pomodoro technique

There are hundreds of time management philosophies circulating around the self-improvement sphere. But none are more popular, more respected, and more utilized than the 30-year old Pomodoro Technique.

What Is The Pomodoro Technique?

Created in the 90s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is a powerful time management methodology. It uses short, timed intervals of intense focus and productivity (called “Pomodoros”), followed by short breaks that help to refresh and revitalize. The breaks prep for another productive Pomodoro period immediately afterwards.

This tactic trains your brain to focus for short periods, which has been shown to enhance creativity and performance. In fact, a study at the University of Illinois found that sitting at your desk for long periods of time actually reduces productivity, increases stress, and escalates risk of health problems. In contrast, the study found that short breaks helped participants stay focused, energized, and inspired. Those participants who took breaks had better overall performance and productivity than those who “powered through.”

Why is it called “pomodoro”? Cirillo used a tomato timer to track his work when he was a university student. “Pomodoro” is tomato in Italian.

The Pomodoro Technique is a life hack that uses short bursts of productivity and short, refreshing breaks. This method has been shown to:

  • Improve focus
  • Diminish mental fatigue and brain fog
  • Enhance productivity flow
  • Prevent stress and burnout
  • Minimize procrastination
  • Increase personal accountability
  • Help meet deadlines
  • Enrich attention span and concentration

Most importantly, the Pomodoro Technique has been shown to minimize procrastination and discourage multitasking—both of which plague the productivity levels our current society. Procrastination and multitasking drain focus and efficiency by fatiguing energy and wasting “in-between” time.

procrastination gif


The Pomodoro Technique, when properly implemented, promotes hyper-focus and helps you power through distractions.

This, in turn, leads to higher creativity and innovation. You’re more likely to have a “lightbulb” moment if your brain has had a break time to subconsciously reflect on the information and project. Even while you’re breaking, your brain is working. You get the benefits of productivity without all the time-consuming, overbearing stress.

The breaks also provide a time for you to step back and review what you are doing, rather than wandering through your work aimlessly. You can better see where you need to focus your attention in the next 25 minutes to get you to the overall goal.

pomodoro technique

How Does The Pomodoro Technique Work?

Think of the Pomodoro Technique as a “brain sprint.” You will sprint for a moderate interval and recover for a shorter period. This process of “interval training” helps you reach the finish line by adhering to strict timing. The productive intervals push you forward, while the breaks give you time to rejuvenate and avoid burnout.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Set your timer to 25 minutes.
  2. Choose one task you’ll work on for the 25-minute interval or “Pomodoro.”
  3. Start the timer. Work until the timer rings.
  4. Put a checkmark on a blank piece of paper.
  5. Take a 2-5 minute break.
  6. Start again with a new 25-minute Pomodoro.
  7. After five Pomodoros (100 minutes of productivity), take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

Below you’ll find our tips and tricks to utilize the Pomodoro Technique step-by-step for highest productivity and greatest results.

How Should You Use The Pomodoro Technique?

Number 1: Set the timer.

Set the timer first—before you even decide on a task to do. This will help put your mind in a 25-minute mindset. If you choose your task first, you might put up mental roadblocks. pomodoro techniqueThis can’t get accomplished in 25 minutes. I have too much to do to take a break. Blah blah blah. Set the timer first so you tell your brain that you will be doing a 25-minute productive interval.

You can use any kind of timer. A great part of the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s low-tech. In fact, the less tech you use, the better. All you need is a timer, a pen, and a piece of paper. If you want to add a little more technology, try a phone app like Pomodorable (OSX) or Simple Pomodoro (Android).

Number 2: Choose the task.

First thing in the morning, create a to-do list. This will prep your brain for the day, and it will give you a list of tasks to accomplish during each Pomodoro interval. This ensures you don’t waste 25 minutes of productivity or 5 minutes of rest on deciding what to do next.

You already have a prioritized list of tasks to get done, so you can move right down the list with each interval. This helps you power through your to-do list in the most efficient manner. No more wasting time on deciding what to do next.

Learn how to prioritize your to-do list here.

You should focus on one task per Pomodoro session. Skipping around and multitasking will diminish your productivity and performance.

Number 3: Start the time. Work until the timer rings.

During your 25 minutes of productivity, minimize all distractions. Shut off your phone and email notifications. Close your office door. Focus on what you need to get done.

If you get distracted, your Pomodoro interval ends immediately and you don’t get a checkmark for that interval. Because you want to rack up the checkmarks and productivity, use the “inform, negotiate, respond” formula to handle distractions during your Pomodoros.

  • Inform the distracting party that you’re busy.
  • Negotiate a time when you’ll get back to them.
  • Respond when your current Pomodoro period is over.

Your go-to phrase to minimize distractions: “Can I get back to you in x minutes?” where x is the number of minutes left on your Pomodoro timer.

This ensures that you stay in the groove while your inspiration and productivity are still flowing. It also helps you better regulate distractions and control your time management.

Number 4: Put a checkmark on a blank piece of paper.

It can be frustrating to go home at the end of the workday not knowing how much you accomplished or feeling unproductive because you only checked off two items on your to-do list. Did you waste the whole day?

checkmarkOn the side of your to-do list or on a blank sheet of paper, keep track of every Pomodoro interval you complete. Checking off tasks on your to-do list can make you feel accomplished in terms of results, but the Pomodoro check will get you to visualize productivity in terms of time.

Some tasks take more time and energy than others—so you might only finish two or three projects during a day. Seeing only two checks on your to-do list can be stressful, disconcerting, and demotivating. But the Pomodoro check will show your productivity in terms of minutes, which can motivate you to keep working. The more checkmarks you have, the more time you’ve spent productively working—despite the number of tasks you completed.

Number 5: Take a 2-5 minute break.

Your break is the perfect time to get away from your desk, get moving, and de-stress. Resist the urge to catch up on email or social media, which can actually make you less productive and more stressed.

This is a great time to meditate, de-clutter your desk, take a walk, or grab a coffee. Get some ideas on how to productively spend your recharge times with 12 Practical Ways To Relieve Stress At Work.

Who Can Benefit From The Pomodoro Technique?

Anyone who has a task-based job can benefit from the Pomodoro Technique. It’s especially good for creative types who need to deliver large projects. This tactic helps break up assignments into smaller, digestible pieces.

This is also a great productivity tool for individuals working in the retail and restaurant sphere. During hectic periods on the floor, you can easily find yourself exhausted, stressed, and losing performance capacity. Use the Pomodoro Technique to maintain energy and keep your feet hustling.

Work for 25 minutes without any external distractions, like social media, chatting with coworkers, or staring into space. After 25 minutes, take two minutes to breathe and de-stress. Then get back out on the floor for 25 minutes. This will ensure you can keep up with customer demands without overworking yourself.

What Are The Problems With The Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is only one time management tactic, and it doesn’t work for everyone. This technique takes discipline and commitment. In order for it to work, you need to dedicate yourself to avoiding any and all distractions during the 25-minute Pomodoros. You also must ensure that your breaks aren’t too long—or your entire productivity will be thrown off.

Some people may find that breaks are distracting if their inspiration is flowing. But remember—this is just a productivity tool. It is not a prison. If you are in the groove, you can work longer than 25 minutes. When you find yourself losing steam, take your break and start another Pomodoro interval.

The Pomodoro Technique may or may not work for you, but it’s worth trying out. It’s free, easy, and has low barrier to entry. If it’s the right technique for you, you’ll likely start to see results in 2-3 days.

The Bottom Line

Mastery of the technique takes 7-20 days of consistent use. To see the best results, it’s best to try the tool for a month.

What results do you see?

Are you more focused? productive? creative? innovative? motivated?

Do you have less brain fog? fatigue? exhaustion? stress? burnout?

One of our favorite aspects of the Pomodoro Technique is that it uses short-term intervals to get long-term results. These bursts of productivity have been shown to help manage time, eliminate stress, and manage distractions—all of which help create a better work-life balance.

Who’s ready to try the Pomodoro Technique for a month? We’ll be running a Tomato Timer challenge here at Forge! Follow our Twitter @joinforge for productivity and time management tips to keep you on the Pomodoro path!

Image Sources: