For years I struggled with a lack of productivity because of endless distractions. A dear friend and colleague asked me this. Is the Pomodoro technique effective? I said, “The what?”
After it was explained I no longer took it as some kind of joke and had to find out more to improve on it.
It was certainly worth a try, I mean I had nothing to lose except my habitual nonproductivity right?
Here was the problem…
Every day I felt constantly busy, stressed, and was unable to maintain my focus on anything. Every little distraction sent me scurrying off in another direction. I couldn’t even focus on someone talking to me, in seconds I would be looking at my phone or reading something else while the person was still talking.
Then at the end of the day, I was so exhausted I would literally fall asleep waiting for the kettle to boil so I could have a much-needed cup of tea. It wasn’t the tea I needed as much as the rest.
Having an intelligent conversation with my husband was impossible, I was that exhausted.
Have you ever experienced that?
Many people have experienced very similar things and have felt the same frustrations.
I’ve been told the Pomodoro technique is an effective tool that can actually help boost my productivity.
Many swear by this technique and others find the technique itself is a big distraction.
Apparently, there are various versions of it so by trying each of the techniques you may find one that works best for you.
Let’s dig a little deeper…
What Is The Pomodoro Technique?
Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s Law?
Well, it states that work expands to fill the available time.
In a nutshell, the Pomodoro technique is a simple time management tool that is supposed to counter the effects of Parkinson’s Law so we can improve our productivity.
It encourages you to work within the time you have, rather than struggle against it.
The Pomodoro technique will help you better understand:
- the value of your time
- it is possible to improve both the quality and quantity of your work
- how you can better manage people’s expectations, including your own
- how you can benefit from exercising willpower
- how you can effectively eliminate burnout
How It Boosts Your Productivity
The Pomodoro technique is an effective time management method in which you alternate Pomodoros or focused work sessions, with frequent short breaks.
This is designed to promote sustained concentration and stave off mental fatigue.
How It Works
The founder of the Pomodoro technique, Francesco Cirillo wrote, “I discovered that you could learn how to improve your effectiveness and be better able to estimate how long a task will take to complete by recording how you utilize your time.”
This technique is popular mainly because it is both easy to learn and portable.
- select one project or task you wish to focus on
- set a timer for 25 minutes and get to work
- when the buzzer sounds, take a 5-minute break
- after four sessions, take a 15-30 minute break
- record each session with a tick or X in your notebook
Who Is It For?
A good candidate to try the Pomodoro technique would be someone who:
- finds little distractions can derail the entire workday
- consistently works past the point of maximum productivity
- have lots of open-ended work that could take unlimited amounts of time (studying for exams, researching for a blog post)
- consistently set unrealistic goals for how much you can actually get done in a day
- enjoy gamified goal setting
- really enjoy tomatoes lol
So What Do Tomatoes Have To Do With It?
So why a tomato?
Interesting bit of trivia here for you.
Well, Pomodoro is actually the Italian word for tomato.
The Pomodoro technique was created by Francesco Cirillo as a university student who struggled to focus on his studies and complete assignments.
He felt quite overwhelmed, so he began to ask himself to commit to just 10 minutes of focused study time.
Encouraged by the challenge, he found a tomato (Pomodoro) shaped kitchen timer and gradually increased his focused study time.
These focused intervals became known as Pomodoro and the technique became its namesake.
As with anything, there are critics and the Pomodoro technique is no exception.
Some people believe that it is an all-or-nothing technique as does Colin T. Miller, a Yahoo employee and blogger who tried the technique for himself.
Here is what he had to say,
“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 4:30 pm. It is currently 4:10 pm, 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, Mario Fusco says:
“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 more professionally and effectively.”
The Pomodoro technique may not be for everyone but before giving up on the idea try different versions of it. Perhaps it is just that version that isn’t well suited to your working style.
Get your “To-do-list” and your analog timer and head to your desk where you will set your timer for 25 minutes and tackle one task on your to-do list.
You will focus on that one task entirely for that 25-minute time slot.
When the timer goes off you will take a 5-minute break before beginning your next Pomodoro (focused time period), during which you may either continue working on the same item if it is not yet completed or move on to the next item.
After 4 Pomodoros you will take a 10 – 15 minute break.
This gives you plenty of breaks which will help avoid mental fatigue.
Regardless of what task you are working on, you will not check or answer email, texts or social media unless this time slot is designated for that particular task only.
The marinara timer is an easy-to-use in-browser setup which means you just click and go. Sounds like it’s super simple and even I could effectively use it.
You can select the original Pomodoro 25-minute intervals and 5-minute breaks or go for the custom timer if you need something a little more fluid.
For me, the custom timer is tricky because I really don’t know how much time to allow for each task.
I find that 25 minutes is a good amount of time for me to work solidly without getting distracted. It allows me to take a break before I feel like I need one which is a new concept to me but I find it energizing.
I found I miss the background ticking of the analog timer which reminds me to stay on task. I also found the alarm was not quite loud enough, and I didn’t hear it, especially when I was writing content for a blog post.
I am starting to realize that using Pomodoro can be a task in itself, as I try to figure what tasks work best for me in which time slots.
Once I know what I work best on at what time of day I am sure it will be much easier.
This combines the app “Promotodo” with GTD theory.
This app is a to-do list with an integrated Pomo timer. This will allow you to estimate the workload of certain tasks by tracking your historical data, setting reminders, and splitting large tasks into smaller steps.
I only tried it for a single day so I stuck with the in-browser version, however, the app is available for download on various platforms.
Some people really thrive on this method so I gave it a go.
This is where you really get extreme with time management and integrate every part of your life into Pomodoros. I mean everything including eating breakfast and getting dressed.
For some people, this may work great but for me, it really felt unnatural.
I just felt too rushed trying to decide what to wear or rushing through breakfast which is also when I tend to meditate setting the tone in my mind for the day ahead.
This method was clearly not for me if it left me feeling more stressed.
Flat Tomato is a beautifully designed timer for people who want to avoid distractions and improve their productivity.
This IOS app offers some truly beautiful clock designs which can be purchased with the POMO currency you earn by completing Pomodoro sessions.
This app integrates seamlessly into the OS desktop and syncs across all your Apple devices.
This app sounded perfect but since it is not available for android I was unable to try it out.
While the 25-minute work sprints may be at the core of this method, there are a few tips that can really help you get the most out of each session.
I have found these to be really helpful for me.
The first time I tried this was amazed at how much I could actually get done in a 25-minute session with no interruptions.
Break Down Complex Projects
If a task requires more than four Pomodoros to complete then it must be broken down into smaller tasks. You must stick to this rule to ensure you are making clear progress on your to-do list each day.
As a blogger, I find that writing a new blog needs to be broken down into several Pomodoros.
It may take 2,3 or sometimes even 4 Pomodoros just for the research alone depending on the subject.
Once it is researched I can easily draft an article in one or two Pomordoros.
The final copy including adding photos, editing and posting would be one more Pomodoro.
As you can see one blog post alone can take an entire morning or sometimes a little less depending on that particular topic.
The FREE BLOGGER TRAINING training I took to become a blogger teaches how to break everything down into simple steps to follow but I find some of the tasks like researching take a long enough time to use a Pomodoro.
Small Task Go Together
Any tasks that will take less than one Pomodoro can easily be combined with other small tasks. For example “pay bills” “book doctor appointment” and “read Pomodoro article” could be combined into one session.
I really enjoy the Pomodoros with several small tasks as I really get a sense of accomplishment because several tasks are getting crossed off in one session. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment and I am ready and eager to take on more.
Once A Pomodoro Is Set, It Must Ring
The Pomodoro is an indivisible unit of time and can not be broken. That means no checking incoming emails, team chats or text messages.
Any ideas, tasks or requests that come up should be taken note of to come back to later. I use a pen and paper but there are digital task managers that will work as well.
My family knows I work at home and that my work is very creative so if I am working I am working and am not to be disturbed. I will get back to them when I can at a designated time slot for that purpose.
Sometimes there are unavoidable disruptions. In that case, take your break then and get back on track afterward.
For me, an unavoidable interruption would be if my grandson’s school called. He is type 1 diabetic and if the school calls me it means his blood sugars are dangerously low and they couldn’t reach his parents.
That is a serious medical emergency and would in fact derail my entire day because I would have to pick him up from school and determine whether to treat him or take him to the hospital. It has only happened once in the 22 months since his diagnosis, thank God.
I would then get back to work as soon as I could.
Is The Pomodoro Technique Effective?
The Pomodoro technique is not for everyone.
There are several versions of it so try a few, maybe one way works better for you than another way.
Effective time management is a personal thing and different things work for different people.
For me, a manual timer works so the gentle ticking reminds me to stay focused.
I also have found that keeping a notebook nearby to jot down ideas or people to get back to gets it out of my head so I can resume my focus.
Have you tried the Pomodoro technique?
What method works best for you? Why?
Leave your answers in the comment section below and remember to check out that FREE training if writing or blogging is something that interests you.
4 thoughts on “Is The Pomodoro Technique Effective?”
The pomodoro technique is effective at keeping you fresh by taking breaks after each session.
Thanks for dropping by Margaret. Yes, it does give you breaks but the main objective is that using those breaks you will be refreshed and ready to go again on the next focused task. Having that focus on a single task with the timeline tends to keep you on it until completed. Without focusing on a completed time frame we tend to waste time and drift from our work. This is also why they should be short and if a task is too long you should break it up into smaller chunks.
It’s more healthy to take breaks as well. It gets the blood flowing through our body if sitting at a desk for long periods of time.
Thanks so much for your comment,
Have a great day Margaret
Hey Deb and Richard, I heard about the Pomodoro technique years ago and have tried it at the time. It didn’t work for me back then.
The funny thing is, that nowadays I have some form of the Pomodoro technique which started from a different perspective. Because I felt stiff at times I decided I sit too much. On top of that, I read that ‘sitting is the new smoking’ and that it kills even more people than lung cancer does.
I have the app Stand Up which warns me every 25 minutes to stand up and walk. After walking for 5 to 10 minutes I go on working. In that regard, it looks like Pomodoro.
For the other elements like the concentration on one task and the time schedule, I no longer have the patience. Or I should say the will. I did that all my working life and don’t want that anymore. Comparing to – for instance – my son, I am still good at concentrating. Yet I don’t want to be rigid anymore.
I am not sure if I said that correctly. Do you understand what I mean? I hope so. 🙂
Hi Hannie, it’s good to hear from you again. The Pomodoro Technique was developed with the concept of working more efficiently. The upside to that is the breaks we get so we get the blood circulating throughout our bodies. It’s not much exercise albeit it helps to keep things from getting stiff. If you have a system that reminds you to take a break, yes it’s a form of the Pomodoro Technique.
Been in the military as a technician, I know guys that would not take a break from the computer and end up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrom. Meanwhile all those that went outside for their smoke break never developed it. For myself I always wanted to stay fit however there were a few years when I stopped going to the gym. Before long I would have to get back at it because my body would feel like it’s missing something. After spending a few weeks at the gym and running again I would feel great.
The bottom line is, we as humans were never meant to stay still for too long. It’s the easy life we have today that is causing more problems than we have seen in the past. As you said, “sitting is the new smoking that’s killing more than cancer”.
Now you can see kids staying on the computer for the majority of the days playing a game. This will catch up to them and their bodies will suffer dearly when they get older.
Take the lack of exercise and add the amount of sugar people eat on a daily basis, it’s a perfect combination to a lot of problems we have been seen since the ’80s.
Yes, I do believe you said it clear enough Hannie. It makes sense, as we get older things tend to become less important to us.
Thanks so much for dropping by, keep moving and stay safe my dear.