Ever caught yourself procrastinating in the morning, only to feel overwhelmed at the end of the day? These two fluctuating states trick you into thinking you can “make” more time for yourself. When at best, you can only organize it. This is exactly what the Pomodoro Technique intends to do: break work into manageable chunks to keep your mind sharp and ready.
Let’s see what this productivity method is all about, along with the best Pomodoro apps to use to get you started.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique was invented by Francisco Cirillo in the late ’80s as a means to study more efficiently. He used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato (“pomodoro” in Italian), forced himself to study for exactly 25 minutes, then took a break of 5 minutes. And it worked!
Cirillo discovered that to stay focused you have to work with time, not against it. To follow his advice, divide your projects and tasks into short sprints and reward yourself with regular breaks to recharge before the next sprint. This will boost your productivity and keep the creative juices flowing, without relying too much on your willpower.
Is this it? Frankly, yes. And that’s why the Pomodoro Technique is so attractive. You only need a timer and a paper to keep track of your pomodoros and focus single mindedly on a task.
I’d argue that the length of a work session and break can vary since it takes approximately between 5 and 15 minutes to achieve a flow state.
But here’s how the basic process looks like:
1. Choose a task you want to work on.
2. Set the Pomodoro timer to 25 minutes, the standard pomodoro duration.
3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro timer rings, then put a checkmark on a paper.
4. Take a short break of 5 minutes to do something non-work-related like stretching or making a call.
5. Take a longer break of 20–30 minutes after every 4 pomodoros. This will help you regroup your thoughts and rest before the next batch of pomodoros.
Notice a couple of things here. You need to approximate how many pomodoros it takes to finish a task. This information is not ready accessible, but through some trial and error you should get the hang of it.
You also need to set up a timetable. Block your most important pomodoros for when you’re most creative (for me it’s the afternoon) and leave the rest for when you tend to get distracted. The point is to have a clear limit and motivate yourself enough to push things forward, as well as a clear boundary between work and spare time.
As for the pomodoro, know that it is a non-negotiable time unit. This means that whenever an emergency or colleague bumps in with a request, you have to either end the pomodoro right then or protect it from outside distractions until completed. In most cases, you can get by with telling your colleagues to reach out in 10 minutes. Otherwise, use the “inform, negotiate, schedule, call back” approach proposed by Cirillo:
- Inform the other person that you’re in the middle of something important.
- Negotiate with them a time to address the issue.
- Schedule it.
- Call back or give them a nudge when the pomodoro is over.
For distractions that are internal by nature like a new idea or article to read, write it down on your paper and proceed with your work until the Pomodoro timer rings.
The benefits of using the Pomodoro Technique
To get a taste of how your life will look like after using the Pomodoro Technique, here are a few benefits to consider:
Improved concentration power
Not all of us can focus for extended periods of time. But everyone can make a little effort to put their heads down for 25 minutes, work, and take a break after.
In fact, a couple of researchers discovered that brief breaks actually improve the overall concentration power, or vigilance as they call it. They actually reset it, allowing you to start with a clean slate. Much like the bonus parts in most video games.
The Pomodoro Technique rests on the same principle. After each pomodoro, take full advantage of your break to recharge and keep your mind fresh for the next session of work. You’ll reduce the number of mistakes caused by a lack of concentration and avoid burnout in the long run.
Decreased back pain
Ever wondered why everyone is so obsessed with making 10,000 steps each day? As cliche as it may sound, sitting is the new smoking. I’m referring here to the health risks associated with excessive sitting, like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Which, according to this study, can’t be compensated by occasional leisure activities even if they exceed the minimum level of physical activity recommended 😨
In this context, the Pomodoro method becomes your greatest ally for slipping in more movement throughout the day. Use the five minute break to do a stretch, fill up your water bottle, or just chat with a coworker in the lobby area. Your back and shoulders will thank you later.
Get rid of the perfectionist mindset
This is the creator’s curse, also known as Parkinson’s Law, which I talked about in another article. According to it, work expands to fill the time available for its completion. To put it simply, if you have to complete a one hour task in two days, you’ll probably take the full two days. That’s because perfection sets in, making you fine-tune the task until the very end.
By all means, do what you need to do to create your best work. But don’t get stuck in endless revisions and ship it! Use the strict time limit of a pomodoro as a race to get things done and free up more time for other creative endeavors.
Best Pomodoro apps to try out
Enough with the benefits, time to get to the real work.
Again, because of the method’s simplicity, you only need a kitchen timer and a notebook or piece of paper to keep track of your pomodoros. That’s it. Nothing less, nothing more. This doesn’t give you enough insight into timesheets, the nature of your interruptions, or how did you progress on each of your tasks.
To automate the system and customize it to fit your workflow in terms of session lengths, ticking sounds, alerts, and so on, try out these Pomodoro apps:
1. PomoDone (Web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android)
Best for: using the Pomodoro Technique with a separate task or project management software
PomoDone connects with a wide variety of project management tools, allowing you to directly import tasks and time entries from the ones that already have a time tracking module — like Paymo.
Project Management Software · Paymo
No more Guesstimates Thanks to Paymo, you will no longer rely on outdated information from various systems when…
If you don’t use one, then you can add your own tasks directly into the app. Then clock in using their Pomodoro timer. A pretty robust one I have to say, since you can customize your own session lengths, set auto breaks, and add up an interruption note so you don’t have to rely on a notebook anymore.
PomoDone also comes with a great Chrome Extension that embeds the Pomodoro tracker in certain project management apps and blocks distracting websites if you know yourself to be a slippery procrastinator (I sure am from time to time 😅).
- Lite plan ($2.29/month), with 3 integrations included
- Ultimate plan ($4.01/month), with unlimited integrations and unlimited log access
2. Focus Booster (Web, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android)
Best for: freelancers who do client-related work
Focus Booster seems to be more oriented towards freelancers and agency owners since you can choose which client to track time for. All pomodoro sessions get…
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