Understanding the Pomodoro Technique
Productivity hacks are ever-popular in a world full of digital distractions and the Pomodoro Technique one such method that can help you cut through the clutter. The technique, which takes its name from a tomato-shaped timer that inventor Francesco Cirillo used to track his work when he was a college student, aims to help you focus on tasks and conquer your to-do lists. Anyone who struggles with procrastination or feeling overwhelmed with large undertakings can see how this method can help tremendously.
The Pomodoro Technique is simple: you take large tasks and projects and break them down into smaller tasks and then tackle them over timed intervals, which are called Pomodoros. In between Pomodoros are scheduled breaks, during which you are encouraged to get up and stretch (if you’re working at a desk) and do something fun or relaxing. You can find tips about the technique on the inventor’s website, or even read his book for more guidance.
In general, a Pomodoro lasts 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break. After four Pomodoros, you get a longer break of 15-25 minutes. Try it out and feel free to tweak the Pomodoro and break durations based on your workload and routine. There’s no wrong way to do it as long as you don’t deprive yourself of regular breaks. The idea is to be more productive, but not to the point where you experience mental or physical fatigue. You can use a kitchen timer or stopwatch to time your Pomodoros and breaks, of course, or one of the many mobile and online tools available, some of which we discuss below.
Pomodoro Do’s and Don’ts
The idea behind the Pomodoro Technique is to cut out distractions and multi-tasking by getting users to focus fully on specific tasks and to reduce burnout by encouraging frequent breaks. If you’re working on a project that doesn’t mesh well with the Pomodoro method, then don’t try to force it.
You can use Pomodoro for:
- Writing projects
- Clearing out your email backlog
- Clearing our your inbox (IT support tickets, fixing software bugs, etc.)
- Homework, term papers, and other student projects
- Household chores
- Home projects, such as garage cleanout
- Nearly any large task or project that can be tackled in short intervals
- Any task that you’ve been putting off for too long
Don’t use Pomodoro for:
- Leisure activities
- Tasks or projects that don’t benefit from frequent breaks, such as reading or research
- Any task that doesn’t fit within the technique after frequent attempts
Take Out Your Notebook or Open a New Document or use Apps
The first step to implementing the Pomodoro Technique is planning, and the first tool you’ll need is a notebook, spreadsheet, a Word or Google Doc, or your favorite note taking app. (If you’re using an app, consider using Evernote, which, incidentally, can be used even when offline.). My personal favorite is OneNote provided by Microsoft. You can start by creating a to-do list and then allocate each task to a “Pomodoro.” Try to break down projects into digestible tasks that can be completed in one Pomodoro. If that’s not possible, try to limit the number of Pomodoros allotted to each task. Bundle tasks together than can be completed in less than 25 minutes.
The beauty of the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s flexible: if you finish a task early, you can start tackling the next one within the same Pomodoro; if you don’t finish it within the 25 minutes, you can pick up where you left off when the next one begins. The more you use the method, the better you’ll be able to optimize your Pomodoros and plan for the next day. Constantly refine your methodology. To quote Pomodoro-Tracker.com, described below, “The next Pomodoro will go better.” Your first Pomodoro of the day could be devoted to planning for the rest of the day or you could use your last Pomodoro to plan for the following day. Choose whichever works the best for you and change things up if you’re not succeeding. Think of the Pomodoro Technique as a starting point, not as collection of hard-set rules.