The Pomodoro Technique is a powerful, time-tested time management tool that packs a ton of productivity hacks into a simple and practical process.
Whether you’re studying, working or doing chores it’s an essential part of your basic productivity tool kit. It’ll help you start, stay focussed on and do more of what matters. I’ll help you break big, scary goals down into bite-sized, sustainable chunks.
I’d be remiss not to cover it properly.
So, here’s TAoL’s ultimate, 5-minute guide to putting the Pomodoro Technique into practice.
We’ll cover 6 frequently asked questions:
- How do you use the Pomodoro Technique?
- Can your Pomodoro be longer than 25 minutes?
- What if your Pomodoro gets interrupted?
- What if you finish your work mid-Pomodoro?
- What do you do in a Pomodoro break? and
- Does the Pomodoro Technique really work?
Let’s dig in!
How do you use the Pomodoro Technique?
A Pomodoro is a single unit of undisturbed time spent focussing on a specific piece of work.
To start racking them up:
- Pick a task to work on.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on the task until the timer runs out.
- Record a tally mark on some paper.
- Take a 5-minute break; and
Two extra rules:
First, there are 4 pomodoros in a “set”. After each set, you should take a longer break of 15 – 30 minutes before starting your next Pomodoro.
And second, pomodoros are non-divisible. If you take a break or stop working before the timer goes off then the Pomodoro doesn’t count.
Simple, but not always easy.
Here are a few common questions I often get about putting Pomodoro into practice…
Can your Pomodoro be longer than 25 minutes?
Yes! The 25/5 model is a great starting point for your first pomodoros but once you’re feeling comfortable with the technique (and the demands of your tasks) you can always get more creative.
When writing, I feel most comfortable with a 90/15-minute rhythm.
When doing admin, I’ll use 120-minute pomodoros with 15-minute downtimes.
When I started learning languages, the standard 25/5 rhythm was perfect. But as my stamina and focus improved I found myself more willing and able to study for 50-minute with 10-minute breaks.
The trick is to start small and experiment until you find rhythms that set a comfortable, sustainable pace.
But don’t forget – the ultimate goal of the Pomodoro Technique is to make it easy to take and keep taking action. Don’t be afraid to cut your pomodoros back down to the basic 25 minutes if you’re you’re procrastinating or not feeling great.
What if your Pomodoro gets interrupted?
Pomodoros are non-divisible. If you interrupt them, they don’t count and you’ll have to start the Pomodoro from scratch.
To stop that from happening, here’s a simple 5-step process you can use to defer any distractions that crop up in the middle of a session:
- Note the interruption (i.e., write it down!);
- Inform the other person (if there is one) that you’re working on something;
- Negotiate a time to deal with the interruption;
- Schedule that follow-up in your calendar; and
- Call back the distracting party later, when you’re ready to work on the issue.
The great thing about Pomodoros is they’re short enough that you and other people will find it more than reasonable to defer any interruptions until at least the end of your current Pomodoro, making it easier to say no.
Result? More focus, less distraction and less time-wasting. And, as a bonus, you’ll find most interruptions solve themselves before you even get back to them.
What if you finish your work mid-Pomodoro?
If you finish your task mid-Pomodoro you have one of two choices:
- Abandon the Pomodoro and take a break before starting anew; or
- Use the remaining time to re-read, review or over-study your work.
Which one you pick will most likely depend on how long your Pomodoro is and how far you are into it.
My advice? Pat yourself on the back for taking action, pick whatever option feels right and don’t lose too much sleep over it.
What do you do in a Pomodoro break?
The only goal of taking breaks is to set your next Pomodoro up for success.
That means NO SNEAKY WORKING!
Instead, stretch or walk, drink some water and nibble on a healthy snack to get your heart pumping, your head clear and your energy levels topped up for whatever’s next.
Does the Pomodoro Technique really work?
The Pomodoro technique is a powerful, time-tested time management tool that packs a ton of productivity hacks into a simple and practical process.
It’s is a great way to break big goals down and make sure you’re scheduling (and sticking) to time blocks to actually work on them during your day.
If you’re serious about trying it out, go check out TAoL’s TRACKTION Planner.
The “Metric Tracking” section in the monthly pages is perfect for creating clarity and accountability around many pomodoros you really get through.
And the “Ideal Schedule” section of the daily pages will make sure you make time for and stick to your pomodoros over the course of each day.
Want more awesome productivity tips? Check out TAoL’s Ultimate Productivity Primer.
It’s bursting with 10-chapters of tools you WISH someone had taught you in school.
And you can even download a free chapter on beating procrastination permanently, here.