The Pomodoro technique is a time management methodology where you work for 25 minutes followed by a short 3-5 minute break. You repeat the same cycle 4 times and take a longer break.
Today, we have more work to do than time on our hands. People often spend long hours and complete the work just before the deadline.
In today’s busy world, the Pomodoro technique is one of the well known time management methods for productivity.
In this article, I will cover:
- How to use the Pomodoro technique
- The areas to watch out for
- The advantages of using the methodology
- What is the Pomodoro technique?
- Important tips for implementing the method
- Advantages of the Pomodoro Technique
- Frequently asked questions about the Pomodoro technique
What is the Pomodoro technique?
The Pomodoro technique involves working on a task for 25 minutes, followed by a short 5-minute break before picking up the next task to repeat the cycle. In theory, the method follows a straightforward approach.
If you break the whole process stepwise, here is how the flow looks like:
Step 1: Choose the task you need to work on
To begin with, you must choose what you have to work on. You must pick a single task because it helps avoid distractions and multitasking.
Feel free to pick a long term goal you’ve been postponing or an urgent task waiting for your action.
Step 2: Set a timer for 25 minutes
You need a timer to tell you when the slot is over. You can use an online stopwatch, your phone alarm, or a physical timer to notify you.
Don’t worry if the task you’re targeting needs more time. You do not have to complete the entire job in a single slot.
Step 3: Work on the task until the timer beeps
You must put all your energy and attention on the task at hand for those 25 minutes. While you’re on it, you must stay away from distractions like answering calls, responding to text messages, or striking a conversation with people around.
Step 4: Take a short break when the Pomodoro is complete
When the timer beeps, you’ve completed one Pomodoro. Take a short break of 3-5 minutes to relax by taking a walk, drinking water, checking your phone, etc. Do not use the time to get more work done because your brain needs breathing space.
Step 5: Repeat these steps 4 times
Follow the same pattern of 25 minutes of work followed by a short break. You can pick a new task for every Pomodoro or resume where you stopped at the end of the last slot.
Once you finish 4 such cycles, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
And of course, do not forget to pump your fist for the job well done.
Important tips for implementing the method
When you’re new to the technique, you’ll feel the urge to stir things up. But wait until you get the hang of it.
Here are 5 pointers/mistakes that you need to know:
1. Don’t skip breaks
The technique suggests you take a short break after each focused session. While you might want to continue working, resist the urge to do so.
Taking a timeout helps your brain relax, assimilate information, and prepare for the next slot.
2. Make an effort to avoid distractions
The technique was invented to help you maintain focus on the task at hand. If you peek into your Instagram newsfeed often or open Amazon to find a random thing to buy, you’re nullifying all your effort.
3. Do not work on different tasks in one Pomodoro
If you target 3 different tasks within one slot, you’ll lose time switching attention from one place to another. As much as possible, pick one target for the entire slot. If you have many smaller tasks to complete, set aside one separate Pomodoro to get them done.
If you recall a pending job when you’re between a Pomodoro, make a note. Do not jump into that task, even if it is small unless it is unavoidable.
4. Keep the breaks short
One of the disadvantages of the approach is, you get a short break every 30 minutes. Not everyone has the discipline to relax for a few minutes and focus on the next task to do right after. The interruption can turn into an extended period of wasted time.
If you allow yourself to turn lenient, the Pomodoro technique can turn into short spans of work followed by long breaks of distractions.
5. The technique requires practice
During your initial attempts, you’ll have a hard time avoiding distractions and maintaining focus. Don’t give up assuming you’re not cut for this.
Every person has a challenge in the early days adapting to short slots of focused attention. You’ll get accustomed to the pattern in a few days.
Advantages of the Pomodoro Technique
1. Helps you focus
The biggest advantage of using this time management technique is the improvement in focus. When you’re surrounded by distractions, different jobs can pull your attention in all directions. By targeting one task at a time, you make progress towards the goals that matter.
The method yields great results when studying for an exam or learning new material.
2. Makes progress as a process
If you lack a structure to your day, you’ll find yourself engaged on one task after another until you reach the end of the day. Unfortunately, such an unorganized approach forces you to postpone the long term goals you care about.
But, if you set aside a couple of Pomodoro slots every day for the goals that resonate with you, you’ll keep moving forward towards your target.
3. Reduces multitasking and distractions
Due to the short 25 minute time window, you’ll manage to stay away from distractions and multitasking. With a little experience, you’ll nail the process of choosing the right task for each Pomodoro without letting your mind waver.
4. Tracks effort
Most people have no idea what they spend their time on. The day ends with nonstop work hours but mediocre results.
If you spend 15 seconds at the end of each Pomodoro to note down the task you worked on, you’ll have an activity log of your day.
If you notice yourself struggling with progress despite spending long hours, all you need is a peek into your work log. You’ll know where you’re leaking time and how to fix it.
5. Uses primacy and recency effect
As per psychology, the brain has an easier time remembering the first and last items of a list. You can apply the same concept to enhance your learning methods.
By allowing short sessions with breaks, you create more opportunities for the primacy and recency effect. As a result, you might digest and retain information better compared to hours of relentless studying.
Frequently asked questions about the Pomodoro technique
The technique has millions of users across the globe, and more people are trying it every day as we speak. If you haven’t implemented it before, here are some questions you might have in mind.
1. Why is the length of each slot 25 minutes?
The duration of 25 minutes is only a suggestion. It stands at a middle ground between being too short to get a job done or too long to maintain focus.
But again, many people use different Pomodoro times to suit their needs. For example, writers go on a flow for an hour or two before taking a break. Athletes practice in a burst for 15 minutes before catching their breath.
You should experiment to find the right slot length for you. Be wary of these two pitfalls though:
- Longer sessions can lead to fatigue and lack of concentration, especially if you have a short attention span
- Shorter slots will spawn frequent breaks which can disrupt your rhythm
2. Do I break my entire day into Pomodoros?
Not at all. You can start by setting a few hours of your day as Pomodoro slots. Once you get the hang of the method and develop better focus, add one slot at a time until you’re comfortable. Do not try to rush the technique.
Many Pomodoro experts allow a portion of their schedule to attend to the nuances of the day instead of a rigid 30 minutes slots throughout.
3. What if I am distracted between a slot?
As per traditional rules, if you interrupt a Pomodoro, you should not take it into account. If you can follow that practice, that’s amazing.
But, most people cannot avoid every single distraction. A neighbor might knock at the door, a coworker can walk up to you or a friend may have important news to share. Avoiding such situations is not only rude but in some cases downright impossible.
Under such circumstances, forgive yourself for letting an interruption slip by. But make sure that does not turn into an excuse to watch a random video on Youtube between a task. You must avoid all distractions that you have the control to stay away from.
4. Can I tweak the method as per my needs?
Definitely. I would recommend you to play around with the slot duration and break timings based on your needs.
For example, I use a longer Pomodoro of 60-90 minutes for writing content for my blog or books. I stick to a shorter slot of 30 minutes when I taking an online course, reading a book, or working on a technical aspect of my website.
Do not consider the stepwise breakdown as the only way to gain results from the technique. You’ll boost your productivity by experimenting and figuring out what suits your personality and circumstances the best.
5. Does the Pomodoro technique work for everyone?
Just like any other self-improvement concept, the Pomodoro technique has both believers and haters. Some claim that the method has changed their lives, while some others complain that it made no difference.
Whether the technique yields results for you depends on your current mindset and habits. If you currently approach your day without a clear structure or a plan, implementing the Pomodoro technique will make a difference in your productivity.
But, if you already have a structure to your schedule where you spend focused time on the right tasks, you’ll not notice any significant difference.
I use Pomodoros in combination with time blocking in different lengths dispersed throughout the day. They both blend well together and work for my schedule. Similarly, you’ll have to find a way to fit the technique into your world. No method works as a one fit for all, so you’ll have to find the sweet spot.
6. The term Pomodoro sounds different. What’s its origin?
The method was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the last 1980s. Back then, as a university student, he used a kitchen timer which was tomato-shaped to track time. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, which Cirillo used to name the technique.
You can find a similar timer even today on Amazon.
The Pomodoro technique has its pros and cons. If you’re new to time management techniques, you’ll certainly see the reward. When used correctly, it can increase your focus and thereby your productivity. But, it isn’t the only way to make the best use of time.
Time blocking and Deep Work are other methodologies that help you complete your tasks and achieve your goals as per the deadline.
Knowing each of these techniques and experimenting with them will help you determine what works for you and what doesn’t. Each one of us has such different personalities, professions, and goals. Sticking to one technique would mean constraining yourself within a straitjacket.
Draw inspiration from each of these methods and tailor them to your situation. After all, you know yourself best.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.