Pomodoro is a popular technique for improving productivity. In essence, it’s a very simple strategy to keep you focused and ‘in the zone’, while also reminding you to ‘come up for air’, which is known to boost productivity. You’ll commonly find it being promoted by study coaches and in writing bootcamps, where it’s important to remove distractions and maximise the use of very limited time.

There are lots of ‘Pomodoro evangelists’ who swear by the technique, while others have tried it and struggled. Still others compromise, and use it to help them when they have intensive work periods (assessments, exams) but not as an everyday technique. The beauty of it is that you can choose to use it in whatever way works for you – and the best way to find out what that is, is with a bit of experimentation.

Getting started with Pomodoro

When you work with Pomodoro, you are working in a cycle of short bursts of focused work (usually 25 minutes), followed by short, regular breaks (usually 5 minutes) which keep up motivation and creativity. Stand up, stretch, grab a drink, check in with a friend or whatever, then straight back into it for another cycle. After 4 of these cycles, you take a longer break (around 15 minutes) to help you recharge before starting the whole cycle again. Repeat a few times over the course of the day, and many people find they accomplish MUCH more than they do by just slogging through for much longer hours…and they feel much less tired and stressed, due to having balanced their work with lots of breaks.

You can use a simple timer to help you, but there are a lot of tools out there that make this much simpler. To work out which one is right for you, think about whether you want the timer on your desktop (Marinara timer, for example, stays open in a browser tab while you work), as a phone app (scroll through recent recommendations to find the one with features that suit you – you’ll often find these on sites like Zapier, MakeUseOf or Lifehacker), or a physical timer that you set manually.

I personally use Focus Timer (iOS), which allows you to customise the durations of the work and break periods and sounds, allocate the number of Pomodoros you want to spend on particular tasks (and see how you went, which is great as it shows how your focus is improving over time), and it shows how much time is left in each session. You can also pause the timer at any point, which is useful if the timer goes off and you want need to finish something off before taking a break.

Find out more about the full Pomodoro technique, and how to really make it work for you, through the Resources attached to this challenge.

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2 Resources for this Challenge

  • Estimating how much time an activity will take (Carole Hunter, @carolelhunter)

    If you start to really get into Pomodoro, you might like to try using it to estimate how long tasks take. People are generally terrible at this, which is why we end up taking on too much, or scrambling before deadlines to make sure the work is complete. Worth a try to see if you can improve your ability to “plan and properly schedule your tasks in your calendar, meet deadlines, and avoid the stress of an unmet plan.”

  • The Pomodoro Technique (Carole Hunter, @carolelhunter)

    From the official site, why to use Pomodoro, who is works best for, how to go about it, and how it will change you.

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