Despite my regular posts on productivity, I’m no natural when it comes to time management. I lack the self-discipline to focus relentlessly on a single task for an extended period of time and I get easily distracted. One day I decided that enough was enough. I needed a robust system to help me fight against interruptions and to manage my time better. That’s when I stumbled upon the Pomodoro Technique, and I’m happy to say it’s changed everything.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a “Pomodoro”, from the Italian word for “tomato”, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.

Traditionally, there are six steps to the technique:

  1. Decide on the work to be done.
  2. Set the Pomodoro timer (typically to 25 minutes, this is called a Pomodoro).
  3. Work on the task.
  4. When the timer rings, stop working and make a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (around 5 minutes) and then return to step 2; otherwise continue to step 6.
  6. If you have four checkmarks, take a longer break (around 30 minutes). After that, reduce your checkmarks to zero and go back to step 1.

The goal of the technique is to reduce the impact of interruptions on focus and flow. Pomodoros are indivisible; if you get interrupted in the middle of a Pomodoro, you need to record and postpone the other task or abandon the Pomodoro.

Getting started with the Pomodoro Technique

There are many different apps available to help you get started with the Pomodoro Technique. Here is a list of few prominent ones:

Pomodoro┬« Timer Web App – The official web app from Francisco Cirillo’s own website. – A customizable Pomodoro timer that works on desktop & mobile browsers.

Forest app – One of the most popular productivity apps on the app store. You can use the app to set a countdown timer for your Pomodoros. It plants a little digital tree that grows while you work. It makes it even easier to stick to them because you aren’t allowed to use your smartphone while the timer is running or your tree dies. Successfully growing trees earns you points and for every 2500 points you earn in-app, the developers plant a real tree! Good for your productivity and good for the environment.

Your phone’s timer app – You don’t need a fancy Pomodoro app to follow the Pomodoro Technique. The only thing you really need is a timer. Other than that, you can keep track of your Pomodoro count in your head or on a piece of paper. There are no excuses for this one. It’s really easy to implement!

How I use the Pomodoro Technique

In last month’s blog post, I mentioned the “Now” page I created for my Notion workspace. I generally like to keep that page open on a second screen while I work so I can see my daily tasks, upcoming weather, and other info at a glance.

Another element I have on that page is a Pomodoro timer! I tried to embed some of the apps I mentioned above into my Notion page, and while they worked fine, I didn’t like the look of them so I wrote my own little Pomodoro app with React called Salsa timer. I kept the interface for the Salsa timer app super simple so it could slot right into my Notion workspace and not detract from the look and feel. Here’s a picture of my workspace:

My work setup using the Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro timer on the left-hand screen and what I'm working on on the right-hand screen.

More reading

The Pomodoro Technique is simple but extremely versatile. Interested in further reading? I recommend you check out Francesco Cirillo’s website here. Todoist also wrote a really detailed blog post about the technique here.

If you decide to adopt the Pomodoro Technique and it works for you or if you already use it, reach out to me on Twitter and tell me how you it’s working out for you! 🍅