I’m a big fan of productivity hacks that enable me to get more work done quickly, giving me more time for self-care in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends. It’s all part of the Anti-Burnout way! One of my favourite ever productivity hacks to get things done is the Pomodoro Technique and I recently filmed an Instagram Reel showing how it’s done – in 15 seconds…
While it’s a fun video, there’s a lot more to talk about when it comes to this method and how it can enable you to get your work done quicker. It’s an ideal time management method for everyone from the small business owner to the university student! So, here’s everything you could possibly need to know about the Pomodoro Technique.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
Developed by Francesco Cirillo back in the late 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique is named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that the inventor used as a student. He would set his ‘pomodoro’ (Italian word for tomato) timer for 25 minute intervals, get started on his task, and then put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
After each pomodoro – or time spent working – Cirillo would take a little break, with longer breaks after a certain number of checks marked on his piece of paper. It has taken off in recent times, with plenty of apps and websites providing more modern versions of Cirillo’s technique. I’ll go through some of these apps a little later on.
Why use the Pomodoro Technique
So, what exactly is the point in this Pomodoro technique? Well, fans of the method believe that it comes with a whole host of benefits to boost your productivity. Personally, I’ve found that I can get a lot more work done in a shorter period of time, thanks to the bursts of focus and flow. I know that if my phone goes off or an email pings, that I can’t deal with that until it’s time for my next break. This keeps me in check and ensures I don’t get distracted. Here are some other cited benefits of using the Pomodoro Technique:
You might find you start racing against the clock in order to get things done before the timer goes off. I certainly do! Knowing you only have a few minutes left before a break can really keep you on track, too. Plus, if you’re struggling to even start with a task, then 25 minutes (as opposed to a few hours) can seem a lot less daunting.
It’s hard for humans to concentrate on one thing for long periods of time, especially when we have so many other things going on now. Every ding and ping from our devices can cause us to lose our flow. Using certain apps, you can block all distractions until your next break.
Encouraging Regular Breaks
If you’ve got constant back ache or mental fatigue due to sitting staring at a screen for hours at a time, then the Pomodoro Technique is for you! Every break is another chance to get up, have a stretch, walk around, and give your eyes a break from screens. These short, regular breaks can really reduce the chances of burning out during the day.
It’s important to plan and organise your schedule when you use this method, as you don’t want to spend 25 minutes umm’ing and ahh’ing about what you’re going to be doing. Before you start your timers for the day, spend some time planning out what you want to achieve and what your goals are. Break the tasks down into manageable chunks, choose a task you want to start with, and then off you go! You’ll find it much easier to stay organised when you use the Pomodoro Technique.
Like I said, I find I can get a lot of work done quickly using this method and it’s my ultimate productivity hack when I’ve got a big day ahead of me. Splitting the day into distraction-free, focused work and then regular breaks means I am far more productive than days when I don’t use this method.
How to make it work for you
There is a specific way that Cirillo designed his own Pomodoro Technique which I’ll detail below, but it’s important to adapt it in a way that works for you. If you find 25 minutes isn’t enough time, make the pomodoros longer. If you need longer breaks, then do that too. Play around with the method, the timings, and so on, until you find the sweet spot for your productivity levels.
Step 1: Plan your task
Make sure you know exactly what it is you want to achieve in your pomodoro (or period of focused work). I like to write out a whole to-do list for the day the night before, and then split them into chunks. It means I don’t spend the whole morning procrastinating about my to-do list. This is an excellent time management skill to learn regardless.
Step 2: Set the timer
It’s traditionally 25 minutes of focused work, but many people will have their own sweet spot. I have played around with different times, but it does seem as though 25 minutes works for me. I actually feel my mind wandering by 24 minutes and 30 seconds usually.
Step 3: Work on the task
Now, you have however many minutes of uninterrupted work. Make sure you can’t get distracted by other sites – there are some good apps for this – and ensure your phone won’t disturb you either. You now have 25 minutes, or however long you’ve decided, of pure focus. It might take a little while to get used to this focus and flow, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it’ll feel like a dream.
Step 4: Finish work when the timer rings
Whatever you use to time your pomodoros, ensure that there’s a clear signal that time is up. The app I use rings like a real kitchen timer, but you could also set an alarm on your phone if you find that easier. OR buy an actual pomodoro timer if you want the legit experience.
You may find that you’re keen to carry on working if you’re in the middle of something and in this instance, Cirillo says to use your common sense. If it makes sense to carry on, and you’re in the flow, then carry on! You can also mark a piece of paper with a checkmark to signify another Pomodoro is over if you want to do it the traditional way.
Step 5: Take a break
In Cirillo’s original way, he would use his checkmarked piece of paper to determine how long his next break should be. For the first three stopping points, he would take a 3-5 minute break. After four pomodoros, he would take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. The checkmarks would then reset to zero after his longer break and he’d go back to 3-5 minute breaks again. Remember, to find a length of time that works for you!
What do you do in a 5 minute Pomodoro break?
One of the important things to remember when doing the Pomodoro Technique is to take a short break, but to use those 5 minutes wisely. This means time away from the screen or whatever you’ve been working on for the previous 25 minutes. I like to get up, stretch, move around a bit, and take my eyes off my screen for the first three breaks. However, when it’s time to take a longer break after four pomodoros, I’ll tend to schedule longer activities. For example, I’ll stop to eat my lunch, go on a walk with the dogs, or take an afternoon nap. This is your time, so enjoy it.
Pomodoro Technique Timers and Apps
As I said before, there are plenty of timers, apps and websites to help you stick to the Pomodoro Technique. I personally use one on my computer that blocks certain websites (here’s looking at you Facebook) and then one for my phone so I can’t absent-mindedly pick that up either. Below are some of the best Pomodoro Technique apps out there that I’ve tried:
I use this on my Chrome browser (it’s the one from the video) and it’s ideal for the Pomodoro Technique! You can set how long you want the work and break times to be, as well as blocking certain websites from being accessed when you’re in ‘work mode.’ I block all social media, emails, and anything else that might distract me. It also has a little popup notification and bell to let you know when the timers are up!
If your phone is a distraction, then the Forest App is ideal! Again, you can set how long you want to stay focused for and then start the timer. Little trees will grow each time you stay focused, but they’ll die if you exit the app before the time ends. This definitely stops me doomscrolling throughout the day and the timer helps with better time management too.
I love the simplicity of this browser Pomodoro timer! You can’t block websites or anything like you can with Strict Workflow, but you can set tasks – something Cirillo would be proud of. You’ve got timers for work, short breaks and long breaks too. On top of this, you can also see reports to see how productive you’ve been each session.
I have only just started using this, but I’m already a little bit in love. The big selling point for this Pomodoro app is that you can integrate it with any task management service you already use. So, I have linked mine up with ToDoist and Trello, but there are so many other options. This saves me time working out my to-do list, as it’s already there for me. You can also use it as an extension on web browsers or on your phone, just bear in mind that it isn’t free.
If you’re a Mac or iPhone user, then there are some really cool features on FocusList. This is a particularly helpful Pomodoro timer if you have big tasks you want to split into smaller chunks. Simply make a Focus List, estimate how many Pomodoros you’ll need, and then get to work! This is super handy to track how long certain tasks actually take, too.
The next time you want to get a lot of work done quickly, give the Pomodoro technique a go! It’s an amazing form of time management and a productivity hack I can’t be without. Let me know if it works for you – or if you recommend any other apps – in the comments.