Endless tasks and expectations from colleagues and employers can make getting things done hard. There’s always something else to add to your to-do list and, as that list grows, it starts to feel like there’s never enough time to do it all.
Productivity hacks can seem gimmicky and semi-helpful at best. But what if there was a time management strategy that could help you tackle your to-do list, meet others’ expectations, and help you feel more productive and balanced?
That’s where the Pomodoro Technique comes in. This popular time management strategy can help you better plan your workload, overcome distractions, and check tasks off your list. And it doesn’t require working overtime or jamming more work into your day. Instead, it encourages frequent breaks in between stints of work. Perhaps one of the best aspects about it is that it’s easy to use.
We’re here to help you make your workdays better and more productive. In this guide, we’re breaking down the Pomodoro method — how to use it, why it works, and its advantages and disadvantages. And don’t worry, we’ll cover what Pomodoro means while we’re at it. Add reading this guide to your list of to-dos for today, and let’s get started.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
A university student at the time, Cirillo struggled to focus and get his assignments done. Feeling overwhelmed, he realized he needed to try a new way of working and held himself accountable for committing to 10 minutes of focused time while studying. As he committed to the challenge, he found a tomato-shaped timer (you guessed it, Pomodoro is “tomato” in Italian), and the Pomodoro Technique was born.
Cirillo wrote an entire book about the Pomodoro Technique, but the gist of it is simple. The method encourages short bursts of manageable chunks of work with breaks built in between. With this method, you work for 25-minutes sessions separated by five-minute breaks. After every four or five Pomodoros (think of these as work sessions), you indulge in a more extended break for 15-20 minutes.
With a sense of urgency built into it, the method forces you to think through your to-do list and eliminate distractions while progressing on your tasks for a limited amount of time. And you can eliminate distractions knowing that you have breaks built into your day to look forward to. Let’s start by understanding what exactly the word “Pomodoro” means and where it came from.
What does Pomodoro mean?
Pomodoro quite literally means “tomato” in Italian. But what does a tomato have to do with time management?
Like we mentioned earlier, Cirillo used a tomato-shaped timer to help him manage his focused work time. He later named his famous technique after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that helped him do his best work.
When we talk about the Pomodoro Technique, a Pomodoro also refers to one 25-minute focused work session. You’ll use a timer to work for one Pomodoro. Get it? Don’t worry — we’ll walk you through the nitty-gritty of how to use the Pomodoro Technique next.
How to use the Pomodoro Technique
One of the best parts of the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s super simple to use without any training. Depending on who you ask, these steps may vary slightly. But that’s one of the best parts about the method — you can customize it.
Here’s how Cirillo’s Pomodoro method works:
1. Make a list of the tasks you need to accomplish
To make the best use of your Pomodoro sessions, consider starting your day by creating a to-do list and outlining the tasks you need to accomplish. Don’t panic if your list becomes lengthy! Remember, you’re going to split up your work so that it’s more manageable throughout the day. You just need to make a note of what you need to accomplish today.
Tip: When you make a list of your tasks, think about how much time you need to complete each task. For example, one task might take you a full 25-minute Pomodoro. Or you might have three short tasks that you can group during one Pomodoro. Write down how many minutes each task will take. That way, you can pair up tasks that will take less than 25-minutes to complete. Your estimations don’t have to be perfect, but you want to avoid having gaps of time to fill or going past time during your Pomodoro sessions.
2. Set a timer for 25 minutes
You don’t have to mimic Cirillo exactly and use a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, but to live the complete Pomodoro Technique experience, give a real timer a try. It doesn’t matter if you use a virtual or physical timer; any will do. Here are a few options to choose from when selecting a Pomodoro Technique timer:
The timer you use doesn’t need to be overly cumbersome or have any fancy capabilities, so don’t get caught up in the details. Keep it simple to make it most effective.
3. Focus on your tasks until the timer goes off
This is the tricky part. Once you’ve set your timer, you need to work on the task or tasks you’ve chosen for 25 minutes without any interruptions throwing you off track. Combating distractions is no easy feat, and it may take practice to nail this step.
Tip: If possible, alert those around you when you’re using the Pomodoro method. This can help reduce interruptions and external distractions.
If you find yourself with spare time during a Pomodoro and aren’t sure what to focus on, Cirillo recommends taking advantage of the opportunity for overlearning. Use the time to make improvements and tidy up your work, reflect on the tasks you completed, or make a note of what you’ve learned until the timer goes off. Use the 25 minutes as best you can and avoid starting your break early if possible.
4. Enjoy a short break for five minutes
You made it! Time is up and you can enjoy a break for five minutes or so. Consider using this time to use the restroom, grab a snack, or fill up your water bottle. Give your eyes a break and try to limit screen time if you can. Get up and stretch your legs or move your body around. Taking care of your well-being will help you stay motivated throughout the remainder of the day.
5. Repeat steps the first four steps
Are you getting the hang of it? Rinse and repeat the above steps. After you’ve completed four Pomodoros, skip step four and jump straight to step six.
6. After every four or five Pomodoros, enjoy a more extended break
You’ve earned it! Enjoy a longer, restorative break this time. Take 15-20 minutes to rejuvenate yourself. Maybe it’s time for breakfast or lunch. Or perhaps you want to spend a few minutes outside in the sun. Whatever the case may be, use your break wisely and prepare to jump into more Pomodoros after the break.
That’s it. The Pomodoro Technique is an easy-to-use system, which means there isn’t much of a learning curve to start using it to your advantage.
Does the Pomodoro Technique work?
It sounds simple, right? That means you might be asking yourself whether the Pomodoro method truly works or not.
Reviews of the method spread amongst the internet suggest that many have seen success when using the technique. One person found that the Pomodoro Technique was a great solution for monotonous tasks on the to-do list. Knowing that they only needed to work on a task for 25 minutes encouraged them to get started on those dreaded, tedious to-do’s. Another person found success using the Pomodoro Technique and later adapted the method to fit their specific needs. The Pomodoro Technique helped them define a practice of self-discipline to expand on and boost productivity.
But what is it about the Pomodoro Technique that makes it work? Studies suggest that brief mental breaks help keep you focused. Frequent distractions rob us of productivity at work, but the Pomodoro method helps eliminate distractions for more focus in the workplace.
As with any time management strategy, what works best for some may not work well for others. Give the Pomodoro Technique a try and tailor it to your individual needs to ensure it has the most payoff for you.
The advantages and disadvantages of the Pomodoro method
As with any time management strategy, the Pomodoro Technique has both benefits and drawbacks to consider before experimenting with it. Let’s take a look at both, starting with the advantages.
Advantages of the Pomodoro Technique
Break the habit of multitasking
When you follow the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll break the habit of multitasking. While multitasking might seem like a great way to get more done, it’s distracting and actually hinders your productivity. With the Pomodoro method, your goal is to dedicate your focus to any given task at hand — and save the rest of the items on your to-do list for another Pomodoro.
Reduce or prevent feelings of burnout
Looking at your neverending to-do list can feel overwhelming and stressful, and working through that list without a strategic plan in place can cause feelings of burnout. The Pomodoro Technique not only encourages frequent breaks but it builds them directly into your schedule for you. You can reduce or prevent stress and burnout by taking full advantage of your breaks when you have them.
We all procrastinate now and then, but the Pomodoro Technique ignites a sense of urgency in the day, which reduces or eliminates procrastination. There isn’t any time to scroll through your favorite social media platform, grab another snack, stare out the window, or engage in another distraction when you know you only have 25 minutes to complete a task. (Don’t beat yourself up — we’re all guilty of these things!)
Disadvantages of the Pomodoro Technique
Some tasks take more than 25 minutes
The Pomodoro method is said to be beneficial for tasks like writing, coding, and studying. It also comes in handy when needing to work through some monotonous to-dos like cleaning out your inbox or digging into some administrative items. But some tasks are bound to take more than 25 minutes to complete, which means the Pomodoro Technique may not always work for every type of project or task. If you’re in the middle of a project and are in a solid flow state, you might want to keep working past the 25-minute timer mark, which will interrupt all subsequent Pomodoro scheduling. You know your work styles and productivity best, so you’ll be in charge of making the judgment call on whether you need to work past the timer’s buzz.
Meetings could interfere with your Pomodoro planning
The Pomodoro method sounds particularly beneficial to those who have full control over their schedules. But many career professionals are bound to be interrupted by planned and unexpected meetings. Your meeting schedule could interfere with how you plan your Pomodoros or could interrupt you in the middle of a Pomodoro session.
Every time management strategy comes with advantages and disadvantages, and no method is guaranteed to be one-size-fits-all. Since the Pomodoro method is easy and comes without cost, consider giving it a try to see if it works for you. Remember, you can always tweak it to suit you best.
How to use Wrike to plan your Pomodoros
To set yourself up for success when using the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll want to have a to-do list prepared. A project management tool like Wrike can help you organize your tasks so that you can dive right into your Pomodoros (without wondering what you should start with).
With Wrike, you can:
- Manage and prioritize your work
- Use templates to organize and break your projects down into manageable tasks
- Track your time to understand how you’re spending it
- Manage workloads with resource management capabilities