a tomato timer sitting between a black laptop and a to do listWe live in a world full of options: Do I want Chick-Fil-A or Zaxby’s for dinner? Should we take the kids bowling or to play mini-golf? When trying to be more productive at work, should I use the Eat That Frog! method or The Flowtime Technique?

In my new blog series, “Finding Power Through Productivity,” I’ll play the role of “productivity method critic.” Throughout the next few months, I’ll try various productivity hacks and share:

The reason I am trying out these hacks? I’m hopeful that, as you read about them, you’ll find one (or several!) that interests you and you would consider implementing at work, in your personal life, or in both! In later blogs, I’ll also share comparisons of various methods to give you further insight into them. Today, I’ll be sharing an overview of The Pomodoro Technique.

 

What is The Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique breaks up your workday into four 25-minute segments. Therefore, one Pomodoro equals 25 minutes of uninterrupted focus. The Pomodoro Technique is as follows:

  • 25 minutes of focus, 5-minute break
  • 25 minutes of focus, 5-minute break
  • 25 minutes of focus, 5-minute break
  • 25 minutes of focus, 15-20 minute break (the longer break time often varies person-to-person)

Then, repeat.

 

Why is this method said to be effective?

Four hours of work without a break can be daunting. However, 25 minutes of work (with a break after) is enough to be productive on a task, but not overwhelm the brain. Picking a singular task to work on during the 25 minutes enhances focus as you zero in on short bursts of work. Then, you recharge your brain so you are energized for your next Pomodoro. If you track the time it takes to finish a whole task (for example, taking three Pomodoros to create a newsletter), you can use that information to help you set goals and learn how to allot time more effectively in the future.

 

How did you use the Pomodoro Technique day-to-day?

In the morning, I would look at Monday (my team’s project management software) to view my task timeline and the most important tasks of the day. I would then organize my tasks into Pomodoros. I also wrote down how I would spend my 5-minute breaks; while working from home, I used the breaks as a combination of household chores and rest.

I used the Focus Keeper app to time myself and set my phone on “Do Not Disturb” to enhance focus.  If I had a thought not pertaining to my task during the 25 minutes that was important, I typed it in a special “Notes” section on my phone.

Disclaimer: I did not use the Pomodoro Technique for every hour of work in June; for example, it’s not useful during meetings or when I am trying to write blog posts (see the cons section).

 

man happy with no papers in his to do pile and all of his papers in his done pile

 

What were your findings?

Journal Entries:

  • June 1: I have always liked productivity apps, but have never been consistent with using them daily, so I am excited for this experiment! My biggest takeaway from today is that I felt I was getting a lot accomplished, yet I wasn’t stuck to my computer screen for hours on end. I also used the 5-minute periods to make doctors’ appointments, cups of coffee (haha!)…tasks I tend to not get to during the workday and then am too tired to do afterward. Using every other break to rest and then the others to do menial tasks was a great balance for me! To be transparent, I didn’t spend every 25-minute segment 100% immersed in focus; while my personality wants to beat myself up for not being 100% perfectly productive, I know I will make progress and get to the level of productivity I desire.

 

  • June 12: I love how the Pomodoro helps me be more productive in getting certain tasks done that are easy to stop in the middle of (for example, creating a content calendar). Those tasks have several different components, so if I stopped when my timer went off, I didn’t feel as if I was losing the flow of what I am working on. However, I am having the hardest time with using the Pomodoro Technique when I am doing more intensive tasks, such as writing a blog post. It seems like I will get heavily into the flow of what I am writing, and then the timer will go off…and usually, I just ignore the timer to keep my flow going. This defeats the Pomodoro purpose, but if my writing juices are flowing, I don’t want to take a break then and there!

 

  • June 29: As my time using the Pomodoro Technique comes to an end, I feel as if I have some takeaways. First, I enjoy this method for certain tasks that either require little thought (like entering data) or for tasks that are easy to stop at any given point (like formatting a blog on WordPress). I also feel that, once I got used to the method, I was more productive overall throughout my day because distractions like social media or mindless daydreaming were eliminated while I worked. However, I have a strong distaste for how I would be fully engaged in a task requiring high levels of concentration or problem-solving, and the Pomodoro Timer would inevitably interrupt my train of thought (not to mention how, if I chose to take a break then, I would totally LOSE my train of thought). I think there is a bit of an oxymoron in that it’s used to stop interruptions but can be an interruption in itself. I like the Pomodoro Technique overall, but from now on, will only use it for certain tasks.

 

Pros:

  • Focus is enhanced. Setting aside designated time for work allows you to give all your attention to one task instead of trying to hop around between multiple tasks.
  • Work is achieved at a greater rate—without sacrificing quality. Because distractions are eliminated, work is done more quickly. Simple as that. Also, the psychology behind working on a task for 25 minutes at a time often causes less procrastination; you are accountable to the ticking timer.
  • You can create a better workflow in the future. Looking at how you performed, and what works and doesn’t work for you, can help you create a smoother productivity system in the future as you work to achieve goals more effectively.
  • It adds structure to your daily routine. By breaking down your workload into separate tasks and knowing there are specific times you will work on specific tasks, you add an element of structure to your routine. The breaks also add a layer of structure to your workflow.

 

Cons:

  • The interruption for a break can be good…or really bad. If you are engaged and your creative juices are flowing, that may be the worst time to have a timer go off and take a break. Therefore, your productivity could actually lessen if you stop your flow and lose a great idea.
  • There are challenges with a more rigid system. For example, if you are working on a few short tasks that take five minutes each, the Pomodoro isn’t effective. Or, if you have physical needs you need to take care of (for example, you need to use the bathroom or need a bite to eat to keep going), you may feel as if you are losing work time by taking a break—which can lead to discouragement.
  • Zero interruptions can be impossible, depending on your work environment. If you are in an office setting, chances are you are going to have to pause the Pomodoro to talk to coworkers. If you’re working from home, you may have kids that need your attention sometimes.
  • You MUST plan. The technique is set up so that you plan out all your tasks, divide them into Pomodoros, and then measure their effectiveness. This can be great if you work in solitude or have a set schedule, but can be difficult if you have an unpredictable schedule that changes frequently throughout the workday.

 

woman working on projects as she sits with her laptop open

 

Who would you recommend the Pomodoro Technique to?

  • Individuals who constantly have a million tasks to get through and need a way to break them up
  • Individuals who work on large projects and seem overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work
  • Individuals who have several repetitive tasks that can lead to stagnation
  • Individuals who find themselves easily distracted throughout their workday and are striving for better focus

 

The Last Word

If I had to sum up the Pomodoro Technique in four words, I would say: It’s not for everyone. It can be a great motivational tool that helps boost productivity, but think about the type of work you are doing and your personal preferences before using it as your permanent productivity procedure.


Bonus Content: Pomodoro Technique Suggestions

If you want to try the Pomodoro Technique, check out these free timers:

Or, you can purchase a kitchen timer. Amazon has plenty of options.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Marah Whitaker headshot

Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me. 

Connect with me on LinkedIn.