What is the Pomodoro Technique? Here's how you can use it to increase productivity
No matter how passionate you are about a subject, it’s incredibly hard to create great work for eight hours straight without taking a break. If you’re not careful, your full-steam-ahead approach can lead to burnout, which can make you feel resentful and apathetic toward your work. But what if we told you there’s a method you can use that will literally force you to take breaks every 25 minutes? It’s called the Pomodoro Technique, a one-task time management tool for better workflow.
We connected with an expert to answer some of the questions you may have about if the Pomodoro Technique is right for you. From how it might increase your productivity to what apps are available to download and use, here’s the full breakdown of everything you need to know about this method.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique was created almost 20 years ago by Berlin-based businessman Francesco Crillo. It’s a system where every 25 minutes, you’re supposed to focus on one—that’s right, only one—task at hand. After the 25-minute focus time has been completed, you take a five-minute break to do whatever you please. Then the process begins all over again. You complete these intervals (which are also called pomodoros) four times in a row. And once the consecutive four pomodoros have been completed, you can then take a longer 15-20 minute break.
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly, the Pomodoro Technique is an effective tool for work because it provides a highly focused, well-ordered framework for completing your to-do list. “For those who tend to become unfocused or overwhelmed with tasks, the Pomodoro Technique’s six-step process provides easy guidelines for accomplishing a task,” she explains.
How does the Pomodoro Technique increase productivity?
Using the Pomodoro Technique allows you to have time work with you instead of against you. When you focus on one single task at hand instead of context switching between multiple tasks, you’re able to complete it easier and quicker. And according to a 2011 study that was published in the journal Cognition, incorporating short breaks into your work routine helps improve focus.
“One key element [of the Pomodoro Technique] is a higher level of focus and flow when engaged in a task. When the segment of work is completed, recording the progress provides positive feedback. The break allows for a rest as well as assimilation and integration of the material learned,” explains Dr. Manly.
When you keep track of your progress and see the number of tasks you’ve completed on your worksheet, the successful feeling of completing these items can signal your brain’s pleasure center, which will release dopamine, known as the feel-good neurotransmitter. This can make you feel even more eager to repeat these actions because your brain will continue to release dopamine.
Ultimately, the Pomdoro Technique focuses on creating an ideal uninterrupted workflow environment—and when successful, the process can optimize concentration, task completion, and learning, according to Dr. Manly.
How do you start using the Pomodoro Technique?
To begin, all you need is a timer and a worksheet. You want to start by figuring out what your top three priorities are or order your to-do list from most urgent to least urgent. Next, you want to set the timer at 25 minutes and begin working on your most important task. The overall structure of the Pomodoro Technique will look like this:
First 25-minute time block
Second 25-minute time block
Third 25-minute time block
Five minute break
Fourth 25-minute time block
While you don’t need to purchase anything to begin using the Pomodoro Technique, you will need to use a worksheet. Feel free to print the one we created below.
Download the full sheet here:
Most Pomodoro Technique worksheets will allow you to monitor your progress as you work through each task. When you take your five-minute breaks, the sheets will help you see how quickly and efficiently you’ve been working through your single task. This can then help you catch issues that you may not have been able to notice when multitasking or just pushing through a to-do list.
Are there Pomodoro Technique apps?
Of course, paper worksheets aren’t always the answer. Instead, you may prefer to go digital and download a few apps (or use your in-phone timer) to help keep track of your progress. Below is a small list of Pomodoro Technique apps you can download to give this method a go.
Bear Focus Timer (BFT) – $1.99:
This minimalist approach to the Pomodoro Technique is worth every penny. Not only are the illustrations incredibly cute to look at, but the app also includes white noise that you can play while you work during your 25-minute sessions. All you have to do is adjust the amount of focus time you want to work, pick the kind of white noise you want to listen to, and flip over your phone. The minute you place your phone face down on the table, the white noise and timer will begin.
Focus Keeper – Free with a pro feature:
This particular app is great if you’re looking to monitor your progress throughout the week. While the free version provides insights on the last three days, the pro version gives you total access. If you go pro, you can also change the color and have access to more alarm options. However, this app is great even if you’re just looking for something simple to help track your progress.
Flora – Free:
If you want to help save the environment while you get you Pomodoro Technique on, then you may want to download this cute app. For every 25 minutes you work, you help plant a tree with the help of Tree.org. However, if you need to pick up your phone for whatever reason, the tree will be killed. (Yikes.) With this app, though, the benefit is that you can personalize your goals and use it as a to-do list or a habit tracker to help keep things even more organized.