Sometime between the late 1980s to early 1990s, an Italian university student named Francesco Cirillo decided that he wanted to figure out how to get more things done in a more efficient way. A to-do list and a tomato-shaped timer later – the Pomodoro technique was born.
I love this technique, and I can’t imagine ever getting any deep focus tasks done without it. I have such an extensive to-do list between blogging, coaching, and client work that sometimes it’s easy to fall into the multi-tasking trap.
The Pomodoro technique is an answer to that problem. Keep reading to see exactly how you too can use this technique to power through those long to-do lists!
How It Works
Ready to put the Pomodoro technique to use? Here’s a step-by-step rundown on exactly how to get started.
Step 1. Choose a task you want to complete
While I love organizing and making project plans, the real way to get things done for any project is actually ticking tasks off the to-do list.
Some tasks can appear really big and daunting – say, designing a whole new page on my website or brainstorming a brand new offer’s sales funnels.
So whenever I have a big task that requires a lot of work, I zoom in on just one task and decide that that’s what I’m going to be working on for the next couple of hours.
What I love about the Pomodoro technique is you can use it for just about any task requiring deep focus.
From writing to researching to designing to editing, every task you can think of that needs at least half an hour’s work can be done with a Pomodoro.
step 2. Set your first 25-minute Pomodoro
Fun fact: pomodoro is Italian for tomato, and the technique was named after Francesco Cirillo’s tomato-shaped timer he used during his college days.
You don’t need a tomato-shaped timer (though it would be fun to have). Opt to use your phone timer or download an app that’s specifically designed to help you use the Pomodoro technique.
My Pomodoro app of choice is Be Focused.
It already comes pre-set with all the Pomodoros and breaks in between, plus it’s customizable if you’d like to lengthen or shorten your break times.
If you prefer to do this the manual way, set your timer to 25 minutes. That’s the average length of one Pomodoro – but as you get better at improving your focus, you might even bump it up much longer.
Step 3. Work on the task until the timer rings
Next, here’s the fun part: actually work on your chosen task for the entire 25 minutes.
Lessen distractions along the way by putting your phone on Do Not Disturb mode. Or close those social networking tabs.
If anyone calls, texts, or emails during your Pomodoro, just remember that you’re only doing this deep focus work for 25 minutes. You can reply to everyone during your break.
One way I level up my Pomodoro is to work in a closed, quiet space. I try to get in as much focus as I can during a Pomodoro.
If you don’t have the luxury of a quiet space, noise-cancelling headphones always do the trick.
Step 4. Take a short break
When you’ve successfully complete those 25 minutes of nonstop work, congratulations! You’ve officially finished 25 minutes’ worth of work for that big task.
After one Pomodoro, take a 5-minute break. Your brain will thank you unendingly.
Now before you decide to spend the entire 5 minutes scrolling on social media, here are some of my own recommendations for a more “productive” break:
- Drink water.
- Stand up and take a walk. (Stretch those legs, yo.)
- Read a book.
When I do use my break times to go on social media, I usually try to still keep it meaningful by leaving nice comments on somebody’s post. (Hey, it takes no time and effort to make someone’s day.)
I’ll also use the social media break to share useful tips to my followers and friends.
Step 5. Repeat
Now for the easy part. You’re probably so impressed that you did that 25 minutes of work, so it’s time to do it all over again!
Get that work done, dream-chaser! You’re doing great, sweetie!
Step 6. Take a longer break after 4 successful Pomodoros
One thing that the Pomodoro technique encourages is to take a longer break – about 20 to 30 minutes – after completing 4 successful Pomodoros.
If you’re sticking to the average Pomodoro length, then that’s after about 2 hours of work.
And psst! Can you believe it? You just did 2 hours’ worth of work! You totally deserve that longer break.
How the Pomodoro Technique Helps You Long-Term
Now if you’re anything like me and need a little bit more convincing, here are a few benefits of using the Pomodoro technique for work. (Fellow questioners and skeptics, I’m looking at you.)
You get more done
If it wasn’t obvious before, you’re getting a lot more done – more than you might think.
Before using the Pomodoro technique, I didn’t think I could write 1,000-word blog posts in just a couple Pomodoros. But I did.
You’ll be seeing progress on those projects and tasks because you’re making 25 minutes of progress every single time. If you complete about 10 Pomodoros a day, that’s 5 hours of work done every single day.
Don’t underestimate where those 25 minutes go.
You practice working in deep focus
One of the biggest benefits I got from using the Pomodoro technique was being able to practice working in deep focus mode.
By committing to one task for 25 minutes, I was telling my brain, “Okay. Just do this task for 25 minutes. Nothing else. Just 25 minutes. That’s nothing!”
And I’d get into this really good flow and rhythm. I’d build up momentum to get more Pomodoros done.
Sometimes, I even skip the short breaks altogether because I get into such a zone.
You can see where your time is going
What I like about using my Pomodoro timer app is how I can review exactly how many Pomodoros I spent working on one particular task.
(If you aren’t using an app like I am, list down the tasks you’re working on for each Pomodoro instead.)
Being able to see exactly what I was working on let me see where my time was really going.
Eventually, I used this information to be more efficient. By seeing that I was spending too much time, say, researching for a blog post instead of writing it, I could switch my focus sooner and get myself out of a research rabbit hole.
You can estimate how much time you need to do typical tasks
As you use Pomodoro timers more and more, you get to estimate just how long it takes you to complete your routine tasks.
For example, I would never have guessed that it takes me about 2 hours (or 4 Pomodoros) to complete a 1,000-word blog post.
Or that I only really need 30 minutes (or 1 Pomodoro) for creating graphics for my posts.
Pretty cool, huh?
Use the Pomodoro Technique in Your Own Life
There you have it – a rundown of exactly what the Pomodoro technique is and how I personally use it to be more productive. I encourage you to at least try this technique out to power through your to-do lists.
This technique has really changed the way I work, and who knows? It might change yours too.