ensure your Pomodoro sessions are as productive as possible, here are a few tips: 

  • Keep each pomodoro focused on a specific task. Trying to multitask in the space of a single pomodoro defeats the purpose of the entire system and will yield worse results. 
  • Break down big tasks into shorter, manageable ones that can have a pomodoro assigned to them. You will always see better results with a structured approach to breaking down large, complex tasks into smaller chunks. 
  • Remove distractions with intent. There are dozens of free browser plugins and tools to block you from your favorite time-wasting websites. Using a timer and a distraction blocker together will help you stay on track and ensure that you are reaching your goals. A great first step? Turn your phone to Do Not Disturb mode.
  • Not convinced that 25-minute blocks are right for you? Experiment with different pomodoro lengths. Try 55 minutes with a five- or ten-minute break. Can’t make it a full 25 minutes without getting distracted? Start with 15 on and three off, and build up to longer blocks of productivity.

What If You Get Interrupted? 

Despite our best efforts, sometimes 25 minutes of dedicated work time doesn't happen. If you find yourself getting interrupted during your Pomodoro session, try to continue working for the remaining minutes and take a five-minute break once the timer goes off.

This way, you'll still have accomplished something despite the interruption, and you’ll be ready to start fresh on the next approach. 

The Bottom Line 

The Pomodoro technique is a great way to manage your time and get more done. It isn’t a silver bullet for productivity—no one method is—but if you’re searching for a structured approach to squeezing every drop of productivity out of your day, this is an excellent place to start. 

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