Why does the Pomodoro Technique work so well

Andrew Lucker
Sep 19, 2017 · 2 min read

It trains your brain to “flow” and focus

During high school I liked to try different brain hacks. My favorite was what I called triggers. A brain trigger is simply a deferred memory: “when I get to homeroom, take out my physics book and open it to page 146”. Phrasing an action as the posterior of a condition is one of the most basic building blocks in the human brain. In computers this would be the if statement. However the brain version is more powerful because this structure is time sensitive. It is due to this time sensitivity that the Pomodoro Technique works so well. Pomodoro takes one of our most primitive control structures and aligns it with a higher state of mind: task focus.

For the uninitiated, the Pomodoro Technique is simply a timer that you set for 5–15 minutes. When the timer rings you focus for 30 minutes, but until then you take a break.

In a previous post I talked about how scheduled events can cloud your working memory and make you lose focus. The Pomodoro Technique is interesting because it uses the exact same phenomena to create the exact reverse effect: by deliberately scheduling a focus event, you push out other concerns from your working memory, effectively clearing space for the future use.

The brain is really interesting in its ability to switch between very low level semantics, like a logical if statement, to higher level thoughts such as scheduling time to read and reflect on the philosophical works of Kant. Reading text is one of the highest faculties and something that completely separates humans from other living things with regards to intellectual capacity. Pomodoro Technique is just one example of simple techniques used for high level effect.

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