Real life Pomodoro

Belle Beth Cooper
Exist stories
Published in
3 min readJul 7, 2014


Pomodoro is a productivity technique so simple you can easily make it your own. A Pomodoro is a 25-minute timed session (you can use something as simple as a kitchen timer). You work for 25 minutes, and when the timer goes off you take a five-minute break. Then you continue the cycle as many times as it takes until your work is done. It’s basically High-intensity interval training for work.

I don’t use the Pomodoro technique normally, but the one time I’ve found it’s really useful is when I’m struggling to get started on something. There’s something about knowing I only have to work for a little while that makes getting started much easier.

Lately I’ve been swapping the standard timer for “real life Pomodoros”: limited-time events I have to wait for anyway, like waiting for my washing machine to finish so I can hang up the clothes. I start working knowing I can stop as soon as the washing machine is done. Using real life Pomodoros means I get extra benefits like doing something fun when I’m done working or keeping up with my housework.

Here are some of the real life timers I’ve found that you might want to try. A lot of these are only relevant if you work from home, as I do, but I’ve noted some that I used when working in an office, too.

Albums and playlists

When I have a new album I’m excited to try out, it’s a great work timer. Not only do I get to enjoy the music, I only have to work until the album is finished. I sometimes do this with an old favourite album or playlist, too.

Washing machine

Waiting for the washing machine is a good one. If you have a dishwasher or clothes dryer, those can work too. Especially if you have one that beeps insistently, since you know it’ll force you to take a break when it’s done.


When I have something in the oven that will take a while, I find that’s a good impetus for getting a short stint of work done. For me it’s usually dinner but if you’re a fan of baking, you might find this one crops up more often. If you’re making a recipe that requires a long period of simmering on the stove or marinating before you start cooking, those could work just as well.


Occasionally I might be waiting for a large file to download. If it’s a movie or a new album, that means I can use it as a reward for working until it finishes downloading, which is even better than hanging up clothes when the washing machine finishes.

Waiting for people

When someone’s late for a Skype call or has popped out of the office for a coffee run, that’s a perfect excuse for a tiny burst of productivity. If I’m ever waiting for someone to arrive (or return) for a meeting, I find those short periods are easier to work in as well.

Computer updates

When my computer needs to restart and install and update, that’s a good excuse to turn to pen and paper and knock out a quick blog post outline or brainstorm some new topic ideas.

Train time

When I’m waiting for a train, I sometimes find I can quickly whip up a blog post draft on my phone. I always find being on the train also encourages high levels of productivity since I know I can only work until the trip is over.

Some other ideas I haven’t tried are running a bath, which could be a good timer for short tasks like replying to emails, or working while waiting for a car service to be done. If you work from home while looking after children, I imagine working around their schedule of naps, play dates and extra-curricular activities could lead to some regular real life Pomodoros, too. Do you have some real life pomodoros of your own? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

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