The Pomodoro Technique - how to improve your productivity.

The success of your small business or freelancing career is about achieving annual targets and thinking big. But that long-term success depends on successful management of the short term. Efficient planning of the day-to-day - or even the minute-by-minute - matters.  

 

That’s where the Pomodoro Technique comes in. Being mindful of how you use each minute of your time can yield effective results on your nine-to-five. 

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a method of time management that emphasises the passing of time during the working day. It rigorously sets time for work and time to take a break, helping you to focus on getting more done during a set period or pomodoro.

 

Did you know? The word pomodoro is Italian for ‘tomato’. The creator of the Pomodoro Technique, Francesco Cirillo, named it after his tomato-shaped timer. 

 

Here’s how the Pomodoro Method works:

  1. Choose a task to complete. 
  2. Set your timer to 25 minutes. 
  3. Work on the task until the 25 minutes is up. 
  4. Mark off one completed period of work, then take a five-minute break. 
  5. Begin another Pomodoro and take a longer 15 to 30-minute break after you’ve done four. 

 

Just about anyone with a to-do list can benefit from the focused approach that Pomodoro offers - particularly if their to-do lists tend to be on the repetitive side. 

 

A few examples of tasks that might benefit from the Pomodoro Technique include: 

 

Code fixes or IT tickets.

 

If you have a list of fixes to implement as long as your arm, you can set the timer and plough through a clutch of them before taking a well-earned break. 

 

Copywriting.

 

Break up tasks into things like research, drafts and proofreads using the Pomodoro Method. Of course, just one Pomodoro period may not get you the full blog post or whitepaper you’re looking to produce, but the Pomodoro Technique is also useful for prodding you to take regular breaks. 

 

Emails and admin.

 

By maintaining your focus and discouraging drift, you can finally conquer that mountain of unread emails that just seems to be growing. It also works for other more mundane admin tasks that you’ve been putting off. 

 

These are all computer-based tasks. But the beauty of the technique is its compatibility with many other types of work. If you do more with your hands than type - sculpt, paint or play sport - you can still use Pomodoro to get into the zone. 

How does the Pomodoro Technique work?

More than anything else, Pomodoro gives you an appreciation for the passing of time in your workday. So, if a 15-minute meeting ever feels like an eternity or a quick check of emails somehow turns into an entire day’s back-and-forth with colleagues, Pomodoro can give you back that time - and then some. Here are just some of the benefits. 

 

Provides a psychological push.

 

Your client provided feedback on a design which includes dozens of revisions. Would you be able to tackle those in one go? Unlikely, but the Pomodoro Technique is designed to help you to break down the tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks of time. 

So instead of imagining that whole list as your goal, imagine it’s just a couple of them in the next 30 minutes. Take a steady, methodical approach to your goals and mark them off as you go. Then you’ll realise you’re ticking off the tasks at a rate of knots just by thinking smaller. 

 

Defuses distractions.

 

Those daunting tasks and timelines can be the first thing to make you saunter off into another browser tab and check social media or switch to an easier job. But a major factor in losing time and productivity isn’t just the distractions, it’s the time you need to re-focus on the job.  

 

With Pomodoro, you can work comfortably and mindfully on the task in hand and resist the urge to click away. 


Did you know? A study of more than 10,000 participants showed that our attention span peaks in our early forties. 

 

Knowing where the time went.

 

A single Pomodoro is 30 minutes - that’s the 25-minute sprint plus the five-minute break. As you add another tomato to your timesheet, you’re adding another indicator of the progress you’ve made during the day.  

 

This means it’s no longer a question of ‘where did the time go?’ but a visual reminder of what you achieved today. So you can continue to work safe in the knowledge that you’re spending your time meaningfully. 

Getting started with the Pomodoro Technique.

All you really need to get started with the Pomodoro Method is the little mental push to stay focused on your work for the duration of the little ‘tomato’. It doesn’t even necessarily need to be a 25/5 split - the idea is for you to be mindful of how you’re spending your time.  

 

Not every task in your to-do list is going to take exactly 25 minutes to complete. Some will be much smaller jobs, like writing a couple of emails. If you can round up a few of these tasks together you should put them into the same Pomodoro period. 

 

When a task is going to be much more time-consuming, the key is figuring out how you can break it down into more manageable pieces.  

 

Apart from this, you only need a Pomodoro timer to get started. You could use a countdown timer on your browser or a mobile app, just to time out the work periods. There are plenty of specific Pomodoro timers available in your mobile app store. You could even pick up an egg timer or - as Cirillo himself famously used - a tomato-style timer, for an off-screen, more physical representation of your time. 

 

To increase your ability to concentrate, you may benefit from a quiet place to work - or maybe some music. Whether it’s complete silence or your favourite video game soundtrack, anything that can help to boost your focus can help considerably as you get to grips with Pomodoro. 

Is the Pomodoro Technique worth it? Pros and cons.

Pomodoro works in some lines of work better than others. You may find it helps (or hinders) your working style if you tend to get stuff done a certain way. 

 

Advantages of the Pomodoro Method. 

 

The main advantage of the Pomodoro Technique is making you more engaged with your workload. It’s the process of being mindful about how you’re spending your time that can make a seemingly massive task appear much less daunting. Timing your activity gives you more ownership of the tasks you’re working on and keeps you more engaged throughout. 

 

If you’re someone who tends to juggle a lot of different types of job throughout the day - regular meetings followed by intense periods of proofreading for example - you’ll benefit from a fixed schedule with which to complete tasks. 

 

It can really help you to stay motivated and less prone to distraction, provided you’ve got the discipline (and something satisfying to occupy the time). 

 

Drawbacks of the Pomodoro Method. 

 

On the other hand, if your main focus is on one task such as writing columns and blog posts, you might not see the benefit of splitting your time down so narrowly. In fact, an alert to take a break might prove too much of a distraction once you’ve finished your sprint if you’re in the zone. 

 

You may also work in a role or have responsibilities, where you would love to be able to dedicate 25 minutes to a single task. But in the on-demand working world, does anyone really take notice of your Do Not Disturb status on your workplace app?  

If your role is more about soft skills like developing relationships than it is on producing deliverables, then you may find it harder to gain any satisfaction from using this method - or even to note any solid achievements. That isn’t to say you aren’t doing your job - but perhaps it doesn’t measure up the same way. 

Frequently asked questions.

What do you do in a five-minute Pomodoro break?

 

You could use the five minutes in your break period to do anything you want, as long as you’re actually taking the ‘break’ from work. Maybe take a brisk walk around the block or grab a snack. Catch up with a colleague or just get a breath of fresh air. Then you’ll be refreshed and ready for another sprint. 

 

Why does a Pomodoro last 30 minutes? 

 

A Pomodoro doesn’t strictly need to be 30 minutes in total. But the whole idea is it’s long enough for you to get mentally focused and be productive on a task, while promising a good few minutes to rest and recharge at the end. Being mindful of your time is key, but adjust the timings and see what works for you. 

 

How many Pomodoros should I do in a day?

 

That really depends on the length of your working day. As the full cycle involves a set of four Pomodoros plus a longer break between sets, you probably couldn’t fit more than three sets of four or 12 Pomodoros, into your typical office hours. Start small and see what works best for you.  

 

Effective time and resource management can play a huge part in getting your big idea ready for the business world. Visit the Make Your Move hub for more on making your lightbulb moment into a business reality. 

 

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