5 Things I Really Like About the Pomodoro Technique

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I recently started using the Pomodoro Technique. This technique is a work/break scheduling tool used initially by medical school students to foster focused “deep work.” “Pomodoro” simply means “tomato” in Italian — which was the shape of the kitchen timer used by its Italian developer, Francesco Cirillo, in the late ’80s. Here’s how it works: 

Step 1: Choose a task you’d like to execute. This task can be anything from making space for a hand-me-down fridge in your garage to writing a novel. The more daunting, the better— though simple tasks will work great as well. 

Step 2: Download or obtain a simple timer. This timer can be a mobile application or a simple kitchen timer. There are also many great web-based timers designed explicitly for use with the Pomodoro Technique

Step 3: Have a means of notetaking immediately at hand. This method of taking notes can be an app like Google Keep (my favorite), or a physical note pad with a writing tool.

Step 4: Prep your environment for focus. Use the bathroom. Ready your coffee. Put your phone “do not disturb” mode. Obtain the necessary books, materials, or tools to complete the task. Log out of all social media platforms. Yes, actually log out.

Step 4: Set the timer for 25 minutes and work with as much focus as you can muster. Place your full attention on attacking this task for the full 25-minutes. If you suddenly have a great unrelated idea, realize another task you remember that you need to do, or the cure for COVID-19, use the notepad or notetaking application to jot it down. Once jotted down, immediately return to the original task. 

Helpful tips for Step 4: A. Remember that you’re only committing to 25 minutes. B. Depending on your level of distractability, you may want your timer visible. Sometimes seeing how much time you have left until you can quit helps you focus. 

Step 5: Take a break. Once the 25 minutes is up, set the timer again for 5-minutes and take a break. Get up. Walk around. Check your phone. Use the bathroom. Top off your coffee. Whatever you need to do—you’ve earned it. 

Step 6: Get back to work. Once the five minutes is complete, reset the timer for 25 minutes and get back to work just like you were doing in Step 4. 

Step 7: After four cycles, take a longer break. Once you’ve done FOUR 25-minute work sessions, take a 15-minute break. You’ve earned it. 

Step 8: Start the whole process over again. Once that 15-minute break is over, start back at Step 4. 

If done correctly, a two-hour cycle of “deep work” should look like this:

  • 25 minutes of deep work
  • 5-minute break
  • 25 minutes of deep work
  • 5-minute break
  • 25 minutes of deep work
  • 5-minute break
  • 25 minutes of deep work
  • 15-minute break 

If you find yourself immensely focused and you don’t want to take a break, simply set the timer for another 25 minutes and continue working. Still, I wouldn’t recommend doing this more the two or three times. You need a break to stay sharp! 

The Pomodoro Technique sounds way too simple to be useful, but it absolutely is useful for me—for reasons that may go unconsidered by someone who hasn’t tried it.  

What I Like About the Pomodoro Technique #1: It immediately scales down forboding work. 

Before, the idea of turning an information-packed 30-minute interview into a respectable article was reasonably daunting. I knew I’d be committing to hours of reading, writing, rephrasing, and potential premature burnout. Now, I only really have to commit to 25 minutes of work. Who can’t commit to 25 minutes? Pffssshhh. 

What I Like About the Pomodoro Technique #2: Physically hitting a “start” button. 

I already hit a timer on most of my paid work to track the time spent on it for clients. Even though this is the case, these timers also include breaks, trips to the bathrooms, water bottle refills, and everything else included within the “process” of writing. My Pomodoro clock, however, is purely for work. Once I hit that “start” button, it’s like throwing the lever on a rollercoaster—you gotta go where the tracks take you. Need to fasten your safety belt? You should have thought about that earlier. 

What I Like About the Pomodoro Technique #3: I don’t feel guilty about taking frequent breaks. 

Usually, when I take a break from working, they’re rarely planned. I may need one. I may accidentally take a break because I got distracted. With the Pomodoro Technique, I don’t feel bad about taking five minutes to stretch, jump rope a dozen times, refill my water, peruse the news, message a friend, or the like. Not only did I “earn” the break by being immensely productive during the past 25 minutes (typically as productive as I’d otherwise be in a distracted hour), but my break also has its own timer. Whereas other breaks may have wound up being much longer due to distractions, I’m quickly back to work as soon as those five minutes are up. 

What I Like About the Pomodoro Technique #4: Distractions don’t linger in my mind as much. 

One of the reasons I’d indulge my distractions in the past was fear of forgetting that thing I needed to do. “Oh, I need to block out some time on my calendar to budget out my tax return.” Just doing that little act would usually derail me while I remembered the other items I needed to time-block in my calendar. With the Pomodoro Method, I can either (a) quickly jot this down in a Google Keep “to do/remember” specifically for that day or (b) can feel confident that I won’t forget to do this in the next 25-minutes max. 

What I Like About the Pomodoro Technique #5: It’s so damn simple.

Whether its time-blocking, jumping rope, meditating, journaling, or using the Pomodoro Technique, all of my favorite self-management techniques are also some of the simplest tasks one can perform. If you’ve made it this far in the article, you’re an expert in the Pomodoro Technique. While there are a few books on the subject, it’s effectiveness is in its simplicity.

If you read this entire article, that’s about 6-minutes, which means you need to get back to work!