Getting Things Done with the Pomodoro Technique

Getting things done is hard, and if you thought the solution to your time management problems was a tomato...well, you might be the right track. As was Francesco Cirillo, a developer and entrepreneur who created the Pomodoro Technique in the late 1980's. Pomodoro is the italian word for "tomato." What do tomatoes have to do with time management?

We'll explain.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

Francesco Cirillo, a university student at the time, was having trouble focusing on his studies. His solution was to use a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to break tasks down into short, timed intervals that he called "pomodoros." After the time elapsed, Cirillo would take a short break and set the timer again. After a number of pomodoros, Cirillo would allow himself a longer break. 

The Pomodoro Technique is meant to train your brain for focus. By working in short bursts, you can improve attention span and concentration over time. Regular breaks encourage creativity and bolster motivation throughout the day. The beauty is in its simplicity; all you need is a timer and a to-do list. Here's how to get started:

  1. Decide on a task to be accomplished.

  2.  Set your pomodoro timer to 25 minutes.

  3. Work on that task. 

  4. End work when the timer rings, then check it off on your to-do list.

  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3-5 minutes), then return to step 2; otherwise continue to step 6.

  6. After 4 pomodoros take a long break, usually 15-30 minutes.

And that's the gist! It's a simple but powerful time-management system that millions of people swear by. It's particularly popular in creative circles where people have to regularly produce creative work, but it can also be effective for repetitive tasks like working through an inbox or queue.

Leveling up your Pomodoro Technique

The 25-minute intervals form the foundation of the Pomodoro Technique but, as with all things, can be difficult to implement in your everday life. If you're finding that that's the case for you and your to-do list, there are a few rules you can follow to keep your Pomodoro practice on track. 

  • Pomodoros are indivisible; if a distraction arises, take your 5-minute break and set the timer for your next interval.

  • If a Pomodoro timer is set, it must ring. Take advantage of extra time left over as time to review your work, make improvements and note what you've learned.

  • Batch small tasks together. Tasks that require less than one pomodoro should be grouped together.

  • Break down complex tasks. Tasks that take more than four pomodoros should be divided into smaller, actionable steps. This will help build momentum and clearly track progress.

As a time management technique, the Pomodoro method shares a lot in common with time-blocking. Both promote focus and attention, as well as separating deep work from shallow work. Whichever method you choose, the goal is the same: make the most of your work time, minimize distractions, and figure out exactly where all your time goes.

Clear your to-do list, unclutter your life