Complete Guide to the Pomodoro Technique

Héctor Muñoz
6 min readNov 23, 2014

Discover one of the most widespread techniques of productivity and time management. At the end of this article we recommend you a few applications so you can put this methodology into practice.

Being productive. That we make the most of our time. Finish up orders and issue invoices. We wish it was all that easy, right?

Most of the time, we are not really efficient working because we fall into the multi-tasking trap. We think we can do this while finishing that. We don’t realize that we must focus our attention on one task to complete it as soon as possible.

Most productivity techniques base their functioning in two points: + The consistent focus in tasks preventing simultaneity. + The *rest * periods between them.

The Pomodoro Technique, with almost 30 years of history, is one of the most widely used and most-often mentioned at present. Let’s see how it can help us in our everyday lives.

What is the Pomodoro Technique

The basis is very simple: to capture your time into 25-minute intervals.

Developed by Francesco Cirillo at the late 1980s, the success of the technique is in time- tracking (by stopwatch, watch or application) to manage the rest and work intervals. Taking recovery brakes every 25 minutes (or pomodoros).

This technique is based on studies which support that after 25 minutes our concentration declines, it is for this reason that it is necessary to take a break in order to keep the productivity level. Forcing ourselves to stop will allow us to work more efficiently for a longer period of time.

How to practice Pomodoro technique

One of the most positive aspects of practicing the Pomodoro technique is its simplicity. Let’s analyze how to correctly do it step by step.

Planning tasks

The initial part and possibly the most important: divide the daily tasks in blocks of 25 minutes.

It’s difficult in the beginning. It’s just enough to do this excercise to realize ** how poorly we manage our time.**

Through this blog we have always emphasized the wise use of time. Especially with e-mail, where a wise use, or even its discontinuation give surprising results.

When you start dividing your tasks in blocks, three things will happen:

  • You will think you won’t be able to finish any task within one pomodoro (25 minutes).
  • You’ve defined tasks with no precision. “Answering e-mails” can be a task that takes 5 minutes, 2 hours or a half-life. You have to be more specific!
  • You have probably planned excessive pomodoros. This is because we are accustomed to thinking the more hours you dedícate the more productive you are. Generally, the opposite effect occurs.

In 25 minutes we are not able to finish some of the complex tasks we face on day-to-day basis. Or are we?

We must try to ensure that 25 minutes is enough time to finish the task we set out. If we need to divide a task into 2,3 or 4 pomodoros, we do it. As we mentioned in one of our posts about finishing incomplete tasks, what’s important is to give us the satisfaction of finishing it and scratching it off the list.

Grab a notebook, a note in your computer or whatever you want. Plan the day. If you don’t have time to finish a specific task in 25 minutes, Split it in smaller tasks.

Managing time

We would like to be strict about the 25 minutes, but not monitoring the clock, right? Actually, the term Pomodoro (tomato, in Italian) comes from those vegetable and fruit shaped kitchen timers. If you wish to purchase the original, since Pomodoro Technique is a registered trademark, you can do it at its oficial website.

In fact, the inventor of the technique suggests the use of analogue devices to monitor time. To set the kitchen timer is a physical confirmation of the disposition to carry out a task.

Although at first it seems a technique that isolates you from your environment, you can also practice the Pomodoro in sets of two, consisting on making pomodoros in groups with common objectives.

We have a few solutions to monitor time without worrying about it.

iPhone/iPad Applications

If you have any of these devices you can use some of the free applications that are available. Most of them offer the same functionalities (timer, metrics and historical):

  • Pomodoro Keeper Free. Available for iPhone and iPad, this application allows you to monitor pomodoros that you are doing, with weekly metrics. Premium pay version available.
  • Droptime. A Pomodoro Timer.
  • Orange. This application also allows you to chose the work and rest time custom designed.
  • Focus Time. This paid application also has advanced metrics, synchronization with iCloud and key tasks analysis.

Applications for Android

Among hundreds of options we have in Google Play Store, we have chosen the four we consider best:

  • ClearFocus: Pomodoro Timer. Simple interface, which allows you to easily monitor the pomodoros of the session.
  • Pomodoro Challenge Timer. With a very attractive interface, allows you to generate your own achievements to encourage you.
  • Pomodriodo Pro. With a free version, this paid application allows you to have a history of pomodoros done.

Applications for Desktop

If we prefer the application directly on our PC or Mac, we have a few options available:

  • Focus Booster. Available for PC, Mac and Linux, it has a free online version and a paid desktop one. The interface is very attractive and it allows you to have multiple metrics of productivity.
  • TeamViz. Also multi-platform, it’s designed for teamwork. It has a free version and two with payment plan.
  • Tomighty. Freeware for Mac and Windows.

If you are interested in diving in in a mountain of desktop options, we recommend you to visit this list.

Managing Breaks

As important as the 25 minutes of complete concentration is the 5-minute break between pomodoros.

It’s not allowed to “check Facebook”. A real break.

Get off your seat, walk, drink water, close your eyes for a moment.

If you work in an office and have a window, a good practice is to look at the horizon. This will relax your view, used to focus at short distance towards the computer screen.

The most difficult thing of all methods of productivity is probably the quality of that break, which is usually more physical tan mental. We can’t stop thinking about what comes next.

Every 4 pomodoros, a longer pause is recommended. The accumulated exhaustion will prevent us from concentrating with the same intensity.

Reviews of Pomodoro Technique

This technique has been equally praised and criticized. Most defenders claim a substantial increase in their productivity. The key is to force yourself to rest before taking on another pomodoro.

However, you could feel overwhelmed for not having enough time.

Every one of us is unique, why 25 minutes and not 15? Most of its opposers claim that 25 minutes as a unique measurement is too strict and it doesn’t take into account the complexity of each task.

If we work in an environment where we are constantly interrupted it won’t work. Not the Pomodoro Technique or any other. That’s why it’s essential that we make sure we are working in the conditions we really need to finish more work consuming less time for each task.

Most critics of the Pomodoro Technique prefer the TimeBoxing, consisting in blocking personal time to prioritize tasks.

Final conclusions

As all techniques of productivity, we must test it and see what works for us. It is possible that its practice open your eyes to new habits at work, even if you end up not using them in the end.

If you have a day in which you are really unfocused, this technique will allow you to get into the loop and make the best of your time without procrastinating too much.

Working non-stop hours not only is not productive but it is not healthy. If a tomato-shaped kitchen timer is gonna prevent us from making atrocities at work… let it be welcomed!

What about you? Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique? Did it work? Do you know any other methods to be more productive?

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Héctor Muñoz

Entrepreneur, passionate about puzzles, aikido, chess, photography and traveling. Now living in the most beautiful place in the world: Fuerteventura.