Productivity Methods Series: The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique
Set your timer for 25 minutes and start working!

Photo source: Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Parkinson’s law says that work expands to fill up the time available for its completion. The more time you assign to a task, the longer it takes to complete the task.

That’s why (most of) you do not finish your work until the deadline comes around.

You push it for later or drag it along until there’s no time left. Sometimes, you miss deadlines because you’re waiting for that sense of urgency to descend upon you to motivate you to work.

How can you develop a more disciplined approach to work?

One way is to use the Pomodoro Technique or variations of it.


What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a task management approach that requires you to complete tasks in specific boxes of time. You take a break after each pocket of focused time and after a few sessions, you take a longer break to rest your fatigued brain.

“Pomodoro” means “tomato” in Italian. The technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo when he was a university student in the late 1980s to help him complete his assignments. He used an egg timer shaped like a tomato, hence the name.

Don’t be fooled by the simple nature of the Pomodoro Technique. It can help you improve focus and build concentration.

In the context of this technique, a “pomodoro” is an inseparable unit of time and effort. It represents a focused session of work.


Who will benefit from the Pomodoro Technique?

You need the Pomodoro Technique if:

  • you get easily distracted and allow these distractions to waste the entire day
  • you underestimate the time required to complete your tasks, thus taking longer
  • you perform a lot of open-ended work such as writing, coding, or studying
  • you feel overwhelmed by a large number of tasks on your to-do list
  • you are unable to start work because your tasks seem too large
  • you sit at your desk all day but have little to show for it by the end

If any of this sounds like you, please read ahead.


The 6 steps of the Pomodoro Technique

At its core, the Pomodoro Technique has six steps:

  1. Select a task from your to-do list.

You can break down larger tasks into smaller sub-tasks to make them easier to complete. Small and similar tasks such as checking email or social media can be clubbed to be completed in one pomodoro.

2. Set your timer for 25 minutes.

Use a physical or digital timer. Set it to ring after 25 minutes. This period is one pomodoro.

3. Work on the task.

Focus on your work for 25 minutes. No distractions (gadgets, people, noises) allowed.

4. Check the task on your to-do list.

When the timer rings, place a check mark on your pomodoro.

5. Take a 5-minute break.

Rest for five minutes away from your place of work. Eat a snack, listen to a song, take a quick walk, or even a power nap.

6. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break.

You can take a 25-30 minute break after working through four pomodoros.

pomodoro timer
Physical timer

Photo source: Photo by Tristan Gassert on Unsplash

A common objection to this technique is that 25 minutes may not be enough to complete a task and the 5-minute break does more harm than good. This is true of tasks that require “creative flow,” such as writing or composing music.

You can use Pomodoro variations to help you tweak the technique to suit your needs.

  • Try working for 90 minutes at a stretch and then taking a 30-minute break, in tune with the body’s ultradian rhythms.

  • If you work from home, try to fit pomodoros around your household tasks. For instance, work on a task until your washing machine completes its wash cycle.

  • A Desktime study has suggested that 52 minutes on, 17 minutes off could be the ideal mix.

What happens if you get interrupted?

An important point to note is that you are not allowed to entertain any interruptions during a pomodoro.

You cannot have a quick chat with a colleague or a family member.

You cannot check social media or your emails.

You cannot have a 5-minute phone call to finish up a trivial task.

No interruptions, whatsoever.

But life isn’t always so convenient, is it? You do have interruptions.

According to Cirillo, you have two choices:

  • You abandon the pomodoro and attend to the interruption. Later, you start another pomodoro to complete your task.

Or,

  • You use the INSC (Inform, Negotiation, Schedule, and Call back) strategy:

a) Inform the interrupting party that you are busy and cannot attend to their request right away.

b) Negotiate a later time when you will attend to their request.

c) Schedule a meeting at the agreed time.

d) Call back the person after you have completed your pomodoro.

pomodoro distractions
Don’t get distracted by social media or emails!

Photo source: Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

Why can’t you just attend to a request during a pomodoro, especially if it’s a small one?

Because it takes time to regain focus — at least 23 minutes — after an interruption.

That’s almost the length of an entire pomodoro!

You may think you’re great at task switching but you don’t realize that you aren’t working at your full potential until after 20 minutes of the interruption.

Think about it. Haven’t you gotten more and better quality work done when in deep focus for a long time?


What are the benefits of the Pomodoro Technique?

There are several!

  • Helps you accurately estimate the time taken for each task, allowing you to plan better
  • Improves your concentration over time
  • Teaches you to manage interruptions without losing focus
  • Helps you tackle task overwhelm by breaking large tasks into manageable chunks
  • Builds motivation by allowing you to complete big tasks bit by bit
  • Gets you over “starting trouble” with difficult, challenging, or big tasks
  • Reduces stress over deadlines by helping you get tasks done gradually


Tips to use the Pomodoro Technique effectively

Tools and techniques are only as good as the person using them.

Here are some tips to help you leverage the Pomodoro Technique better:

a) If you finish your task before the timer rings, use the remaining time to either review your work or spend it in overlearning – improving your skills and knowledge. Read industry blogs or research papers, finish a course module, or conduct research for another task.

b) When you begin a fresh pomodoro, challenge yourself to do better than the previous one. Review your work at the end of each pomodoro, compare and analzye.

c) Schedule no more than 12-15 pomodoros in a day. Push the less important tasks to the next day.

d) You don’t have to schedule the whole work day into pomodoros. Use the morning to get in a few hours of uninterrupted work using pomodoros and continue with the rest of the day as usual.

e) Use 15 minutes at the end of your day to plan the next day’s tasks. Or use the first 15 minutes of your day to plan the tasks for the day.

f) If your work involves looking into a screen, get away from it during your break. Allow your eyes and brain to refresh and recharge.

g) If social media easily distracts you, use apps to block them while you work in pomodoros.

Enjoy this lovely infographic on the Pomodoro Technique:

THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE
Here’s one way to organize your time and workflow to get the most out of your workday and get things done without killing yourself.
Source: www.elvindantes.com

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla and powered by Deyga.

I’m taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa.

81 responses to “Productivity Methods Series: The Pomodoro Technique”

  1. I’m familiar with the Pomodoro Technique but I personally function better with large chunks of working time and short intervals of breaks… But yes the principal is sound.

  2. Seems a very good technique, would need o practice it particularly as I step into preparing for a certification towards the end of the year..

  3. Loved your detailed and well-researched post. Was not aware of this technique but it seems to be an efficient technique for time management as well as productivity. Have bookmarked it for my reference.

  4. I am meticulous and disciplined but still that last moment rush never spares me. So it was great to have read this post, taking notes from here.

  5. I truly need to add this method to my work to remain disciplined and productive

  6. This sounds great especially for lazy people like me.

  7. It’s good to know about this technique. I never allot specific time for my work. Maybe that’s why I’m not able to be consistent with it. I’ll surely give it a try!

  8. Pomodora technique is something I have been using and as a trainer I talk about it in most of my training sessions. One of the best time management tool which has worked wonders for me.

  9. Thank you for reading, Richa!

  10. Thank you for reading, Ruchie!

  11. Thank you so much for reading, Harshita! I look forward to your comments. 🙂

  12. Thank you for reading! I’ll be writing about other productivity techniques, too.

    My next one is Eat That Frog

    Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

  13. Thank you for reading, Kiran!

  14. Absolutely. I try to work when everyone is sleeping – early morning or late night. Only way to get some peace in the house!

  15. Thank you for reading! I’ll be writing about other productivity methods, too.

    My next one is Eat That Frog.

    Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

  16. Thank you for reading, Leha!

    I’ll be writing about other productivity methods, too. Different methods work for different people.

  17. Yay! I’ve found a fellow Pomodoro follower! So good to hear that it has worked well for you. I’ll be writing about a few other productivity techniques for My Friend Alexa, too.

    Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

  18. Thank you for reading!

  19. Thank you for reading! I’ll be writing about more productivity methods. Not everybody finds the Pomodoro technique suitable even if it is a simple and effective method.

    My next post is on Eat That Frog — also for My Friend Alexa.

    Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

  20. Yes, it frees up time for rest and relaxation, too!

  21. I’ve written about “Eat That Frog” that helps you get the most difficult task done first thing in the morning (or whenever is your most productive time of the day).

    Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

    It’s part of the My Friend Alexa campaign, too.

  22. Ha! Ha! I do this, too, for anything that I need to get done on a regular basis. Reading posts, conducting research, blog hopping…and so on.

  23. Yes, that’s an issue nowadays. I try to work early in the morning or late at night when everyone is asleep.

  24. I try to get in focused periods of work when everyone is asleep. It could be late night or early morning.

  25. Thank you, Siddhant! 🙂

  26. Very well researched and detailed post! Thanks for this

    1. Thank you, Siddhant! 🙂

  27. With WFH becoming the new norm, I am easily distracted because everyone is at home. But I think these bursts of working are pretty much do-able. Will work perfectly as long as the boys don’t get into a fight. #MyepicaReads

    1. I try to get in focused periods of work when everyone is asleep. It could be late night or early morning.

  28. Looks like an interesting concept. I follow a subset of these rules for keeping my day productive, as ever since I am on WFH, there are lot of distraction around and that really interrupt big time.

    1. Yes, that’s an issue nowadays. I try to work early in the morning or late at night when everyone is asleep.

  29. This was an extremely helpful post for me Satabdi. I am definitely going to use the Pomodoro technique, infact am doing it now to catch up on my reading for MFA!

    1. Ha! Ha! I do this, too, for anything that I need to get done on a regular basis. Reading posts, conducting research, blog hopping…and so on.

  30. I am really bad at task and time management. I should try this Pomodoro technique and see if it helps me. I just keep worrying about the work to be done but touch it only when the deadline is near. I hope this technique helps me. Thanks for sharing this informative post!

    1. I’ve written about “Eat That Frog” that helps you get the most difficult task done first thing in the morning (or whenever is your most productive time of the day).

      Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

      It’s part of the My Friend Alexa campaign, too.

  31. That’s thd only method that works for me.I get more done when I work in batches

    1. Yes, it frees up time for rest and relaxation, too!

  32. Getting to know about the Pomodoro Technique for the first time. Quite a useful one for proper time management.

    1. Thank you for reading! I’ll be writing about more productivity methods. Not everybody finds the Pomodoro technique suitable even if it is a simple and effective method.

      My next post is on Eat That Frog — also for My Friend Alexa.

      Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

  33. Aww..thanks Satabdi!! 🙂

  34. glad I learned a technique that helps me to manage work better. Great post

    1. Thank you for reading!

  35. I was having trouble with concentrating and getting things done during the pandemic. I used this method as suggested by a friend. I didn’t know what it was called. Now I do. I can attest that within a week, my productivity rose back up. and now after using it for close to 11 months, my productivity level is better than what it was before. (On most days)

    1. Yay! I’ve found a fellow Pomodoro follower! So good to hear that it has worked well for you. I’ll be writing about a few other productivity techniques for My Friend Alexa, too.

      Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

  36. I heard this in one of the live sessions we had and your explanation makes me want to try this when I am fatigued. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for reading, Leha!

      I’ll be writing about other productivity methods, too. Different methods work for different people.

  37. Thank you for breaking this down. I had read of the Pomodoro technique because I always look for good productivity techniques. But you made this idea much more understandable.

    1. Thank you for reading! I’ll be writing about other productivity methods, too.

      My next one is Eat That Frog.

      Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

  38. Wow this seems to be super beneficial. need something like this for someone like me, who have constant breaks from work, although as a mother it is obvious to have breaks but non kid time zone has become a must for me to get my work done,

    1. Absolutely. I try to work when everyone is sleeping – early morning or late night. Only way to get some peace in the house!

  39. A well written article. I’m definitely going to try this technique. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for reading, Kiran!

  40. This seems to be a good technique and very useful. Gets work done and sometimes if undone, I continue later or the next day of not possible to continue it.

    1. Thank you for reading! I’ll be writing about other productivity techniques, too.

      My next one is Eat That Frog

      Productivity Methods Series: Eat That Frog

  41. it’s an interesting way to increase the productivity of our brain by giving it a break to avoid mental fatigue. I love it

    1. Thank you for reading, Richa!

  42. I was really not aware of this term, and glad you have shared this great way.

    1. Thank you for reading, Ruchie!

  43. Like I said before, I know off follow this technique specially in the mornings when I an fresher. However I didn’t know this was a technique. Plus I think doing it properly will give me more focus( something I have been struggling with recently).
    As always a very well researched and lucid post

    1. Thank you so much for reading, Harshita! I look forward to your comments. 🙂

  44. My sister always tells me how focused I am when I’m finishing a task. That beginning line of why we get to a task when a deadline is looming felt too personal 😀 But it also made a lot of sense. Because delaying something means you’re still losing head space over it. Loved that last infographic.

  45. How are you writing one book after the other if you tend to procrastinate?! No, you’re being too hard on yourself. 🙂

    1. Aww..thanks Satabdi!! 🙂

  46. This is a fantastic technique. I am going to save this for future reference as well and going to share your blog post link with my students as well.

  47. Wow, Satabdi..excellent post as usual…I am the greatest procrastinator..:) I am sure these tips will help me finish the work on time…

    1. How are you writing one book after the other if you tend to procrastinate?! No, you’re being too hard on yourself. 🙂

      1. Aww..thanks Satabdi!! 🙂

  48. Pomodoro Technique is new to me but it is really effective and easy to follow.

  49. I just started doing this and it was so great! I became more productive with my work from home 😊

  50. This is a new name for me. Your detailed post is gonna help me a lot. I think shorter span is better . Atleast we will be able to complete a task.

  51. Thank you for reading, Samarpita!

    *fangirling here because I never expected you to read and comment on my post*

  52. Thank you for reading, Anuradha! Let me know if you try it.

  53. Thank you, Ghazala. Let me know if you try it and if it helps you.

  54. Thank you so much for your kind words, Pamela! You have made me very happy. 🙂

  55. Thank you for reading, Smita!

  56. Thank you for reading! It’s basically common sense. Work with full focus for as long as your concentration span will allow and then give your brain some rest. Repeat until your tasks are done.

    Procrastination probably has many reasons like tasks being too difficult or too long. Or simply having trouble getting started because of low motivation.

    People can modify this technique to suit their concentration spans. I use a 60 min work – 15 min rest split.

  57. Thank you, Ritu! I prefer to use a 60 min work – 15 min rest split to write my blog posts. (I’m a content writer who primarily writes blog posts.) It helps me box in my research time which would otherwise stretch forever.

  58. Thank you for reading! I don’t think you need any productivity techniques. It’s for people like me who get easily distracted by the latest shiny object in the vicinity. 🙂

  59. Thank you Bhawna! You’re right — it’s really helpful for working moms who have to make the best use of each available pocket of time.

  60. Thank you for your kind words, Mayuri! Let me know if it helped you. I use a variation of this technique. A 60 min work – 15 min break split works well for me.

  61. He! He! I use a variation of this method to get all my blog posts written. I use a 60-15 split.

  62. Thank you! I struggle with motivation to write and these words have helped push me to write today. 🙂

  63. Thank you for reading! Let me know if it helped you.

  64. Thank you for reading! I can’t believe you need to instill discipline in your work. Your blog is amazing! And you can’t have such a perfect output without working hard and in a disciplined way!

  65. Though this technique is new to me but it seems like this is for me. Loved the details you mentioned here. It definitely going to help people like me who need some discipline to complete their task.

    1. Thank you for reading! I can’t believe you need to instill discipline in your work. Your blog is amazing! And you can’t have such a perfect output without working hard and in a disciplined way!

  66. This is something unique and I had never heard about Pomodoro technique. I loved reading about it and I will try to apply it.

    1. Thank you for reading! Let me know if it helped you.

  67. Very well researched post. I liked that way you write your posts. words are backed by illustrations and examples. Keep writing.

    1. Thank you! I struggle with motivation to write and these words have helped push me to write today. 🙂

  68. It’s a well researched post that focuses on how to get work done efficiently. All the details are good enough for preparing us to be a better person.

  69. A well-researched and detailed post. I am sure many of us who keep putting away tasks till the last minute, like completing tasks for blog challenges 🙂 , will immensely benefit from it.

    1. He! He! I use a variation of this method to get all my blog posts written. I use a 60-15 split.

  70. I love how I always learn something new each time I stop by your blog, Satabdi. I am easily distracted and that annoys me immensely. Guess I read this post at the right time. I am surely hoping to give this a try.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Mayuri! Let me know if it helped you. I use a variation of this technique. A 60 min work – 15 min break split works well for me.

  71. I would say start with the difficult tasks first. Break them down into shorter tasks so you feel confident when you complete a certain percentage of the task and you can see yourself bearing completion.

  72. Wow, pomdoro the name itself is unique. The way it works really boost the productivity specially for us (working moms). Love your details post n the way it work. I really need this.

    1. Thank you Bhawna! You’re right — it’s really helpful for working moms who have to make the best use of each available pocket of time.

  73. A very detailed post. I have heard about this from my daughter. I am too old for these productivity hacks but I like to stay updated 🙂

    1. Thank you for reading! I don’t think you need any productivity techniques. It’s for people like me who get easily distracted by the latest shiny object in the vicinity. 🙂

  74. World is full of productivity hacks. But this one definitely works. Pomodoro technique has really worked for me. Another layer to it would be to pick easier tasks first. That boosts your confidence for the day to come.

    1. I would say start with the difficult tasks first. Break them down into shorter tasks so you feel confident when you complete a certain percentage of the task and you can see yourself bearing completion.

  75. As always, a well-researched and detailed post, Satabdi. Somehow Pomodoro technique does not work for me. I find it difficult to have a time-bound switch on and off. Although it works great for tedious tasks.

    1. Thank you, Ritu! I prefer to use a 60 min work – 15 min rest split to write my blog posts. (I’m a content writer who primarily writes blog posts.) It helps me box in my research time which would otherwise stretch forever.

  76. What a detailed and elaborate explanation of the Pomodoro technique, Satabdi. I wish I cud share it with so many procrastinators, I know.

    1. Thank you for reading! It’s basically common sense. Work with full focus for as long as your concentration span will allow and then give your brain some rest. Repeat until your tasks are done.

      Procrastination probably has many reasons like tasks being too difficult or too long. Or simply having trouble getting started because of low motivation.

      People can modify this technique to suit their concentration spans. I use a 60 min work – 15 min rest split.

  77. The Pomodoro technique is really amazing and I really didn’t have any idea about this. Thanks a lot Satabdi for this informative and useful post.

    1. Thank you for reading, Smita!

  78. I must say all your posts are well researched, informative and insightful. I did not know about promodoro technique and it is interesting I must say. I will surely implement this at the workplace.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Pamela! You have made me very happy. 🙂

  79. Intersting post , efficient tip for doing time management , I was not knowing this term but I Do 🙂
    Plan out my day and work accordingly 😊

    1. Thank you, Ghazala. Let me know if you try it and if it helps you.

  80. Nice post. It made me to know about “Pomodoro Technique”

    1. Thank you for reading, Anuradha! Let me know if you try it.

  81. I swear by the Pomodoro technique but learnt that most writers I have come across didn’t know much about it. It was great to read such an exhaustive post about it.

    1. Thank you for reading, Samarpita!

      *fangirling here because I never expected you to read and comment on my post*

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