What Is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity technique in which you work in time units called Pomodoros. The Pomodoro Technique increases your productivity and trains you to focus by helping you to break up a project into more manageable work slices. So, let’s say you have a project to write a paper. One work slice might be to spend time units working on your introduction. Another work slice would be spend time units on research.
Focus Is Only for Short, Intense Bursts
The average individual is able to maintain focus on the task at hand for about 20 minutes. In general, a Pomodoro is a unit of time of 25 minutes. So, this gives you 5 minutes to get into the zone, followed by another 20 minutes of intensive focus, creativity, and work.
After breaking your project into more manageable slices, you start working on those slices with units of Pomodoros. Every 25 minutes, you take a 5-minute break, then get back to work with another unit of Pomodoro. After spending so many Pomodoros, you reward yourself with a bigger break, say 25 minutes.
The advantage of this system is to help you focus and really zone in on the task at hand. The short time intervals between Pomodoros are in themselves rewards, because you know that if you put in 25 minutes, eventually you will get a 5-minute break. The recharging time helps keep you refreshed, and boosts your productivity and creativity.
Who Came Up With This Cool System?
The Pomodoro Productivity system was invented in the early 1990s by Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo, an entrepreneur, author, and developer, named the system “Pomodoro”, a throwback from his days as a university student, when he tracked his work using a tomato-shaped timer.
Keeping Track of the Number of Pomodoros
The beauty of the system doesn’t end after 25 minutes. Its beauty is in helping you to figure out how many Pomodoros it takes you to accomplish a task (slice). This information will help you determine how many Pomodoros it will take to accomplish a similar task in the future.
If you find yourself spending too many Pomodoros on a work slice, then it may be time to break up that slice so that it is even more manageable. So, yet another beauty of the Pomodoro Productivity System is to help you break down work into more manageable units.
You can assign as many or as few Pomodoros as you need. Whatever system metric works for you, go for that.
Or, you can just use the Pomodoro as a break timer.
A Pomodoro Unit Is Indivisible
You start on a task and about 15 minutes into it, someone stops by and asks you a question. You stop what you are doing to help her. In essence, you are no longer on task.
This violates the Pomodoro concept of indivisibility. In other words, you must focus on your task for an entire Pomodoro. If you step away from the task, you have to start the Pomodoro unit over again.
This caveat has the added benefit of helping you to focus exclusively on the task at hand. Just like meditation, the more you focus the stronger your willpower muscle gets.
And if someone stops by your office to ask a question or needs help, the Pomodoro restriction helps you to learn how to say “no” to people and to put priority on your own task over theirs. Of course, do so tactfully. Say that you are doing something and that you cannot stop. Ask if you can stop by their office when you are finished (or have them come back). Do your task and get back to that person in a timely manner.
Of course, there are exceptions to this scenario and sometimes you will have to drop everything to help them (such as your boss).
What Do I Need to Get Started?
You just need a timer capable of counting down from 25 minutes (or whatever you choose). It’s that simple.
Alternatively, download an app from the iTunes stores. In particular, I like . Useful features include a built-in break timer, followed by a long rest period after a configurable number of Pomodoros. It also allows you to break down a project into individual tasks.
Once the timer goes off, stop and take a 5-minute break. If you cannot stop after the 25-minute Pomodoro and need to keep going before you lose your train of thought, then keep going and stop later.
The Cyclic Nature of Pomodoros
Just in case it was not obvious, the Pomodoro Productivity system is cyclic in nature. You work around the same 25-minute Pomodoro units, until you are finished with your tasking. The advantage of having Pomodoros is that you recharge consistently, which helps bolster your creativity and productivity, increasing your motivation to get done the task at hand.
A Moment of Reflectance
By keeping track of the number of Pomodoros, especially when you complete a work slice, you know how long it takes. This in turn teaches you how to break down a project into time-manageable slices.
The Pomodoro Technique Summarized
Once again, the Pomodoro Technique is a simple, timer-based system in which you work in 25-minute spurts, with 5-minute breaks in between. After so many 25-minute spurts, or Pomodoros, you take a longer break, usually 25 minutes.
So, here are the steps to execute the Pomodoro Technique.
- Set timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on the task.
- Timer goes off after 25 minutes.
- Take a 5-minute break.
Repeat steps 1 through 4 about 4 times (or 4 25-minute Pomodoros, with a total of 20 minutes of breaks).
- Take a 25-minute break.
- Go back to Step 1. Do this until you complete your task.
- Track the number of Pomodoros it took you to complete the task.
Review the task and the number of Pomodoros it took. Look at future projects and break it down into a similar number of Pomodoros.
By breaking down what appears to be a large, unwieldy project into smaller, more manageable parts, you make sure to actually start. By further working in units of Pomodoros, we break down the psychological barriers, going from “That’s going to take forever!” to “Now, I can actually see the end in sight.”
So if this is the first time you have heard of the Pomodoro Technique, then give it a try! You will be surprised just how much more productive, creative, and motivated you become from just making a small tweak to the way you work and take breaks.