You want to get more stuff done, and that means working longer and harder, right? Not really. You just have to work smarter. The most productive people often work fewer hours yet accomplish more. How do they do this? By taking more breaks to increase focus and productivity. But when do you take breaks? The Pomodoro technique is a proven method for taking breaks and staying productive.
What Is the Pomodoro Technique?
While it might sound more like some type of exercise or meditation, it’s actually a timing method for taking breaks throughout the workday. The Pomodoro technique was created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1990s. He developed the technique while at school.
Cirillo’s concept involves dividing large tasks into more manageable chunks, much like you would with achieving a goal. Instead of being overwhelmed by a lengthy task, timed work sessions and breaks are used to work in shorter bursts. This gives your mind a break before you have a chance to lose focus.
The name may sound weird, but it’s actually named after a tomato-shaped timer Cirillo used to use. That’s why some Pomodoro timers are called tomato timers.
How Does It Work?
Cirillo’s Pomodoro technique is just six easy steps. The technique is easy to master once you get the pattern down. The six steps include:
- Choose your task. Yes, it can be your entire workday, writing a blog post, doing a research paper, or anything else that may take a while.
- Set a timer for twenty-five minutes. The timer you use doesn’t matter, though cute tomato timers are fun to use.
- Devote a full twenty-five minutes to your task. You don’t have to finish in that time period, but put your full focus on the task at hand until the timer stops.
- Add a checkmark to a piece of paper or keep track via a notepad-style app or even a spreadsheet. You have to keep track of your sessions, also known as Pomodoros.
- Take a brief break, which is usually around five minutes. It doesn’t matter what you do on your break as long as it’s not work-related.
- After your fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break. Set a timer for a least fifteen minutes, but up to thirty is good for more intense tasks. This gives your brain longer to rest and process information without being overloaded.
That’s all there is to it. Studies actually back up the concept of working for a set period, taking a break, and repeating. While the studies don’t all agree on the exact timing, they do all agree that the brain needs a break after no more than ninety minutes, though some say a break is necessary after fifty minutes.
The Pomodoro technique uses shorter periods mainly to help coincide with common distractions. Also, Cirillo found that twenty-five minutes was his productivity sweet spot, so you can adjust the technique a little to better fit your productivity cycle.
To make the Pomodoro technique successful, you’ll need a few things:
- Something to track your Pomodoros
Determination is necessary to stay focused for the full twenty-five minutes. You will get distracted sometimes, perhaps with a phone call. However, if possible, try to avoid any unnecessary distractions until after your twenty-five minutes are finished. Take a break and then deal with the distractions. Then, start your next Pomodoro.
You don’t need a special timer or tracker. A small notepad and a pen or pencil helps you check off your Pomodoros. Any timer that can be set for twenty-five minutes is fine. Some of the most popular options include:
- Any kitchen timer that lasts long enough
- Your phone’s stopwatch/timer
- Tomighty – Desktop timer for Mac and Windows
- Marinara Timer – Browser time that includes three different productivity timers
- Focus Booster – Track up to twenty Pomodoros for free or use premium plans for tracking and reporting more details
- Tomatoes – Browser timer that has leaderboards if you sign up to track how many Pomodoros you do per week and month (great if you like a competitive option)
The most important thing to remember about the Pomodoro technique is breaks are your friend. Even if you customize the times to work for slightly longer periods, take regular breaks and watch your productivity increase.
If this technique doesn’t work for you, you can also try listening to music or gamify your work flow to increase productivity.
Image credit: Luca Mascaro/Flickr