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14 Jul 2020 Austin Belcak

What Is the Pomodoro Technique? (And How It Will Improve Your Time Management)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could flip a magic switch and instantly become more focused and productive?

Most of us would eagerly pounce on the opportunity — but, unfortunately, a magic switch doesn’t exist.

However, there ARE certain techniques and strategies you can use to improve your time management skills and increase your productivity (both at work and in other areas of your life).

One of the most famous productivity-boosting strategies is called the ‘Pomodoro Technique,’ which we’ll be exploring in detail below.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  • What the Pomodoro Technique is
  • How to use the Pomodoro Technique to accomplish tasks more efficiently
  • Why the Pomodoro Technique will increase your productivity

The clock is ticking, so let’s get started!

What Is The Pomodoro Technique?

‘Pomodoro’ is the Italian word for tomato. Given that, you’re probably wondering, “What on earth do tomatoes have to do with time management?”

The name ‘Pomodoro Technique’ was coined by its creator, Francesco Cirillo, who used a kitchen timer that was shaped like a tomato (no actual tomatoes were involved).

Using his tomato-shaped timer, Francesco would designate 25-minute intervals — which he dubbed, ‘Pomodoros’ — to devote, unwaveringly, to a particular task.

He then developed a concise regimen of breaks to take between intervals to optimize focus and productivity. And thus, the Pomodoro Technique was born.

How To Use The Pomodoro Technique To Accomplish Tasks More Efficiently

Timer on a desk being used for the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique can be applied to any task that requires mental concentration. The original method includes six steps:

  1. Choose a task you wish to accomplish.
  2. Set a timer to 25 minutes.
  3. Fully commit to working on the task (with no interruptions) until the timer runs out.
  4. When the time’s up, take a break and write a check-mark on a piece of paper.
  5. For every three check-marks, take a 3-5 minute break.
  6. For every fourth check-mark, take a longer break (15-30 minutes).

Looking at the list above, you’ll see that there are two main components: dedicated work intervals (25 minutes) and systematic break periods.

At its core, that’s what this technique is all about: delegating your time with precision. But, in order for the method to be effective, you need to take the work intervals — aka ‘Pomodoros’ — seriously.

It’s essential to maintain complete, uninterrupted focus during a Pomodoro interval. If you are significantly distracted for any reason, that Pomodoro cannot be counted and you must reset the timer.

That may seem a little harsh, but remember: there are specific break periods built-in to the Pomodoro Technique as well. And this structured balance between work and breaks is the key to boosting your productivity.

Variations And Additional Considerations

In the original Pomodoro Technique, the standard work interval is 25 minutes. However, there are some variations you can apply to better suit your lifestyle and habits, including:

Working in 60 or 90-minute intervals. If you can easily concentrate for more than 25 minutes, try using longer work intervals. And, if you choose to extend the work intervals, you can proportionally extend the break periods as well.

Determining your natural ‘flow interval.’ Monitor the average amount of time you spend focusing on a task when you feel “in the zone.” Then, strive to make that your standard work interval for the Pomodoro Technique. Again, break periods can be adjusted accordingly (with roughly a 5-to-1 ratio for the short breaks and a 1-to-1 ratio for long breaks).

What Should You Do If You Finish The Task Before The Timer Goes Off?

If you complete your task in the middle of a Pomodoro interval, well done! That’s certainly a good thing — but the remaining time on the clock can still be put to good use.

Consider using any remaining time to:

  • Review, proofread, or make improvements to your work.
  • Reflect on the task you just performed (to learn/gain insights).
  • Mentally prepare for your next task by thoughtfully assessing its requirements.

By implementing any of the three actions above, you’ll continue to be productive during the Pomodoro interval (albeit in a different context).

How Using The Pomodoro Technique Will Increase Your Productivity

man working on his laptop using effective time management strategies

Now that we’ve covered how the Pomodoro Technique works, let’s examine why it’s effective. The power of this method lies in its rigid approach to time management, which yields the following outcomes:

Overcoming Our Natural Inclination to Get Distracted

Let’s face it: we all get distracted. Some of us get distracted more easily than others, but in today’s hyper-connected digital world, there’s always something competing for our attention.

For example, let’s say you sit down at your computer ready to dive into a work project. 5 minutes in, your phone dings with a text message. 4 minutes later, you see an email come into your inbox. At minute 19, you get the urge to check your Instagram feed…

Unless you’re naturally a ‘Concentration All-Star’, there’s a good chance you’d succumb to at least one (if not all) of the above distractions. But, if you follow the rules Pomodoro Technique, you’ll remain absorbed in your task — which will help facilitate a flow state.

Leveraging Short Breaks To Avoid Mental Fatigue

The Pomodoro Technique isn’t just about maintaining focus and powering through distractions. In fact, it could be argued that the break periods are equally as important as the work intervals.

The human brain isn’t designed to focus on a single task for hours-on-end. In fact, numerous studies have illustrated that taking breaks actually increases your overall productivity (among other benefits).

The mental benefits taking breaks include:

  • Rejuvenated motivation
  • Increased productivity and creativity
  • Improved decision-making
  • Improved learning and memory formation

That being said, don’t overdo it. If your breaks are too long or too frequent, your productivity will suffer simply because you’re not devoting enough time to work.

That’s why the Pomodoro Technique is so useful: it prescribes a healthy work/break balance that will keep you focused and on-task without wearing you out!

*Side Note: Hectic lifestyles and busy work schedules can leave even the most competent individuals feeling burnt out. If you feel overwhelmed, check out my story on How I Recovered from Total Burnout.

Showcasing Time Management Skills To Prospective Employers

Now that we’ve covered the Pomodoro Technique, let’s take a step back to reflect on the bigger picture in relation to your career growth and trajectory.

The Pomodoro Technique can be categorized under the umbrella of ‘time management’ — which is a highly valuable skill set in the workplace (and employers recognize this).

There’s no doubt that time management skills can help you succeed in your current role — but they can also be an attractive resume point when you’re applying/interviewing for new jobs!

However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this. For a complete guide, check out my article on How to Highlight Time Management Skills on Your Resume.

Austin Belcak

Austin is the founder of Cultivated Culture where he helps people land jobs without connections, without traditional experience, and without applying online. His strategies have been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, & Fast Company and has helped people just like you land jobs at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, & more.

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