Pomodoro technique: How to master it

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Pomodoro Timer

Many articles discuss the benefits of time management. There are many different techniques you can use but for me, the Pomodoro technique is one of my favourites. It can be applied to any type of work, and it’s extremely easy to start using.

If you’re a software developer, chances are you’ve heard of the Pomodoro time management technique. 

It’s been touted as being able to increase your productivity and focus in just 25 minutes.

But have you ever tried it?

I use it daily with programming, design and even writing (I am currently writing this article while my Pomodoro timer is ticking). 

It is powerful and, at the same time, easy to understand and implement this technique.

In this article, I’ll walk through the Pomodoro technique and give you some tips for using it effectively.

The history of the Pomodoro Technique

But before we see what the Pomodoro technique is and how to use it, let’s talk about the history behind it.

The founder of the Pomodoro technique, Francesco Cirillo, was a university student in the late 1980s. At the time, he found it hard to focus on his school work and wanted to find a way to fight procrastination. 

He looked for ways to increase his productivity, and he found that he could use his Pomodoro timer to fight procrastination and be more productive.

Francesco shared his findings in a book called Pomodoro Technique Illustrated.

He writes,

“Now I can look back at myself and laugh because it’s obvious that the Pomodoro technique was born as a result of me having a Pomodoro timer.”

The Pomodoro timer indeed takes centre stage in Cirillo’s paper.

The Pomodoro is a kitchen timer that rings just once every 25 minutes and signals a five–minute break. Then it rings again, signalling the end of the break time and the start of another Pomodoro period.

How the Pomodoro technique works

The Pomodoro technique is based on timeboxing, a popular productivity management strategy.

However, it’s different from traditional time boxing in that a Pomodoro is not equal to one hour of work but rather 25 minutes. After the end of every Pomodoro, you have a five-minute break. This cycle is called a Pomodoro cycle.

After four Pomodoro cycles, you can take a longer break, which normally is about 15-20 minutes.

So during every 25-minute Pomodoro, you are allowed a five-minute break and one additional 15–20 minute break at the end of the fourth Pomodoro.

A Pomodoro can be one single task or several tasks done to reach a goal (e.g.: completing an article). When the Pomodoro timer rings, you take a short break by engaging in another activity that’s not related to your work.

One important rule in the Pomodoro technique is that once your timer rings, signalling the end of a Pomodoro period, you must put a checkmark on your Pomodoro sheet, and you are not allowed to go back to the task at hand.

The idea is that after every Pomodoro period, you should evaluate the overall progress made so far and make a simple plan for what needs to be done next Pomodoro.

Why is the duration of a Pomodoro 25 minutes?

The Pomodoro is 25 minutes because it can motivate you to work for a short time and take breaks later to avoid overload or burnout.

There is also a scientific reason behind using the Pomodoro timer for only 25 minutes. 

Cirillo claims that your mind becomes less focused this time interval, and it’s harder to stay concentrated on the task at hand.

Cirillo explains the importance of shorter Pomodoros in this excerpt:

“It’s much easier to focus and get more done during a Pomodoro of 25 minutes than during one of an hour: for the first Pomodoro, there’s no need to warm up mentally, you start working right away since you’re ready; the second Pomodoro comes after a short but well-deserved break which makes you feel good. In Pomodoros of an hour, you tend to start with a lot of energy, and then you slowly lose steam.”

What do you do in a 5 minute Pomodoro break?

During a Pomodoro break, you can do anything that’s not related to the task at hand. This includes; checking your phone, taking a walk or going to the bathroom.

I suggest you use this time to drink some water, eat something and take a short rest. Also, it’s a good idea to evaluate how many Pomodoros are left until you’ll be able to take a longer break (normally after four Pomodoros).

What makes the Pomodoro so effective?

The Pomodoro technique is effective because it basically forces you to focus on one thing at a time and get more work done in less time.

Cirillo writes:

“The Pomodoro Technique boosts your productivity by eliminating time spent on planning, tracking and reporting progress. It helps you to stay focused on what truly matters to you.”

The Pomodoro Technique increases your personal effectiveness by improving the quality and reducing your time on activities.

How many Pomodoros should you do per day?

You can do as many Pomodoros per day as you think are necessary.

Some people find it effective to work in multiple Pomodoro cycles throughout the entire day. In contrast, others feel that one Pomodoro is enough, and they want to take longer breaks between Pomodoros.

I personally find it challenging to work for more than eight Pomodoros per day. Typically four hours (or approximately eight Pomodoros) is the maximum time I have available per day for deep work activities.

Is Pomodoro good for people with ADHD?

People with ADHD have a hard time focusing on one task for more than an hour. After an hour, their mind starts to wander, and they feel like taking a break. And that’s why the Pomodoro technique works so well for them.

Using Pomodoro, people with ADHD can get more done in less time while also taking breaks to rest their brains. In that way, they improve their ability to concentrate in small doses without overdoing it.

How to use the Pomodoro Technique in your daily work

If you decide to implement the Pomodoro Technique in your daily routine, there are few things that you should keep in mind:

1. Plan your Pomodoros on a Pomodoro sheet (or use an application to do this).

On this Pomodoro sheet, specify what Pomodoro you’ll do that day and in what order.

Planning Pomodoros will help you prevent procrastination, as you’ll know exactly what Pomodoro(s) to get done next.

2. Start by estimating how much time it takes to complete certain Pomodoros.

After completing some activities, you will become better at estimating how many Pomodoros you need.

3. Every first Pomodoro of a particular day is dedicated to planning Pomodoros or evaluating how useful they were from the previous day.

4. Every Pomodoro should be treated as an important Pomodoro!

This means that if you do something unplanned (e.g., take a phone call), stop the Pomodoro and put the Pomodoro on hold by marking it with an X.

Then, once you’re done with your phone call, you can resume working on that Pomodoro.

The Pomodoro must be respected!

5. Don’t have another Pomodoro until you finish this one (even if there’s time left).

Make sure to work right through the Pomodoros without interruptions or distractions of any sort (even going to the bathroom is counted as an interruption).

6. If you get distracted during a Pomodoro, write down what distracts you on a piece of paper and deal with it after the Pomodoro is over.

If something urgent or important comes up, put an ! in front of that item on your to-do list and strike it off when you take care of it.

7. After completing a Pomodoro, you can measure how much time you’ve accomplished in the Pomodoro.

This will help you plan your next Pomodoros better.

8. Don’t worry about a Pomodoro not being completed!

If you’re interrupted by something urgent, if you lose your concentration or don’t feel like making progress with the Pomodoro, stop! You’re allowed to mark that Pomodoro as “unproductive” on your Pomodoro sheet.

9. Every fourth Pomodoro should be longer (and maybe a rest Pomodoro).

This Pomodoro represents a 25-minute ‘long break’ to do something else you like:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Take some time off.
  • Watch an episode of your favourite TV show.
  • Talk with family and friends or just relax.

Conclusion

If you are looking to increase your productivity, then the Pomodoro Technique is one of the most effective methods available.

There’s no reason not to give it a try today- just remember that you need to try it for some time before you master it. Initially, it may seem difficult or unproductive, but once you master it, you will never change it.

On the other side, if it doesn’t seem like something that will work well for you or seems too difficult, there are many different options out there.

I hope this post helped show what makes Pomodoros so effective and why it helps boost productivity across various types of tasks such as programming, writing, studying, and more!

If you need help implementing these principles into your daily life, let me know in the comments below. I personally use the Pomodoro technique daily, and it helped me boost my focus and productivity.

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