Pomodoro technique for productivity

Learn how a surprisingly simple method can create massive focus and help you accomplish more in less time.

As someone who leads many co-working sessions online, I’ve seen firsthand the impressive benefits of the Pomodoro technique for productivity.

Those who attend and try the method always say, “I can’t believe how much I got done!”

There are many productivity hacks out there, but none is as reliable (and simple) as the Pomodoro technique. Read on to discover how and why it works, and how to use it to boost your own productivity.

What is the Pomodoro technique?

The Pomodoro technique uses a timer to break work into intervals, separated by short breaks.

A university student named Francesco Cirillio is credited with developing the method in the 1980s. He was struggling to focus on his studies. After noticing classmates working in shorter bouts, he challenged himself to focus in small intervals.

He used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to time each interval. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato.

Here’s how the Pomodoro technique works…

  1. Choose a task.
  2. Eliminate all distractions.
  3. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  4. Work nonstop on the task (and nothing else) until the timer goes off.
  5. Take a 5-minute break.
  6. Repeat.
  7. After 4 intervals, take a longer (15-30 minute) break.

The times above are general guidelines; make the system work for you.

If you can only do focused work for 5 or 10 minutes to start, then make your intervals that long. The break can be longer if needed. And you can do only as many intervals as feels good.

What matters most is that you focus on a single task, without distractions, and that you take regular breaks.

Removing all distractions means you do not look at your phone, turn off all notifications, close out all other Internet tabs, stay off social media, don’t check email, etc.

Brief bursts of intense focus are the recipe for massive productivity.

Does the Pomodoro technique work?

There’s a reason so many people recommend the Pomodoro technique for productivity. Neuroscience backs up this method.

“Reinforcement theory” has found that the shorter the amount of time between rewards, the more the brain remains motivated to complete a task. 

In the case of the Pomodoro technique, the breaks are the rewards. When the brain knows it will soon get a break, it more easily remains focused during the work interval.

It may seem logical that working longer will result in more work. In fact, brain science has proven that frequent breaks reduce the cognitive boredom and fatigue that zap focus. 

The work-break-work pattern is scientifically proven to enhance concentration, attention span, and productivity.

It also helps reduce decision fatigue. A study found that taking regular breaks helps improve willpower and reasoning ability. That means you’ll make better choices about your work than if you try to “push through” and get everything finished all at once.

What’s more, the Pomodoro technique is healthier for your body. The human body isn’t meant to do sedentary desk work hunched over a computer screen. It can lead to a host of physical problems.

Taking frequent breaks to stand up and move the body is important for your long-term physical and mental health.

How to use the Pomodoro technique for productivity

There are no right or wrong answers for how to use the Pomodoro technique. Although the creator wrote a book, “The Pomodoro Technique,” his system has taken on a life of its own. It’s fine to follow his advice to the letter, but it’s also great to change it up to meet your own needs.

Some people find it most productive to use the Pomodoro technique only when they have very pressing tasks on their to-do lists. Saving it for when it’s most needed can make it most effective. 

Other people use it as part of their daily work routine. They don’t sit down at their desk without employing timed work-break-work intervals.

The productivity tip that works best is the one you’ll actually follow. It’s wise to adapt any system to make it work for you.

For me, the Pomodoro technique works particularly well when paired with block scheduling. Grouping like tasks (ie, admin work or marketing projects) and then having focused work spurts on just those items has helped me be most productive.

However you use it, try the Pomodoro technique for productivity. Chances are, you’ll get more items checked off your to-do list when you remove distractions, set a timer, work on only one thing, and then take a break.

Need more ideas on how to accomplish ore in less time? Check out the best productivity books that address the realities of working moms.