Originally appeared on the Marketing Results blog.
The Idea of the System
The Pomodoro Technique was formalised by Francesco Cirillo, while he was a student. The name Pomodoro comes from the timer that Cirillo used which was in the shape of a tomato (pomodoro is Italian for tomato). The idea of the technique is simple, whenever you have a large task to complete break that task down into small intervals, called Pomodoro’s, that are seperated by short breaks.
Here is how the process of the Pomodoro Technique is described on the Pomodoro Technique website:
- Choose a task to be accomplished.
- Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
In the simplest form of the idea of the technique is breaking work down to 25 minute blocks with 5 minutes breaks in between to help maintain will power and concentration.
I’ve been using the Pomodoro Technique for a couple of weeks now and I find it best suited to larger tasks where you have to concentrate for a while. The breaks give you set time to be distracted from the task at hand, meaning that any interruption is best handled in the break or after your current Pomodoro.
One of the best things about the Pomodoro Technique is that it is a flexible tool, and a tool to help focus attention. I may only complete a few Pomodoro’s a day as I’m often working on a lot of small tasks, however when it’s time to sit down and work on a larger task (such as writing this blog post) I will use the Pomodoro Technique to help myself be focused for a block of time rather than trying to work while there are other distractions.
Of course there will be things that come up, but overall I do suggest that if the distraction that needs to be handled soon can wait until the end of the Pomodoro. This will help train your brain to focus when it needs to focus and handle distractions more efficiently.
Tools designed around the Pomodoro Technique
There are a variety of tools available these days that are built around the Pomodoro Technique. At the most basic you can simply use any timer that goes up to 25 minutes, such as an egg timer or the timer in your phone (you can also buy Cirillo’s book and the timer on his website.
Other specifically made software include:
Mac OSX – Pomodoro One – this a simple lightweight Pomodoro timer, which simply has the options to either start and stop a Pomodoro. This is the one I personally use as it is simple to use and only pops up when a Pomodoro ends or starts.
Windows – Tomighty – Although I haven’t used Tomighty myself I have heard good things about this tool, one advantage it has over Pomodoro One is that resided only in the tool bar rather than as a window on the desktop.
iOS – Flat Tomato – while Flat Tomato is a nice simple app has the very useful feature of showing the Pomodoro you’re starting in context of the current time. This allows you to see from the start what time you’ll be finishing, just in case you have a meeting coming up.
Android – Simple Pomodoro – this is another app that I haven’t tried myself, I have again heard good things from people who use it on Android. And again with most Pomodoro apps the best feature of this app is it’s simplicity
Web – Marinara Timer – If you’re not a fan of platform specific solutions or cannot install software on your computer at work, there is a lot of websites that have timers designed around the Pomodoro Technique, a good one is Mariana Timer, which generates you a unique URL so you can bookmark it and keep track of your Pomodoro’s. It’ll also keep track of the time, so if you navigate away and then come back it’ll show the right amount of time that has passed in the Pomodoro.
Ultimately it isn’t about the tool you use to adopt the Pomodoro Technique, it is about making sure that you focus for a set period of time. Knowing in the back of your mind that you have a break coming up frees up your mind from a lot of distractions as you know that there will be a time in less than 25 minutes that you can use to indulge that distraction.
I personally believe the Pomodoro Technique can be useful for anyone that has a job that requires a minimum of 25 minutes of concentration, however the biggest benefit would be for people who are working on bigger projects. This is because the technique is based around making sure that you take a break every 25 minutes, this helps with giving your brain a break, which can actually help with productivity and creativity.
Overall reading about the Pomodoro Technique isn’t the best way to see if it’ll work for you. My best suggestion is to simply give it a go for a few weeks, all you need is a timer, so you can start right now.