The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method created by developer and writer Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down tasks into 25-minute chunks, separated by short breaks. These chunks are called pomodoros (the Italian word for tomato), named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used as a student. The pomodoro technique is based on the idea that frequent breaks help improve mental agility.
How Does the Pomodoro Technique Work?
There are six stages in the technique:
1. Define your task:
Big, small, important, trivial: it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s something that you need to get done.
2. Set the timer for 25 minutes:
Promise yourself you will spend 25 minutes on the task and you will not be diverted. The beauty is it’s only 25 minutes so of course you can do it.
3. Work on the task until the timer rings:
Work the task for the next 25 minutes. If you remember there’s something else you need to do, make a note and forget about it while you get on with your task.
4. When the timer rings, put a tick in your notebook:
Well done. You’ve just completed a pomodoro.
5. Take a five-minute break:
Have a coffee, go for a walk, do some push-ups, anything so long as it’s not work-related. Giving your brain a break will help you work more efficiently for longer. After the five-minute break is up, return to step one.
6. Every 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break:
When you’ve completed four pomodoros, take a longer break of 20 or 30 minutes. Your brain will assimilate the new information and you’ll return refreshed ready for a new round of pomodoros.
The stages of planning, tracking, recording, processing and visualizing are actually fundamental to the technique. In the planning phase, tasks are prioritized by recording them in the days to do list. This helps you to estimate the time each task will require and to prioritize more important tasks. As pomodoros are completed, they are recorded, creating a sense of accomplishment and providing data for analysis and improvement.
The main goal of the pomodoro technique is to reduce the impact of distractions on your productivity. A pomodoro is inflexible. If you are interrupted during a pomodoro, the interrupting activity must be recorded and postponed or else the pomodoro is incomplete and must be abandoned.
One of the benefits of the pomodoro technique is its low-tech approach, using a mechanical timer, paper and pencil. The act of winding the timer is a tangible sign of your determination to start the task which is why a mechanical kitchen timer is preferred to a digital one; ticking off pomodoros as they are complete gives a physical record of your achievement and desire to complete the task; ringing announces a break. Your flow and focus become associated with these physical stimuli and soon your body and mind will adjust to the schedule.
Has modern society become so obsessed with social media and email that we really require a technique like this in order for us to focus and get our work done? It’s a sorry state of affairs if it has. You don’t see airline pilots twisting their little tomatoes as they gear up for another twenty-five minutes of distraction-free flying. So who exactly can benefit from this technique? Well, people like me; bloggers who can really benefit from getting their backsides of their chairs for a few minutes. As Dr James Levine of the Mayo Clinic writes in his book, Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It,
Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.
Dr James Levine
If the pomodoro technique reminds me to move my ass for five minutes out of every thirty, that’s a good thing in my book.The pomodoro technique reminds me to move my ass for five minutes out of every thirty. Click To Tweet
I don’t use the pomodoro technique for my daily tasks – I like what I do and don’t need a gimmick to keep me focused – but I do use a timer to remind me to get away from my desk and do a little exercise. And on those occasions when the task is not an enjoyable one (tax return anyone?) then any help I can get to stay focused is welcome.