Intro to the Pomodoro technique

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3 minute read

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Doing things is hard. Focusing on things is hard. Focusing on doing many things a day is hard.

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method that I apply to my work and personal life. It helps me organise my tasks and break them down into smaller chunks to help me get more done over the course of the day.

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What’s the Pomodoro technique?

This technique uses some form of a timer to break down work into 25-minute intervals separated by short breaks, with a longer break after 4 tasks.

The intervals are called Pomodoros, from the Italian word for “tomato”, after the classic tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Francesco Cirillo, the original creator, used.

The technique usually follows these steps:

  1. Choose the task
  2. Set the timer (25 minutes)
  3. Do the task
  4. Stop when the timer ends and record that you’ve done the task (a tick in a notepad, a swipe of an app)
  5. Take a short break (5 minutes), and then return to step 1 until you’ve done four tasks
  6. After four tasks, take a longer break (20–30 minutes), and go back to step 1
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Why use it?

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Tracking with this technique forces me to define my tasks for the day, break them into manageable chunks and get on with them. I know that if I’m not enjoying a task, I only have to get through 25 minutes of it and then I get a well-deserved break. Once I’ve got started I often get into the task and enjoy myself, sometimes spending more than 1 interval on it anyway!

Using the Pomodoro technique makes me feel like I’ve done more throughout the day, as they’re all small tasks, and this gives me a psychological boost, keeping my productivity high.

Also for me, delaying minor tasks like replying to messages and checking emails until the 5-minute break makes me feel more focused and like I’m not all over the place, multi-tasking and losing concentration.

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How do I use it?

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I aim for 16 Pomodoros per day:

  • One Pomodoro ((25 mins + 5 min break) × 4) + a 30 min break = one 2.5-hour session
  • Four × 2.5-hour sessions = 10 hours
  • Ten hours = my 7.5-hour workday plus 2.5 hours of personal work and hobbies

Example tasks:

Today my task list looks a little like this

  • Work: pairing
  • Work: 1:1 (2 Pomos)
  • Audiobook
  • Reading
  • Write 🍅 article
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Don’t be stuck on 25 minutes!

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Sometimes tasks take 2 Pomos, sometimes 4 - but it’s often good to have short breaks within the larger task too. For example, hour-long meetings at work take 2 Pomos (without the break), but tracking this on my Pomo app still shows me where I’ve spent my time.

I even use it to make sure that I do my daily habits, something that I mentioned in my Intro to habit tracking article. The habits “Audiobook” and “Reading” are a daily goal to listen or read for at least 25 minutes - so using a Pomodoro helps enforce this.

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Pomodoro apps

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Phone / desktop apps

Websites

I suppose they’re all very much alike, so try a few out and see what you think. There’s probably many more.

Although apps can be extremely convenient - and lazy - using this technique can be as low key as setting a timer on your watch or phone and having an alarm go off when your 25-minute stint is up.

So get started right away!

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Variations on the technique

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In “researching” for this article (read: looking for tomato soup recipes) I came across a variation:

  • 90-minute intervals with 30-minute breaks, which is supposed to reflect natural concentration cycles. I think this may have to be revised for future generation’s concentration cycles

The classic 25-minute Pomodoro technique works for me. I wrote this article in 1 Pomodoro.

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Time’s up! 🍅

Time for a break. And maybe some tomatoes.

Thanks for reading! 👋
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