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Last Updated on March 7, 2022

Does the Pomodoro Technique Work for Your Productivity?

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Does the Pomodoro Technique Work for Your Productivity?

Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the more popular time management systems used today. But this method isn’t for everyone, and for every person who is a passionate adherent of the system, there is another person who is critical of the results.

Is the Pomodoro Technique right for you? It’s a matter of personal preference, but if you are curious about the benefits of using the technique, this article will break down the basic information you will need to decide if this technique is worth trying out.

What Is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Method is a time management method that aims to provide the user with maximum focus and creative freshness, thereby allowing them to complete projects faster and with less mental fatigue.

The process is simple:

  • For every project throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically.
  • You work for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break.
  • Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro,” named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal pomodoro timer, and thus the method’s name.
  • After four “pomodoro” work sessions have passed (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of short breaks), you then take a longer break of 15-30 minutes[1].

Does the Pomodoro Technique Work for Your Productivity?
    • Every time you finish a Pomodoro, you mark your progress with an “X” and note the number of times you had the impulse to procrastinate or switch gears to work on another task for each 25-minute chunk of time.

    Pros and Cons of the Pomodoro Technique

    Benefits of the Pomodoro Method

    1. Set Time for Distractions

    Throughout our workdays, we often get distracted every few minutes. This usually happens because we don’t plan in time for breaks when we would actually be allowed to get distracted.

    The Pomodoro Technique allows breaks throughout your day, so you know when you’ll get to disconnect and be distracted with something else for a moment.

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    2. Limits Open-Ended Work

    Open-ended work like studying, research, or even writing can drag on for hours if you’re not careful. By fitting these kinds of activities into pomodoros, you put a time limit on them, which will help you “complete” them in a certain amount of time and break down work into manageable chunks.

    3. Turns Work Into a Game

    If you’re a fan of games, the Pomodoro Method can be a lot of fun for you. The timer acts as a countdown for the task at hand, and you’ll feel like you’re working against the clock, trying to “finish a level” or “win the game.” Gamifying important tasks can really help boost your productivity as it offers entertainment, breaking up boring moments with a challenge.

    4. Helps You Move Away From Procrastination

    For those who struggle with procrastination, the Pomodoro Method can keep you motivated. With this technique, you know when and how long you have to work, so you don’t have to talk yourself into working as it’s already laid out for you.

    Downsides of the Pomodoro Technique

    Despite the number of Pomodoro-heads out there, the system isn’t without its critics. Colin T. Miller, a Yahoo! employee and blogger, tried using the Pomodoro Technique and had some issues:[2]

    “Pomodoros are an all or nothing affair. Either you work for 25 minutes straight to mark your X or you don’t complete a pomodoro. Since marking that X is the measurable sign of progress, you start to shy away from engaging in an activity if it won’t result in an X. For instance…meetings get in the way of pomodoros. Say I have a meeting set for 4:30pm. It is currently 4:10pm, meaning I only have 20 minutes between now and the meeting…In these instances I tend to not start a pomodoro because I won’t have enough time to complete it anyway.”

    Another critic is Mario Fusco, who argues that the Pomodoro Technique is…well…sort of ridiculous:[3]

    “Aren’t we really able to keep ourselves concentrated without a timer ticking on our desk?… Have you ever seen a civil engineer using a timer to keep his concentration while working on his projects?… I think that, like any other serious professional, I can stay concentrated on what I am doing for hours… Bring back your timer to your kitchen and start working in a more professional and effective way.”

    How the Pomodoro Technique Boosts Your Productivity

    Frequent breaks keep your mind fresh and focused. According to the official Pomodoro website, the system is easy to use, and you will see results very quickly:

    “You will probably begin to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two. True mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.”[4]

    If you have a large and varied to-do list, using the Pomodoro Technique can help you crank through projects faster by forcing you to adhere to strict timing.

    Watching the timer wind down can spur you to wrap up your current task more quickly, and spreading a task over two or three pomodoros can keep you from getting frustrated.

    The constant timing of your activities makes you more accountable for your tasks and minimizes the time you spend procrastinating.

    You’ll grow to “respect the tomato,” and that can help you to better handle your workload.

    When to Try the Pomodoro technique

    The Pomodoro technique will work for you if you:

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    • Find distractions derailing your workday
    • Work past the optimal productivity point consistently
    • Have a lot of university student related tasks that take a lot of time such as researching or preparing for a test
    • Enjoy setting goals and achieving them

    Quick Tips for Pomodoro –ing

    1. Invest in a Timer

    You’ll need an app or a timer for the Pomodoro technique to work. You don’t have to invest in special tools or books to do this. The timer on your phone is also a great tool. You need to:

    Choose your tasks for the day: You should choose a task that needs to be completed in a day or a project that you need to make progress on.

    Ensure that your timer is set to 25 minutes: As we said earlier, you need to break your work hours into 25-minute intervals. This is the time to follow your plan and get things done.

    Work till the timer alerts you: If you are not used to this method, you’ll have a strong urge to check your phone, chat with a friend or reply to emails before the timer alerts you. Do not fall into this trap. Keep working until you get alerted.

    Enjoy your break: Even if you had gotten into the state of flow, it’s time to get up and enjoy your break. Remember, working continuously without taking short breaks can lead to stress, poor concentration, fatigue, and burnout.

    2. Have a Clear Plan

    Before you start working, you need to take at least fifteen minutes to plan out your sessions or pomodoros. Prepare a to-do list and record the number of pomodoros that every task will take. Keep in mind that any task which takes more than five pomodoros should be broken down into smaller tasks for you to stay on top of things.

    Also, small tasks such as calling a colleague or sending emails can be batched into one Pomodoro. If you work for eight hours or more every day, you should ensure that your pomodoros don’t go beyond sixteen in a day. In case this happens, consider postponing the less important tasks.

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    3. Overflow Pomodoros Are Essential

    As we’ve said earlier, sixteen pomodoros are ideal for an 8-hour workday. However, it’s important to build a buffer of two to four overflow pomodoros. You should use these pomodoros to work on tasks that take longer than you anticipated or for emergencies that come up during the workday.

    If everything goes as planned, you can use these extra pomodoros to work on low-priority tasks that you tend to push every day or read a good book. It’s always better to have more pomodoros take a longer period than stretching yourself too thin and getting stressed out.

    4. Extend or Reduce the Length of Your Pomodoros

    Some types of work will require you to work for extended periods to get things done. Activities such as writing, coding, or composing will require you to be in the state of flow to get good results. In the state of flow, 25 minutes can be too short.

    Therefore, extending your sessions together with breaks can increase your level of effectiveness. A study conducted by DeskTime found that a 52-minute session and a break of 17 minutes is the ideal balance for productivity. Others will opt for a 90-minute session with a 20 to 30 – minute break.

    If you are feeling tired or experiencing mental resistance, you should consider reducing your sessions to fifteen or even ten minutes. You should adjust the intervals based on your energy level, the number of tasks that need to get done, and the type of work.

    Best Apps for Tracking Time

    For the Pomodoro technique to work effectively, you’ll need to have a few tools. You’ll use these tools to get the work done and communicate to your loved ones that you are busy. Most importantly, you’ll need them to track your progress. Here are the best apps for tracking time:

    • Focus Booster: This is an amazing app that will help you track the amount of time that you’ve spent on a task. This app allows you to time your sessions, adjust the length of the session and access this data on different gadgets and the web.
    • Rescue Time: Rescue Time is one of the best time-tracking apps that will help you block distractions, track time, and inform you about the time spent by generating reports. More than two million people across the world use this app.
    • Pomodoro Tracker: This is a simple tracker that allows you to input the tasks that you want to work on during the day, time your sessions, and help you keep track of your progress.

    Final Thoughts

    One of the best things about the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s free. Yeah, you can fork over some bills to get a tomato-shaped timer if you want, or you can use a custom timer, or any timer program on your computer or phone. Even if you try it and hate it, you haven’t lost any cash.

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    The process isn’t ideal for every person, or in any line of work, but if you need a systematic way to tackle your daily to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique may fit your needs.

    More Productivity Tips

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com


    [1] Todoist: The Pomodoro Technique
    [2] Aspirations of a Software Developer: A Month of the Pomodoro Technique
    [3] InfoQ: A Critique of the Pomodoro Technique
    [4] Francesco Cirillo: The Pomodoro Technique

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