Breeze through your to-do list with the Pomodoro Technique—a time-management strategy that uses 25-minute work sessions and 5-minute breaks. By breaking work into manageable chunks, you can limit interruptions and reduce mental fatigue. Below we explain how the technique works, its benefits, and how to implement it for yourself.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your to-do list and wonder how you’ll complete everything? By using time management strategies—such as the Pomodoro Technique—you can maximize your productivity and stay on top of projects.
The Pomodoro Technique uses a rotation of focused work sessions and frequent short breaks. The idea is that by working uninterrupted for short periods of time, you can simultaneously boost productivity and reduce mental fatigue. If you’re working with multiple team members on multiple projects, this technique can be used to timeblock your tasks to make the workload less overwhelming.
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time management system that involves working in 25-minute intervals with short 5-minute breaks in between to maximize focus.
This technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s while he was a university student. Cirillo, who was struggling with time management and productivity, decided to commit to a 10-minute focused study session.
He used a tomato-shaped timer from his kitchen to time himself. After repeated trial and error, tweaking the amount of time, he eventually put together the Pomodoro Technique (pomodoro is Italian for tomato). Here’s the breakdown:
Pomodoro: a 25-minute work session followed by a five-minute break.
Long break: After every four pomodoros, you take a longer 15-minute break.
You can also use this technique with your team.
To apply the method in a team setting, assign tasks to each team member at the start of the day and ask them to use pomodoro sessions to complete them. At the end of the day, meet with the team to review how many tasks and pomodoros were completed. Once you get a good grasp of the method, you’ll be able to estimate the number of pomodoros it’ll take for certain tasks, which can be helpful for planning future workflows or project timelines.Read: 18 time management tips, strategies, and quick wins to get your best work done
In order to stay focused during a pomodoro, limiting distractions is key. For example, you can put your phone on airplane mode to avoid phone calls and turn off chat, social media, and email notifications. But there are times when distractions are outside your control, like if your teammate asks you to help with a time-sensitive task. In this case, Cirillo developed this four-step approach to dealing with interruptions:
Inform the other person that you’re currently busy
Negotiate a time to discuss the issue
Schedule the meeting immediately
Call them back when the pomodoro is complete
To use the Pomodoro method for effective time management, first pick a timekeeping tool, such as:
Timers: You can use a physical or digital timer to keep track of your sessions.
Pomodoro timers: Some timers are programmed specifically for pomodoro sessions. Once you set the pomodoro timer, it will alert you when the pomodoro is up and when your break is over.
Pomodoro apps: Available for both iOS and Android phones, you can also download a pomodoro app to track your pomodoros.
Once you’ve chosen your timer, follow the steps below to get started:
List the tasks you want to accomplish today in order of priority.
Pick a task to work on and start a 25-minute pomodoro.
After the session, note what you accomplished and give yourself a checkmark.
Take a five-minute break.
Do three more pomodoros by repeating steps 2–4.
Take a 15–30 minute break after four pomodoros.
Repeat the cycle while tracking the number of pomodoros needed to complete a task.
In general, there are 16 pomodoros in a day if you work full-time, but it’s not a strict requirement. Use however many pomodoro sessions you need to complete your to-do list.
By recording the number of pomodoro sessions you completed, you’ll be able to better plan out your schedule. The next time you have similar tasks to do, create a timetable and use your previous records to estimate how many pomodoros it will take to complete those tasks.
When planning out your tasks, here are some tips to follow:
Break down complex tasks: If a project or task requires multiple steps and is projected to take more than five pomodoros, break it down into smaller, simpler tasks. For example, if you have to write a report, you can create a task for each stage of the writing process: research, outline, draft, and edit.
Group smaller tasks together: Combine simple tasks that will take less than one pomodoro. For example, “schedule a meeting” and “respond to emails” could go in the same session. This is called a time block.
Schedule extra pomodoro sessions: Schedule out a few extra pomodoros in case some tasks take longer than expected. This can help alleviate stress about meeting deadlines if you run into any issues. If you don’t end up using the extra pomodoros, you can use them for self-learning or optional tasks.
The breaks after pomodoro sessions are intended to be mental breaks. Try not to do anything too mentally taxing during breaks so that your brain has time to rest and absorb information.
It’s also a good idea to take a break from the screen and do something physical.
Here are some ideas of what you can do during a pomodoro break:
Stretch or exercise
Go for a walk
Organize your desk
Eat a snack
Make a cup of coffee or tea
Listen to music
If we work without stopping, we can run ourselves down or (if we let it go on long enough), can even risk burnout. By taking frequent breaks, you’ll be able to recharge physically and mentally so that you can focus on your remaining tasks for the day.
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time management technique because it improves productivity through focused work sessions.
Here are some ways that the Pomodoro Technique can benefit your overall productivity.
This technique lets you break the habit of multitasking, which humans generally aren’t good at. It trains you to be able to focus on one task at a time with reasonable time intervals. By practicing this process, you’ll be able to produce higher-quality work in less time.
After getting used to doing pomodoros, you’ll be able to plan out tasks and projects with more precision. For example, you’ll be able to estimate how many pomodoros it takes to write a report and set a reasonable deadline for it.Read: Create a better project plan in just 7 steps
By following Cirillo’s approach to handling distractions and taking steps to remove distractions in your workday, you’ll be able to optimize your work environment for heads-down time. For example, you could put your phone on airplane mode and set automatic email replies.
A study from the Cognition journal found that doing prolonged tasks lead to decreased performance, whereas short breaks between tasks can help you maintain focus. Taking regular breaks in between pomodoros allows your brain to rest so that you’ll be able to refocus without being too tired.
If you’re using pomodoros as a team, everyone will have a clear understanding of their individual responsibilities and respect each other’s heads-down time. Additionally, you’ll only need to come together for team updates, which will cut down on the number and length of meetings needed.
By breaking down tasks and tackling them in short bursts, you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction seeing how much you can accomplish in 25 minutes. This will motivate you to keep up the productivity streak and ward off procrastination. There’s also the reward of working towards a longer break after four pomodoros to keep you motivated.Read: 9 ways to improve your team’s efficiency at work
Every person manages their time differently, depending on their work environment and work styles. The Pomodoro Method was primarily inspired by timeboxing, a productivity strategy that involves completing tasks within a block of time scheduled in your calendar. In a test of 100 productivity hacks, this was ranked the most useful. Similar to timeboxing, the pomodoro method involves working within a set time period.
By being able to measure productivity using Pomodoros, the passage of time goes from having a negative connotation to a positive one—it becomes a representation of what was accomplished rather than the time that was lost.
Philosopher Henry Bergson suggested that time only invokes stress and anxiety when we’re compelled to measure it, triggered by the idea of being late.
On the other hand, perceiving time as a series of events doesn’t generate stress. This is where the Pomodoro Technique comes in handy—by experiencing your workday as a sequence of planned pomodoro sessions, your time-related stress can be reduced.
By “inverting the dependency of time,” as Cirillo calls it, the concept of time is no longer a source of anxiety but a motivator. Every pomodoro puts a healthy amount of pressure on us to improve and make progress.
That being said, while the theories behind the technique may be sound, how well the Pomodoro Technique works will vary from person to person.
If the traditional pomodoro method isn’t working for you, try customizing it so that it’s better suited to your work style and preferences.
Here are some ways to do this:
Change the length of the pomodoros: You can adjust the length of pomodoro sessions to align with your work habits. For example, you can take longer breaks or do shorter work sessions. As long as you’re following the work-break pattern, you can still reap the benefits of the technique.
Combine with other strategies: If you’re a fan of organization and productivity strategies like the Getting Things Done (GTD) method, you can combine it with the pomodoro method. Organize your tasks using one strategy and tackle your tasks with the pomodoro method.
Do pomodoros when it’s most helpful: You don’t have to commit to doing pomodoro sessions for the whole work day. Use it when you find it’s most helpful, for example, when you’re working on a project that has multiple moving parts. If your level of productivity varies throughout the day, try using the pomodoro method during your peak hours.
The Pomodoro Technique offers a simple approach to time management by alternating between focused work sessions and breaks.
By scheduling out tasks based on the estimated number of pomodoros it’ll take to complete them, you’ll be able to measure your progress and keep your team in the loop as well.
This technique can boost your productivity, improve project management, and enhance teamwork. To fine-tune your workflow even more, pair the Pomodoro Technique with productivity tools or task management software.
To get the most out of the Pomodoro Technique, you can pair it with workflow management or productivity tools. Here, you can build out task lists, organize ideas, and focus on your workflow without interruptions.Try Asana for free