This article on The Pomodoro Technique Guide to Optimize Productivity is a complete step by step guide to make you aware of all the facts, doubts, and accurate way to apply this simple yet powerful technique.
Pomodoro Technique can dramatically improve your efficiency by helping you make workflow effectively.
All Productivity Techniques are unique and work differently for different people. There is no universal thumb rule that solves everyone’s problem because everyone is unique and so are their problems.
What these techniques do is provide a roadmap to implement the method. These roadmaps are prepared by research to smooth out the procedure. These techniques have to be adjusted to meet one’s perfect needs.
Pomodoro is one such management technique that optimizes work time and increases efficiency.
“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” by Tim Ferriss
“Action is the foundational key to all success.” by Picasso
What is the Basic Principle of the Pomodoro Technique Guide?
Pomodoro Technique is working on a project or activity for a fixed period and then taking a break. As per research, the optimum time for the beginners is found to be 25-min work and then a 5-min short break.
This “25-min+5-min set” has to be performed 4 times before taking a long break of 15min.
But this time duration depends on the type of work you are doing and the person’s present ability to concentrate.
In my initial days, my time duration was 15-minute work with a 3-minute break. Do this set for 4 times before taking a 30min of a long break. But that was me.
These regular breaks after every 15-minutes helped me better concentrate on the work at hand.
My suggestion will be you start the method with a standard 25-minute block time and keep noting down the number of distractions. After a few Pomodoro, you will realize what should be the optimum time for you.
Who invented the Pomodoro Technique?
Pomodoro Technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo to be used as a time management tool and optimize the time to achieve more in less time.
How was the Pomodoro Technique invented?
During the college day of Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, he was feeling disorganized and unproductive when comparing himself to his classmates. He used to go to college but returned home feeling nothing was achieved.
So he made a promise to himself that he will study with an ultimate focus for 10min and he picked up his kitchen clock to validate the time. It took him some amount of self-control and practice to make this concentrated study for the desired 10-min time.
The kitchen clock he used looked like a Pomodoro(tomato in the Italian language).
With that self-discovery, Francesco invented this highly productive technique and used this tool to improve his study process.
Since he used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, so he named it a Pomodoro Technique.
What are the stages of the Pomodoro Technique?
1. Planning the activities at the start.
Plan the activities at the start. What do you want to accomplish? The time needed to do it. The resources that will be required and so on.
Tracking the activities during the work. Is there anything that distracts you? Note it down. Something you need to do later! things you should have kept with yourself.
Record the distraction data of all the activities for finding out how to improve your efficiency.
Now process all the raw data to a readable format and ask yourself how could I have made effective use of my time and resources. Answer yourself and note all the possible ways.
It’s time to improve by implementing the self suggested ways. But try one thing at a time.
What are the requirements of the Pomodoro Technique?
The most important requirement is the will power to bring improvement in self. Apart from that, you will need:
- Some type of timer(a physical clock or app or software)
- Your to-do list for all the activities you need to achieve
- Some sheets of paper to record all your distraction while performing the task.
If you are using an app or software, then they have such note-taking mechanisms inbuilt in them. That’s all you need to use the technique and improve your productivity.
I prefer pen and paper, but if you are comfortable you can use online/app/software also. I find them to distract me more than help me, so I prefer pen and paper and use the online/software tools only when I need them.
What is the optimum time required for Pomodoro Technique?
The honest answer to this question will be it varies from person to person and with experience. As I have mentioned above the person who invented this technique was not able to concentrate for 10-min in the beginning but later on, with time and willpower is increased.
The same happened with me in my initial days. But now I concentrate on 50-minute straight without any break.
By research, the optimum time for beginners is found to be 25-min work and then regular breaks of 5-min.
“25 min+5 min set” has to be performed 4 times before taking a long break of 15 min.
But this time duration depends on the type of work and person and will improve with practice.
But remember to allow yourself the regular short 5-minute break when the timer rings or else you will burn out from working on the project.
How to effectively apply the Pomodoro Technique?
Let me elaborate on the step by step procedure to apply the Pomodoro technique and become efficient.
#1. Make a table of priority for all your task
Make a table of the to-do list along with the time needed to perform it. The list should include a priority.
I am showing an example of how I publish this article using the Pomodoro technique.
#2. Start with 1st priority task and set 25 min to complete the predefined work
Start with the highest priority activity. Complete it and then move onto the next one. Take a simple timer and set it to a 25-min count-down time and just start the work.
If you have a big project then pre-define what you plan to accomplish in that 25-min chunk of time. During this 25min of focus period if you feel that you got distracted just note down the distraction to review it later.
You can use the “x” mark to highlight distraction and mention it.
While I was researching the Pomodoro technique I was constantly being distracted by other techniques available for productivity. Whenever that happened I simply noted down the name of that technique on a piece of paper and I then went back to my work at hand.
As you can see above during my the 1st work session I was distracted 3 times.
While researching I found
- a flowtime technique;
- forgot to keep a water bottle with me before starting and since I felt thirsty had to move up and drink &
- I forgot to check pen ink which was dried out.
There were 3 distractions and hence 3 “x” with reasons.
#3. Give 5-min of a short break to relax and stay away from work
After 25-min of Focus Period, give yourself the much needed 5-min break. During this break-time Drink water or Do light stretching exercise or do Deep breathing.
Just get away from the work, don’t even think about it for a short period. Allow your brain to settle and interlink the information for you. Preferably, stand and move your body.
I made sure I had water with me and checked all my necessary things so that I am not distracted by the reasons mentioned above.
BUT PLEASE DO NOT CALL YOUR FRIENDS(unless needed for the activity at hand).
Neither check your emails or VISIT SOCIAL MEDIA FOR JUST A PEEK.
You will not even know when this “just a peek” turns into hours of unproductive work.
#4. Do the “25-min + 5-min set” of Pomodoro for 4 times and take a long break of 15min
My 1st priority work was 2 hour so after 4 Pomodoro I almost completed the work so took a longer break of 40-min. As I have mentioned above the time duration depends upon the individual and their work.
But, you shouldn’t change the work duration of 25-min or whatever that time is for you.
Let me explain it clearly,
Suppose your work required 1-hour maximum time then you SHOULDN’T break the 4 Pomodoro with each set being “15 min work and then 2 min ” short break each to cover 1 hour.
No, this is not the correct way.
Your Pomodoro remains “25 min+5 min set”. After 2 Pomodoro sets, if you achieve your work then you can take a long break now.
The only variable is the number of Pomodoro required to achieve the work and not the duration of Pomodoro.
The duration of Pomodoro depends on the individual and their concentration power. It will increase with practice and time as mine have to 50-minute. But you should not decrease that time from your present time.
Here I would like to point out that, if you are a beginner, start with the 25min work time and practice it for a few months before increasing the time. Trust me you will automatically understand when to increase the time.
Pomodoro cannot be interrupted nor can be scaled down. It’s a 25-minute pure Quality work or doing the Important Tasks.
#5. Tick or Strike-through the completed task
After completion of the activity, you can tick “✓ ” the work or cut it off. I prefer the tick “✓ ” as it gives me a positive vibe.
#6. Give sufficient time for recharging/rest
Give yourself the much needed long break before starting on the next priority work. During this time you can
- Call your friends,
- visit social media,
- Take a Short Walk,
- Review your To-Do List
- Have your tea/coffee/snacks,
- Arrange your desk, prepare resources for the next task, and so on.
Just stay relaxed. Don’t do any stressful work during this long break or else your brain will get tired and will not be able to organize the last Pomodoro information. Neither can it be at optimum state for the next one.
As I have said earlier, do not actively think about your work, let your brain do it on its own. This Pomodoro Technique is a Focus Booster Management Method, Nothing Else.
#7. Start the next priority work and apply the above steps
Start with the next priority activity from your list and follow procedures 1 to 6 as mentioned above.
Do keep in mind that if your Pomodoro time is somehow interrupted by somebody or something, you should consider that null and void. You have to start fresh Pomodoro. It’s an important rule of thumb for the Pomodoro Technique.
What are the problems of the Pomodoro Technique?
I have been using this technique for the last 8 years and based on my personal experience I found that the biggest problem this technique arises is it breaks the rhythmic flow of work.
This flow state is needed for high-quality productive work. There is another issue with this method.
Let me explain with an example. Suppose I had a rough day but since there is important work to do so I am working on the project. I set the timer for my usual time length of 50-min but since I was already exhausted I am now working beyond my comfort zone and pushing myself. This will impact the quality of my work.
One may argue that why haven’t I set the timer for less time, well the entire technique is based on habit building for optimum work, and reducing even for once diminishes its true objective. So, once you have achieved a time, you should never reduce it.
In case you have to due to unavoidable circumstances then this Pomodoro becomes null and void.
This rigidity somehow is one of the biggest problems/disadvantages of this technique.
What is an alternative to the Pomodoro Technique?
For the last one year, I have been using a flow-time technique which is a modification of Pomodoro by adding Deep Work ideology to it.
Pomodoro is based on giving self a fixed period to do the work whereas the flow-time technique tries to find the distraction and concentration span by documenting the time tags.
Let me explain with an example. You can either use this technique using pen and paper or use excel sheets or apps; it’s your choice.
Pick your activity/task and start doing it. Just One Task at a time.
Multitasking is a BIG NO in flow-time technique. There is NO clock or Time duration required.
Note down the time of starting and just do your work. Do keep a note to record any distraction/thought that astray your concentration. When you feel tired, stop the work and note the end time.
You can now take your break, but break time also does not have to be fixed but has to be reasonable. I will suggest you anything less than 30-min.
The record is for future analysis and elimination of those distractions so that you can perform better the next time. The core ideology of the flow-time technique is
“We perform better when refreshed”.
Does the Pomodoro Technique work?
Yes, it does work and I believe it’s because of “Parkinson’s Law”. This law explains that our work expands as to fill up the time needed for its completion i.e. if I have a task and I give myself 1 day to complete, I will complete it in 1 day.
But for the same task, if I give 2 hours; with reasonable efficiency and accuracy, I will complete it in 2 hours only. Hence, giving yourself a chunk of fixed time to work whole heartily does work.
The shorter the time you give for finishing a task, the faster you will complete it.
How many days needed to learn the Pomodoro Technique?
Just in line with any other habit, it takes around 21 days to make it a part of yourself. I can say this number based on my own experience and of my friends and family with whom I shared this.
Pomodoro Technique vs Deep Work, which is better?
Deep Work is giving full mental focus on the task at hand without getting distracted. Pomodoro Technique has given yourself a chunk of fixed time to concentrate wholeheartedly on the task at hand.
So, Pomodoro is applying deep work for that chunk of time. Hence, they are co-related and should be used in conjunction.
Deep work is laser focus distraction-free work to get more in less time whereas the Pomodoro technique is a time management tool that gets the work done efficiently without one getting physically or emotionally burned out/tired.
With time the duration of time for Pomodoro will increase from 25-min to a higher value. As of today, I can do 50-min of deep work during my Pomodoro.
What are the best software/apps/clock/online available for the Pomodoro Technique?
Using a physical-mechanical timer works best but if you don’t have one you can use any mobile phone. Almost all of them have a timer built in their OS.
The reason I don’t suggest mobile as a timer for students especially is that there is a chance of too much distraction in the forms of mobile notifications. So, turn your mobile into flight mode before working.
If you are using Windows 7 or Mac then there is an efficient free open source software specifically designed for the Pomodoro Technique. It’s called “Tomighty”.
I use it every day whenever I am working on a project on my laptop. It’s available at the following URL:https://tomighty.github.io/
As far as Online Pomodoro Timer is concerned I use “TomatoTimer”. It’s available at this URL:https://tomato-timer.com/. There is no registration required.
It has a simple clean interface having everything I need. Just go to its setting and change as per your requirement.
There are other simple online Pomodoro timers also like http://www.tomato.es/ and https://pomofocus.io/. Check them all and decide as per your convenience.
Though any table clock with an alarm should do the work, still Amazon does have certain so-called Pomodoro timers. Feel free to watch them on Amazon and judge yourself.
If you are using Windows 10 then there is a simple free desktop app that can be used for Pomodoro. It’s called “Focus 10”. It’s available for free in the following URL:https://www.microsoft.com/en-in/p/focus-10/9nblggh5g2xh?activetab=pivot:overviewtab
For Ubuntu Linux users there is a software called “Thomas Timer”. This app is also simple, free, and easy to operate But this app does not offer any installer, so you have to download the Image or source files from GitHub for installing on your Linux system.
git clone https://github.com/andrepolischuk/thomas
In case you are using Debian or Ubuntu, nodejs-legacy need to be installed into the system for creating node symlink:
sudo apt-get install nodejs-legacy
If you are using Canonical Snapcraft then you can search for “Pomatez By Roldan Montilla Jr”. It’s available in Snapcraft in the following URL: https://snapcraft.io/pomatez
Are there any Firefox/Google Chrome extensions available for the Pomodoro Technique?
Yes, there is such an awesome add on extension for both firefox and chrome desktop browser. For Firefox the best one is “Tomato Clock by Samuel Jun”. Its URL:https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/tomato-clock/
For the Google Chrome browser, I prefer “Marinara: Pomodoro® AssistantOffered by Chris Schmich”. It’s simple, clean, and free to run offline.
It’s available in this URL:https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/marinara-pomodoro%C2%AE-assist/lojgmehidjdhhbmpjfamhpkpodfcodef?hl=en
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity tool that can help in Getting Things Done by achieving more in less time following the “Parkinson’s Law” and “Deep Work” theory.
The key idea of the technique is to break down the work/task into small time blocks of 25 minutes each. Those 25-min of Focus Period requires your full attention on the single task at hand.
After 25-min you must take a casual 5-minute mini-break. Focused attention means that you shouldn’t encourage any interruptions; no email, no mobile notifications, no social media, no online shopping, no useless browsing, no chit chat with friends and family.
Similarly, break means break; again no checking of email or gossiping with friends.
You also shouldn’t even think about the work. Just relax.
What we can do is take tea or preferably water and some stretching exercise along with 10 deep breathing or have some fresh air.
After the 5-min relaxing break, you will start your timer again and start the next 25-min Pomodoro.
You need to repeat this for 4 cycles before taking a big break of 15-30 min.
You can do anything you want in those big breaks. Having the ticking sound of the clock in the background helps in staying focused. But it may vary from person to person.
The Pomodoro time has to be 100% complete. There is nothing called 80% or 10% Pomodoro. In all other cases, your Pomodoro is null and void if you have not disciplined yourself to complete the entire chunk of Pomodoro time.
If you finish early then revise and analyze your Pomodoro at the end and understand your limitations and distraction beer so that you do not repeat them in the future.
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I have extra time left in my Pomodoro then what to do?
You have to discipline yourself to have a fixed duration of Pomodoro, hence if your work gets completed before time then use the extra time to revise the material and tweak/improve the work until the clock rings.
What are the benefits of Pomodoro?
The biggest benefit is we force ourselves to complete the task within a given time frame, thus we make full conscious use of the time. With practice distraction from work reduces, efficiency in work increases and we get more free time for self-care and other work rather than waste mindlessness on our task.
Do I need the sound while using the Pomodoro technique?
Yes. This constant subtle ticking sound reminds us to stay focused on our task. I have personally felt that the sound helps me in concentrating and it has been backed by numerous experiments too. Everyone is different, so I will suggest you try it and then decide.
What to do in the Pomodoro break?
During the short break of 5min, it is preferable to drink water or do light stretching exercise or deep breathing. Just get away from the work, don’t even think about it for a short period. Allow your brain to settle and interlink the information for you. Don’t call your friends(unless needed for the activity at hand) nor check your emails and don’t visit social media.
During the long 15-min break, you can call your friends, visit social media, have your tea/coffee/snacks, arrange your desk, prepare resources for the next task, and so on. Just stay relaxed and light. Don’t do any stressful work during this long break or else your brain will get tired and will not be able to organize the last Pomodoro information neither can be at optimum state for the next one.