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The Pomodoro Technique: Why & How It Works (and why you should use it)

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Want to be more productive and get more done? Great! Here’s your all-you-need-to-know guide to the Pomodoro Technique. You’ll learn what it is and how you can beat procrastination with just 5+1 simple steps.

What is the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is all about focusing on what you are doing and concentrating on accomplishing one task at a time.

It’s a popular time management method and productivity system invented by Francisco Cirillo in the late ’80s.

Like all of us, he also wanted to be more efficient and get more done in less time. So he took a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato (hence the name Pomodoro – tomato in Italian) and started to break down his work into 25-minute intervals with short breaks between each “tomato.” 

How to use the Pomodoro Technique (in a nutshell)

The Pomodoro Method is super simple. All you need is a timer and the determination and focus on working on your task for 25 minutes without interruptions, followed by a short break.

These are the 5+1 simple steps to get you started, and this is how one “Pomodoro” goes:

  1. Choose a task
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (you can use a kitchen timer, the countdown timer on your phone, or a timer app)
  3. Work until the timer rings (without interruptions)
  4. Record your “tomato” (aka Pomodoro)
  5. Take five – pause your work for five minutes.
  6. Repeat! Start working on your next Pomodoro (Continue the previous task or start a new one and continue as many intervals as needed.

It’s as simple as that. You just need to do each step and repeat AND see the results! 

Tools you’ll need

You can start using this time management method fast and you’ll only need a few simple items:

  • A timer
  • Pen or pencil
  • A To-Do List & Tracker Sheet

When to take a longer break when using the Pomodoro Technique

Cirillo suggests taking a longer break after four sessions.

So if you work for 4 hours total, you would need to take one 25-30 minute break in addition to the 5-minute ones.

And if you work for around 8-9 hours, you would need to take 2-3, and sometimes that’s not possible.

If you have a corporate job you’re usually given one longer break to grab lunch. I’ll cover that case further down this post.

How many Pomodoros can you do a day

Francesco Cirillo suggests doing four Pomodoros in a row – meaning 4 times 25-minute work sessions followed by 5-minute short breaks. And after four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break of 25-30 minutes.

To do 8 Pomodoros in a day…

  • It’ll take you 4 hours 15 minutes.
  • You have 55 minutes of breaks
  • Uninterrupted productive work time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Number of PomodorosProductive WorkBreakTotal
125 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
225 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
325 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
425 minutes25 minutes50 minutes
525 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
625 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
725 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
825 minutes25 minutes
8 Pomodoros3 hours 20 mins55 mins4 hours 15 mins

To do 12 Pomodoros in a day

  • It’ll take you 6 hours 35 minutes.
  • You have 1 hour 35 minutes of breaks
  • Uninterrupted productive work time: 5 hours
Number of PomodorosProductive WorkBreakTotal
125 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
225 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
325 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
425 minutes25 minutes50 minutes
525 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
625 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
725 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
825 minutes25 minutes50 minutes
925 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
1025 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
1125 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
1225 minutes25 minutes
12 Pomodoros5 hours1 hour 35 mins6 hours 35 mins

To do 16 Pomodoros in a day

  • It’ll take you 8 hours 55 minutes.
  • You have 2 hours 15 minutes of breaks
  • Uninterrupted productive work time: 6 hours 40 minutes
Number of PomodorosProductive WorkBreakTotal
125 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
225 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
325 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
425 minutes25 minutes50 minutes
525 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
625 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
725 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
825 minutes25 minutes25 minutes
925 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
1025 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
1125 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
1225 minutes25 minutes50 minutes
1325 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
1425 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
1525 minutes5 minutes30 minutes
1625 minutes25 minutes
16 Pomodoros6 hours 40 mins2 hours 15 mins8 hours 55 mins

So how many Pomodoros a day can you do?

  • If you do 8 Pomodoros, that’s already good. That means you worked half a day efficiently and did almost 3.5 hours of focused productive work. 
  • 12 Pomodoros means you had 5 hours of productive work done in about 6.5 hours.
  • And 16 Pomodoros means you got over 6.5 hours of uninterrupted efficient work done in less than 9 hours.

It might sound odd to have so many breaks and work “only” 75% of the time. But remember that that time you work, is uninterrupted well-focused and thought-out work time. It’s much more valuable than the work you do without a plan and with interruptions.

Tip: You don’t have to do Pomodoros all the time. You can also use Pomodoros for only a part of your day.

What if your Pomodoro takes less than 25 minutes

Bundle up tasks that take a shorter time than 25 minutes to complete like:

  • Reading and replying emails
  • Paying bills
  • Miscellaneous small tasks on your to-do list

What if your Pomodoro takes longer than 25 minutes

Your tasks don’t have to take only 25 minutes to do. If you have a project that you’d like to work on the whole day, you’ll just work on it in intervals; 25 minutes at a time.

If you’d rather work longer than 25 minutes before taking a break, then you can do two Pomodoros in a row.

But when you finish with your “double-Pomodoro,” you need to pause your work for more than 5 minutes because if you work for extended periods of time without breaks, your productivity will eventually fall.

So if you know your Pomodoros take a longer time than 25 minutes, here’s an example of how you can break up your day using “double-Pomodoros”:

Number of PomodorosProductive WorkBreakTotal
1 & 250 minutes10 minutes1 hour
3 & 450 minutes25 minutes1 hour 15 mins
5 & 650 minutes10 minutes1 hour
7 & 850 minutes25 minutes1 hour 15 mins
9 & 1050 minutes10 minutes1 hour
11 & 1250 minutes25 minutes1 hour 15 mins
13 & 1450 minutes10 minutes1 hour
15 & 1650 minutes50 minutes
16 Pomodoros6 hours 40 mins2 hours 15 mins8 hours 35 mins

How to combine the Pomodoro Technique with your regular schedule

You don’t need to do a full day of Pomodoros each and every day. And you don’t need to use Pomodoros all the time.

Like other time management methods, the Pomodoro Technique is a tool that can help you stay focused and get more done in less time and less stress.

You need to use the right tool at the right time. 

Like you wouldn’t use a hammer to cut paper. The same rule applies to time management. You should use productivity tools when you need them and when they help you get the job done faster.

So, for example, you can do half a day of your regular routine and then add a few Pomodoros when you need to get something done in a certain period of time.

Or use Pomodoros only when you’re procrastinating with some task. When you tell yourself that you only need to do something for 25 minutes, then all of a sudden, the task at hand doesn’t seem so overwhelming. 

What if you work 8 hours with one lunch break – Can you use The Pomodoro Technique

If you work for a company that gives you one longer break to grab lunch during your workday, then, of course, taking multiple longer breaks is not possible.

So this is how you can divide your 8-hour day (with one lunch break and two coffee breaks) and still use Pomodoros:

Number of PomodorosProductive WorkBreakTotal
1 & 250 minutesTake five50+5 minutes
3 & 450 minutesCoffee break50+15 minutes
5 & 650 minutesTake five50+5 minutes
7 & 850 minutesLunch break50+30 minutes
9 & 1050 minutesTake five50+5 minutes
11 & 1250 minutesCoffee break50+15 minutes
13 & 1450 minutesTake five50+5 minutes
15 & 1650 minutes50 minutes
8 Pomodoros6 hours 40 mins1 hour 20 mins8 hours

How to keep a record of the completed Pomodoros

You can write down your to-do list on any paper and just write down a little check mark after you finish each Pomodoro.

Don’t let a lack of some fancy checklist or a to-do list keep you from using this method.

But if you do want to have a printable Focus to-do list, then you’ll find one I’ve made for you at the end of this post.

When to use the Pomodoro Technique (and when not)

The Pomodoro Technique works wonders, especially when you need to:

  • Limit your time, whether it’s because you have a lot on your plate or you tend to spend too much time producing over-quality by perfecting your work when it’s not needed.
  • Do a task that is not your favorite thing to do. 25 minutes is such a short time, so you can make yourself do even the most annoying tasks for that time. And then you’re done and get to take a break. (Tip: If you don’t like to exercise or do house chores, setting the timer for 25 minutes can help if you procrastinate)
  • Do routine-like tasks. This way, you won’t sit by the computer for too long without getting up for a moment and stretch, and you get to take a break between boring or monotonous tasks.
  • Do something for a long time, like study for a test. Taking breaks will let your mind have a moment to absorb the learned information.

When you do creative work, the Pomodoro Technique might not be the best fit for you during those times. The interruption of the timer can break your flow and actually hurt your productivity and focus.

But when you’re working on something that doesn’t require a flow-state, this technique is perfect for reducing time spent and increasing focus to get tasks done quickly.

What are the benefits of the Pomodoro Technique

Some of the benefits of using the Pomodoro Technique are:

  • Adding tasks to your daily to-do list, and have your work divided into manageable chunks.
  • Staying more focused.
  • Focusing on one thing at a time, so the overwhelm can be minimized.
  • Accomplishing more by concentrating on the essential tasks.
  • Following your progress and seeing what you’ve accomplished during your workday.
  • Taking regular breaks so you’ll have a possibility to drink a glass of water, walk around without sitting too long at one go, and resting your eyes from looking at your computer screen. The short breaks balance out because you won’t “steal time” from the productive work with interruptions (like checking Facebook or reading news).

The artificial “rush” of working intensely for hours can lead to lower quality work, which will need more time invested later on. 

You could look like you’re working hard while doing extra long hours, but if the work is not exactly what will produce the best possible results and you’re not spending your time focused, then you’re just wasting time.

The Pomodoro Technique helps you set an appropriate pace for your work, and in turn, you can get more done with less stress in these short bursts of time.

Why does the Pomodoro Technique work

The Pomodoro Technique is based on the idea that you can get more done by limiting your work time. And timer gives you a sense of urgency. By having a set time to finish a task, you won’t be perfecting your work endlessly.

When you try to do too much, you might get overwhelmed, and even the smallest tasks seem like an impossible feat. This leads to procrastination and/or distractions. 

The Pomodoro Method helps you focus on one thing at a time and work on each task uninterrupted.

What can you do during the 5-minute Pomodoro break periods

Whether you have a manual Pomodoro timer or an app, it is time to take a break when the Pomodoro rings.

During your five minute break, you can

  • Take a short walk
  • Listen to music
  • Drink a big glass of water
  • Do some light exercise or stretching
  • Take a power nap
  • Eat a snack
  • Talk to coworkers
  • Take a quick phone call
  • Relax and enjoy life!

If you work at home, you can also combine some housekeeping with your Pomodoro breaks. You can, for example:

  • Do laundry (washing a new load or emptying the laundry machine and putting the laundry into the dryer)
  • Wiping the kitchen counters
  • Fill in or empty the dishwasher

Tip: Think of chores that’ll take 5-10 minutes and do those between your productivity Pomodoros. 

What not to do during the five-minute breaks

Taking a break means taking a break from work. So don’t spend your five-minute break checking your email, do other work, or start a new project. Those should be part of the allocated work sessions.

Even though how much you’d love to check your social media, don’t do it. We all know how the Facebook or Instagram feed can take up time, and before you know it, you would have already done another Pomodoro of productive work, but instead, there you were watching cute cat videos and seeing what your friends ate for lunch.

So allocate your time and when that Pomodoro rings, take your mind off of work and recharge your batteries.

What can you do during the longer 25-30 minute breaks between four Pomodoros

Every four Pomodoros, it’s time to take a 25-30 minute break and recharge. During those, you can:

  • Take a nap
  • Have some lunch or snack or grab a coffee
  • Read the newspaper
  • Take a longer walk
  • Do your exercise routine
  • Do some stretching
  • Shower or freshen up if you need it
  • Work on your crafts
  • Write a journal
  • Read a book
  • Watch one episode of your favorite show

And after your break, you can get back to work with the extra energy you gained during your break.

5+1 Extra productivity tips for using the Pomodoros efficiently:

Here are some extra tips to be more focused and efficient:Set and forget

1. Set and forget

Set the timer and then forget it. Focus on the task at hand and don’t look at the timer every five minutes. The timer will ring once it runs out. But at the same time, don’t forget that you only have a set time to finish your task. That’ll give you a sense of urgency and helps you beat the productivity killer called perfectionism.

2. Don’t read your emails or work-texts during a Pomodoro break

Emails and work-texts are work and won’t recharge your batteries. You can allocate one or two Pomodoros to take care of answering your emails and making phone calls, but the breaks should be about taking your mind off of work for a moment.

3. Plan your day in advance

If you know what you’ll need to accomplish in one day, and you know how to divide your day into 25-minute work sessions, then you’ll already halfway there. You’ll get more done and feel less overwhelmed when you don’t need to go over your to-do list in your head.

4. Allocate your time to do each action step

When you allocate your time you won’t spend too much of your time perfecting some task you have and leave no time to finish another task.

5. Put your phone on an airplane mode

Put your phone on an airplane mode while in Pomodoro session to make sure you won’t get distracted.

6. Use Pomodoros for chores

The Pomodoros also works well with house chores, spring cleaning, or when you’re decluttering your house.

Is the Pomodoro Technique good fit for you

The Pomodoro Technique works for those who know how to use it to their advantage.

If you are 100% convinced that you should be available via email, texts, and phone at all times (or if your work requires it), then this method might not be the best fit for you.

But even though you would have interruptions, it’s still a good idea to focus on one task at a time and set a time limit for it. This way, you’ll feel the urgency to finish the task and won’t give into perfecting tasks that won’t require it.

So if you are someone that likes and/or needs a step-by-step guide and idea of what your workflow should look like, then give this productivity strategy a try!

To use the Pomodoro Technique efficiently, you’ll need to:

  • Know the result-driven tasks you’ll need to do (if you plan ahead, this is easy!)
  • Know how to allocate your bigger projects into smaller action steps
  • Fight the urge to check your phone, email, and social media and the temptation to be interrupted in some other way during your productive time.

Why are interruptions bad

The interruptions are bad because they have a negative effect on your productivity. 

Each interruption will pause your work, and then when you come back to the task you were supposed to do, it’ll take some time and effort to refocus and get back to being efficient. 

The interruptions can be for any reason:

  • answering a question from someone
  • being called into another meeting
  • getting a notification about a new email, upcoming event, or getting a text

Why is the Pomodoro timer usually a tomato-shaped kitchen timer

The Pomodoro timer is usually a tomato-shaped timer. This is because Francesco Cirillo, who invented the Pomodoro Technique in the late 1980s, took a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato and set it for 25 minutes and did his first “Pomodoro.”

And it’s so awesome that he took that kitchen timer in use so that all of us get to benefit from this amazing method. And it’s even more awesome that the timer was the shape of a tomato and not, for example, a cherry (Italian word: ciliegia) because none of us would know how to pronounce this method. 

Tomato Shape Timer - Yueton Kitchen Craft Mechanical Wind Up 60 Minutes Timer

Grab this cute and affordable tomato-shape timer from Amazon and start working on your Pomodoros!

CHECK PRICE

Next steps – What to do now that you’ve learned about the Pomodoro Technique

Where to go from now? Here are some ideas what you can do:

Want to learn more: Grab the Pomodoro Technique book

If you want a deep dive into the Pomodoro Technique, you can grab The Pomodoro Technique book from Amazon.

The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work

Grab this internationally acclaimed time management system by Francesco Cirillo, creator of the Pomodoro Technique.

CHECK PRICE

Want to buy a Pomodoro Timer

Here are some cute Pomodoro timers you can find on Amazon:

  1. Tomato Shape Timer - Yueton Kitchen Craft Mechanical Wind Up 60 Minutes Timer
  2. Tomato Shape Timer - Yueton Kitchen Craft Mechanical Wind Up 60 Minutes Timer

    Grab this cute and affordable tomato-shape timer from Amazon and start working on your Pomodoros!

    CHECK PRICE
  3. Cute Cube Timer - 5, 10, 20 and 30 Minutes Presets (Violet)
  4. Cute Cube Timer - 5, 10, 20 and 30 Minutes Presets (Violet)

    Grab this cute cube timer from Amazon. Just turn the cube and choose whether you want to track 5, 10, 20 or 30 minutes.

    CHECK PRICE
  5. Home & Office Timer with Clock - Countdown Timer with 5,15, 30, 45, 60 Minute Presets
  6. Home & Office Timer with Clock - Countdown Timer with 5,15, 30, 45, 60 Minute Presets

    Get this productive home & office timer from Amazon. Just turn the timer position to start and stop countdown. You can choose 5, 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes.

    CHECK PRICE

Want to go digital: Download a timer app

Here are some timer apps to use:

  • Simple & free timer app (desktop): Pomodor app (Note: if you like this, you can buy a coffee for the site designer)
  • Original & free Pomodoro Timer app (desktop): Pomodoro Timer
  • Be Focused (mobile) for Apple users: Be Focused
  • Focus Keeper (mobile) for Android users: Focus Keeper
  • Forest (mobile) both Apple and Android users: Forest app (Plant trees! Your productivity will help you grow your digital forest.)

Want pretty printable sheets to record your daily schedule

I’ve designed two pretty printable Pomodoro Technique PDF worksheets: a Focus To-Do List and a Pomodoro Tracker that can help you with your Pomodoros!

Pomodoro Technique PDF Focus To Do List | SaturdayGift
Pomodoro Technique PDF Task Tracker Sheet | SaturdayGift

You can learn more about them and download them from this post: Cute Printable Pomodoro Technique PDF Worksheets: Focus To-Do List & Pomodoro Tracker

Want a Pomodoro Technique PDF (CheatSheet)

Grab your Pomodoro cheatsheet with an example schedule.

Pomodoro Technique PDF

DOWNLOAD: The Pomodoro Technique PDF (Cheatsheet + Example schedule)

Want more time management and productivity tips

In conclusion

You might have been surprised to learn that the Pomodoro technique can actually make your work more enjoyable.

It’s not just a productivity hack for people who dislike their jobs or tasks; if done correctly, the technique can help you improve concentration and make any task less tedious and stressful!

So whether you’re a university student, homemaker, solopreneur, or work in a corporate environment, Pomodoro is worth considering.

If you’re looking for an easy way to increase your focus on tasks in front of you while also reducing distractions from other sources – like social media or email – give this method a try today!

Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique? Let me know what you think about it in the comments below!


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