What is a Pomodoro Timer?
Have you ever been frustrated at your inability to stay focused on a task at hand, feeling like there are just too many things demanding your attention, or too many distractions you can’t resist?
Or maybe it is the sheer length of the to-do list itself that feels so overwhelming. You don’t even know where or how to start.
The truth is that we are all inundated with constant distractions, making it difficult to focus our attention on a given task. This, along with the feeling that time is constantly running out, may increase our stress levels and reduce our productivity, feeding a vicious cycle of ineffective time management.
So how can we support ourselves to be more productive and to use our time more efficiently?
Over the past 30 years, the Pomodoro Technique has emerged as one of the most popular answers to this age-old dilemma.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that promises to optimize productivity and efficiency while ensuring that you are not left feeling overwhelmed or mentally exhausted at the end of the day.
So, who invented the Pomodoro Technique? Well, in the late 1980s, a university student Francesco Cirillo developed a unique method for managing his time and named it the Pomodoro Technique.
As a student with multiple assignments demanding his attention and continually surrounded by distractions, he found it challenging to focus his attention and manage his time productively.
His solution was to develop a time management technique in which time became the partner with whom he was collaborating, rather than the inescapable ticking reminder of looming deadlines.
What is a Pomodoro Timer?
The answer lies in why it is called the Pomodoro Technique: ‘Pomodoro’ means ‘tomato’ in Italian, and this was the shape of the timer which Francesco Cirillo first used when he began to experiment with using time to his advantage. Does your timer have to be in the form of a tomato? Of course not. Any device which allows you to set a timer will be adequate.
One Pomodoro is a unit that includes an amount of time (usually 25 minutes) allocated to focusing on a single task, plus a short break at the end (usually 5 minutes). A Pomodoro is also much more than a number of minutes – it represents a bite-size manageable unit of time in which one is able to work productively and efficiently.
How does the Pomodoro Technique work?
The Pomodoro Technique makes use of a set period of task time (usually 25 minutes) with short breaks in between (usually 5 minutes). A Pomodoro timer is used to notify you of when the 25 minutes is up and it is time to take a short break.
During the 25 minutes of task time, you need to commit to zero distractions – that means not checking email or scrolling through social media, not getting up to make a quick snack, and not tidying your desk.
When the timer rings and it is time for a short break, you are free to do whatever you need to refresh your mind and body – as long as it doesn’t take more than 5-10 minutes.
Some suggestions include grabbing a glass of water from the kitchen, listening to your favorite song and dancing, stretching, meditating, putting a load of laundry in the machine… anything that gives your mind and body a break so that when you return to your task, you are ready to dive in again, for another 25 minutes, distraction-free.
When researching how to use the Pomodoro Technique online, you’ll find several recommendations to not spend time on your screen during the Pomodoro break, but rather choose something that involves some movement or at least a change of body position.
That’s not to say that a glance at your preferred social media platform is totally out of the question; but if you must, at least try and take a little walk around your room while you do it. Whatever you choose to do during your Pomodoro break, make sure that you take your mind off your chosen task, if only for a few minutes.
Why does the Pomodoro Technique work so well? One of the reasons certainly seems to be the frequent brief breaks that researchers have found may improve one’s performance, especially when engaging in a long task.
What happens when you are tempted to skip your mini-break and continue working past the 25-minute mark when the Pomodoro timer rings? Best not to try and find out. As they say: “Respect the Tomato”.
5 Easy Steps of the Pomodoro Technique
Choose your task or tasks that need to be completed.
- Set your timer to 25 minutes.
- Mark off that you have completed one Pomodoro when the timer rings
- Break time! Take a short break (5 minutes is recommended).
- Take a longer break (20 minutes break for every 100 minutes of work completed) every 4 Pomodoros.
Benefits of Using the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique will benefit you by helping you become more efficient with your time, and therefore more productive. The short breaks allow your mind to be refreshed so you can return to the task alert and ready to focus.
It’s also quite flexible. Nothing is set in stone, and you can adapt and adjust the Pomodoro time units to meet your needs and concentration abilities. Some people may prefer somewhat longer Pomodoros and others may need to shorten them.
You’ll also experience a sense of accomplishment when completing each Pomodoro, which will no doubt further inspire and motivate you to keep going one Pomodoro after another.
Who might benefit from using the Pomodoro Technique?
Anyone can benefit from using the Pomodoro Technique to assist them to stay focused and become more productive. Students may use it to help them study effectively and efficiently for tests or to complete assignments, and people from every sort of career can use it to keep them on track over the course of their workday.
The Pomodoro technique is also extremely beneficial to those who struggle with procrastination. It’s easier to push past procrastination when they only have to commit to an unintimidating 25 minutes block, and their confidence will grow as they are rewarded with a sense of achievement each time they complete a Pomodoro.
If you happen to be a chronic procrastinator, don’t stress if 25 minutes seems too long; you can simply find a period of time that works for you, perhaps 15 or 20 minutes.
Pomodoro Technique and Studying
What is the Pomodoro study technique? If you are studying for a test or a series of exams, you can use the Pomodoro technique to assist you in managing your time and your study schedule. It will be important to first allocate 1 or 2 Pomodoros to make your study timetable and allocate specific sections of work that you plan to cover in each Pomodoro.
The peace of mind you will experience as you enter your study period will ensure that you have the capacity to focus and not worry about running out of time to get through all the work you have to cover.
Using the Pomodoro technique means you can also prioritize sections of work that you need to spend more time on and schedule areas requiring additional revision.
When using the Pomodoro Technique for studying, it is strongly suggested that in your planning you are specific in writing what sections of work you want to cover in each Pomodoro. For example, don’t just write the subject, “Anatomy” (4 Pomodoros). Rather, include the subsections you will cover in each Pomodoro:
Anatomy: bone structure of the foot (*1 Pomodoro)
Anatomy: muscle & movement of the foot (*1 Pomodoro)
Anatomy: neural innervation of the foot (*1 Pomodoro)
Anatomy: revision of the foot (*1 Pomodoro)
Pomodoro Technique as an ADHD Management Technique
People with ADHD may be particularly prone to difficulties with attention and inefficient use of their time. The Pomodoro Technique is an excellent, flexible tool to help them manage their time and allocate reasonable periods to necessary tasks.
For example, they might struggle with being very easily distracted, so only having to focus a short amount of time when using the technique will feel less daunting to them.
Conversely, many people with ADHD also struggle with hyper-focusing on a specific task, meaning that they tend to spend excessive time on one thing. A shorter Pomodoro can also be used here to disrupt this tendency. As the timer goes off, they have to stop, take a break, and then move on to something else.
Whichever way their ADHD manifests, the Pomodoro Technique can easily be adjusted to support them.
Try it for Yourself
You now have the info you need to try out your first Pomodoro. You could even start now by using an egg timer from the kitchen, downloading one of the many Pomodoro apps, or treating yourself to one of the fancier Pomodoro timers you can buy online.
For a next-level Pomodoro experience, try out the kōno app which, in addition to a Pomodoro timer, includes features from all the top productivity methods and blocks out distracting websites, social media, apps, and phone calls. Whichever way you choose to get started, get ready to enjoy the benefits of taking on your tasks in nice, manageable bites - one Pomodoro at a time.