The Pomodoro Technique breaks down your tasks into shorter, focused sessions with regular breaks. It’s one of the simplest and easiest to implement productivity hacks around.
The struggle to stay productive as a freelancer, digital nomad, or employee is a never-ending battle for all of us. There are times that it’s so hard to get things done. Sometimes, we feel that our brain just won’t function anymore.
According to Neuroscientist Dr. Gabija Toleikyte, this feeling is normal. Constantly shifting from one activity to another affects the brain’s ability to focus. And this has an adverse effect on our productivity.
Several techniques have been developed to help us stay productive at work. One of the most popular ones is the Pomodoro Technique®.
What is the Pomodoro Technique®
The Pomodoro Technique® was developed by Italian Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. “Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato. Why the strange name? Francesco named the technique after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used as his personal timer. Cool huh?
This time management practice helps users achieve maximum focus, allowing them to finish a task or complete a project with lesser mental fatigue compared to working for hours straight. The Pomodoro Technique® divides a task into short 25-minute increments. After each increment, you take a 5-minute break. Then, after four increments or Pomodoros, you take a longer break — usually 20-30 minutes.
As you may have now noticed, this technique is built around short bursts of work and regular breaks to keep your mind focused and fresh.
How the Pomodoro Technique® Works
The Pomodoro Technique® is one of the simplest time management and productivity methods available. All you need is a timer! And thanks to technology, there are now Pomodoro apps that you can use (more on this later). The core of this technique involves only 5 simple steps:
Step 1. Check your schedule for the day
The first step is to know what your tasks are for the day. In terms of Pomodoros (25-minute sessions), estimate how much time you need to complete a certain task. List down your tasks and make sure they fit comfortably with your workday.
Don’t forget to factor in the 5-minute break after each Pomodoro and the longer 20- to 30-minute breaks after 4 sessions!
Step 2. Set your timer
Before starting your timer, make sure you have everything you need to complete your task. Feel free to use a traditional timer or one of the apps you’ll see in this article. Make sure you are committed to the task at hand. Remember, you only have 25 minutes to focus on it!
It’s best to turn off your phone, email, social media, and even shut your office door to minimize distractions. If you are working with colleagues, tell them that you don’t want to be disturbed.
Step 3. Work on the task at hand
Never multitask. Focus all your attention on the task at hand for the entire 25 minutes. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by anything — even those out-of-the-blue lightbulb moments in your head. If they do pop up, write these thoughts down and set aside for later.
I completed my work before the time is up. What should I do?
If this is the case, use the remaining time for short tasks or routine activities. It’s a good idea to keep tabs on how many 25-minute sessions it takes you to complete a task. You can use this information for future planning or when comparing your productivity levels.
Step 4. Always take a short break
Even if you are in the zone, take a 5-minute break as soon as your timer goes off. Breaks are the perfect time to rest and recharge your batteries!
You might think that taking a break while in the flow is counterproductive. It isn’t. Regular breaks restore your energy and will greatly improve your productivity. Energy is more important than time.
When taking a break, walk away from your desk. Fetch a glass of water, take a short walk or exercise. Also, give your brain a break too! Avoid anything that requires too much thought such as your current project or the deadlines you need to beat.
It’s also helpful to stay away from electronic displays during your break. Resist the urge to check on your emails or social media. This will keep you from straining your eyes.
Step 5. Continue your work and take a longer break after 4 Pomodoros
When your break is up, go back to your desk, reset your timer and continue working on the task at hand. After completing 4 sessions, take a longer break. Feel free to do anything as long as it takes you away from your desk. Go eat lunch, have a snack, read a book — anything! Again, avoid thinking about what you were doing before and stay away from your phone.
Top 5 Best Pomodoro Apps
Now that you know what the Pomodoro Technique® is all about and how to use it, it’s time to look at the top 5 Pomodoro apps that can easily beat your handy kitchen timer!
1. Focus Booster, Free and Premium
The Focus Booster is a web and desktop based app that offers a simple Pomodoro timer and the ability to track the time you spent on each project. The free plan includes a desktop app which features a minimalist view that floats on top of all your windows without distracting you.
The free version is limited to 20 Pomodoro sessions every month and does not include any reporting tools. The premium version comes in two packages: (1) 200 sessions and data export (2) unlimited sessions plus reporting and revenue tracking.
2. PomoDone, Free and Premium
The best thing about this Pomodoro app is the ability to integrate it with popular work/project/productivity management software (Basecamp, Todoist, Asana, Wunderlist, and Trello). Like most Pomodoro timers, you can easily customize the default 25-minutes/5-minute sessions to your needs.
PomoDone offers a minimalist desktop app and powerful reporting features that let you share data with others. The app’s basic functions plus 2 integrations are free. Premium versions include the ability to integrate to an unlimited number of tools plus reporting features.
3. Pomodoro Keeper, iOS, Free and Premium
The Pomodoro Keeper is designed for iOS. It sports a very clean and sleek user interface. It’s very handy! And since it fits in your pocket, you have the ability to track your Pomodoro goals without the need to sit in front of a computer. The app automatically transitions from work to break timers after each session.
The basic features of the app are free. If you want to unlock various options like custom timers, you will need the pro version.
4. ClearFocus, Android, Free, and Premium
ClearFocus is a minimalist Pomodoro app for Android. It features a clean user interface and lovely design. It also packs various reporting tools and lets you track your progress as time goes by. Users love how the colors turn red when the timer is running and green when it’s break time! Basic functions are free. If you want the ability to pause the timer, you’ll need a premium license.
5. Pomodairo, 100% Free
Pomodairo is an Adobe Air application that works on any platform — Windows, Mac, or Linux. This AIR-based app works as a simple timer that can track your tasks, unplanned work, and interruptions.
The Good and the Bad of the Pomodoro Technique®
The Pomodoro Technique® offers several benefits. By breaking down tasks into shorter, focused sessions, you make daunting projects seem more manageable and less overwhelming. Also, the limited time you have to work encourages you to stay away from distractions, multitasking, and procrastination.
Regular, short breaks are good for your health. Aside from improving productivity and concentration, it also gives your brain the chance to assimilate information and “learn.” In addition, you experience less mental fatigue.
While the benefits are obvious, the Pomodoro Technique® is not for everyone. Some of you may find short breaks counterproductive, especially when you are in the zone. Developers may find that a 50-minute pomodoro and a 10-minute break is better suited to their work style.
The technique also requires a lot of effort to stick to a disciplined workday making it less ideal for those working in a fast paced environment.
The Pomodoro Technique® is very simple and easy to follow. All it needs is a handy timer or app and discipline! While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, go and give it a try!
Norberts Erts is the co-founder of HR software company CakeHR, that streamlines attendance and performance management for customers worldwide. He keeps a sharp eye on HR, marketing, business, finance, science, technology and the connections between them. Connect with Norberts on Twitter and LinkedIn.