The Pomodoro Technique: Can it work for you?

Photo by  Marcelo Leal  on  Unsplash

Let’s talk tactics! Have you heard of The Pomodoro Technique? It’s not a new technique, but I find that people who’ve tried it either love it or hate it. It’s oft-maligned as not being realistic because “who can break their day into 25 minute chunks, anyway?”.

And if you’re one of those people who tried it and hated it, please keep reading. I’ve got some tweaks for you to try!

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro technique is named for the Italian timer that looks like a cute little tomato.  Essentially, when you use Pomodoro are setting a timer for a set amount of time, working uninterrupted until the timer goes off, taking a short break, and starting the timer again. Here’s are the steps:

  1. Select a task, project or batch of tasks

  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (your “Pomodoro”)

  3. Work on the task, uninterrupted, until the timer goes off

    1. Just like meditation, keep your notebook/or note taking app next to you, and if a thought pops into your head during the Pomodoro, write it down, and keep moving.

  4. When the timer dings, take a 5 minute break

  5. Repeat steps above

  6. After 4 “Pomodoros” take a longer 15-20 minute break.

Simple, right? 

Why is Pomodoro misunderstood?

Now, why is Pomodoro often misunderstood?  I think that people often think that they have to block off all of their time using Pomodoro, but in most people's lives and jobs, breaking your day, all day, every day, into 25 minute chunks, isn’t really reasonable. 

If that works for you, great. But if it doesn’t…

Try These Pomodoro Tweaks

Pomodoro can be really useful not only for focus, but also for reducing procrastination:

I like to take a pretty liberal view of how we can use Pomodoro and here are some of the best ways I’ve found to use it.:

  1. Doing tasks you are dreading (it’s only 25 minutes, you can do anything for 25 minutes.  And it’s ok to stop after 1 Pomodoro.)

  2. Doing batches of like tasks (answering emails, digital filing, etc.) - this reduces context switching and all the negative consequences that go with it. Make a game out of how many emails you can answer in 25 minutes.

  3. Working on a big project without feeling stuck or overwhelmed

And if 25 minutes doesn’t make sense to you, go ahead and switch it up. I like to set a Pomodoro timer for my natural attention span, which is about 45 minutes. Try setting a timer for whatever your natural attention span is. 15 minutes is A-OK if that works for you!

Pro-tip: If you’d like to work on extending your attention span, well, then go ahead and set a timer for about 5 minutes longer than your natural attention span and see how it goes. Edge it up slowly over time.

Pomodoro is a tool; add it to your box

Pomodoro is a tool that you can have in your arsenal, just like any other.  It’s a great way to beat procrastination, and sometimes you even find that when the timer goes off, you’re so in the flow that you want to keep right on working.  And if that’s the case, lean into it!

What the heck is a "Tech Loop"?

Productive people take how many breaks?!?