The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy that was designed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s to boost productivity. According to the technique’s official website it is now practised by “professional teams and individuals around the world.” It’s simple, but surprisingly effective.
The technique is designed to combat distractions and dwindling motivation by timeboxing – dividing time spent on a task into manageable chunks (25 minutes apiece) that are long enough to accomplish something, but not so long that your attention is likely to wander. Each chunk is followed by a short break (5 minutes or so) to re-charge.
25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest constitutes one “pomodoro” – named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used when he created the technique (pomodoro means tomato in Italian). After 3 or 4 pomodoros a longer (15 or 20 minutes) break is taken before starting over. Here’s a succinct summary from PomodoroTechnique.com:
- Choose a task to be accomplished
- Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (15 or 20 minutes)
That’s the gist of it, but there’s an entire book (available for free online) dedicated to getting the most out of The Pomodoro Technique. Further benefits/uses include setting up a more rigorous work schedule for each day, and even using your pomodoro records to help inform task estimates in the future (great for programmers in particular).
If your work keeps you mostly desk-bound and/or you don’t have a kitchen timer to hand, there are lots of ways – such as this website – to keep track of your pomodoros. There’s also an Android app called Pomodroido (complete with achievements) which I’ve found to be very handy when I want to use my 5 minute breaks to get up and stretch my legs.
The Pomodoro Technique may not be ideal for every task or situation, but I’ve found it to be particularly helpful for getting productive first thing in the morning, and for structuring large chunks of free time that I want to use productively. It’s also great for calmly tackling tricky programming problems that can often benefit from a clear head and a few minutes away from the computer screen.