How To Be More Productive With The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique is a time-management tool that breaks work periods into one time frame, and a short rest period into another. It usually involves a 25 minute work sprint and a five minute rest period. Francisco Cirillo created this method in the 80’s and now it has become a minor phenomenon.

While it’s a good tool, it is slightly over-hyped. It definitely can help you get more done, but like anything, you need to find what works best for you. Below I’ve outlined the way to get started, and some benefits that work-stop can bring to your life.

My settings

Pomodoro | Andreia Thoughts

My Projects

I have my Pomodoro set to 30 minute work sessions and five minute rests, with two hours netting me a full fifteen minute break. You can buy the timer or you can use an app. I use the app Pomodoro Challenge for Android (photo above). I like it more than pen and paper, since I can track how much time I spend in different projects and goals. The app is also gamified, if that is a perk to you. For beginners, I suggest a 20 minute Pom, seven minute rest period with four sessions giving you a 15 minute rest period.

I’ll usually clear 6-8 Pomodoros a day depending on what else I need to do. The important part is consistency. Track everything. It may not be important today, but when you analyze your time you don’t want any unknowns. You’ll want to review weekly, monthly, and potentially yearly depending on how important your time is to you. It will fascinate you to see where it all goes. Anything over an hour you should track.

Kill boredom with Pomodoros

The Pomodoro method is the ultimate study or work method to prevent you from being bored. Frankly, nothing works better. Why? Well, where do you usually stop in a project? In a section that’s enthralling? Probably not, you stop when things get too hard. This is the wrong way to it. The next time you come back to your project, you aren’t walking directly into a roadblock when you use this method. When the timer alerts for you to cease, you need to get into the habit of stopping, dead. Imagine a firefighter in the middle of a meal. He doesn’t get to take an extra bite when he’s called. Fork down, out the door. Just like you will when the Pomodoro is over.

It’s going to be frustrating the first few times—you’re in the middle of the breakthrough, in a solid state of flow, then you end abruptly. It’s not bad, though: it’s a bookmark for your flow state. This is exactly the positive frustration you want to end on—frustration to bring you back to your hustle. When you come back you’ll be right in the grind ready to roll. 

The key is to leave and return on time. If you leave a project after floundering for three hours in one section, you won’t nearly have the passion to solve it when you come back. Stop right when the bell rings and this won’t affect you.

Use Andreian breathing methods to never lose focus

Take the air

Take the air

When i’m running a Pomodoro, I’ll use an Andreian breathing method to stay focused. I’ll start with a tactical breathing exercise by manually processing each breath. After the first Pomodoro of consistent breathing focus, I’ll essentially begin on auto pilot. Breathe in for five seconds, hold five seconds. Breathe out five seconds, hold five seconds. It will be uncomfortable on the exhale, but you will adapt.

The reason this is so crucial to your focus is that it puts a wall around your focus with one single gate. This gate, only lets in one or two, three thoughts max at a time. Without the breathing base, you don’t have any walls, and you’ll be distracted by every thought, phone notification (turn off notifications) or text message that comes through.

In order to have a direction, you need to be laser sharp. Once you obtain this level of focus you can accomplish nearly anything, as most goals are compounded time. After doing this long enough, I’ve gotten to the point I can work through all phone calls and texts. If my flat began to burn down, I’d keep writing. Use your new focus with caution.

Keep your brain active with movement

On my five minute breaks, I’m not taking a leisure break, I’m taking a brain refresher. I have a 45-pound kettle bell that I’ll keep by my desk and swing for the duration of five minutes as fast as I can while holding proper form. This can be replaced with anything depending on your goals. You can walk, do push-ups, burpees, anything that will get your heart-rate up.

Your body and your brain work together, if you let one go stagnant, they both suffer. For things like taking a piss, fit it into the seven-minute mark too. You do not want to be late to your own party. Anything bigger can wait until your first 15 minute stopping session.

Another point that helps me focus is standing up while I work. If you don’t want to pay for a standing desk, make one. Or stand at the kitchen counter. When we sit we become naturally lazy, worse if you lay down to work. Being on your feet naturally engages your brain more. Sitting and laying down is for resting. This is something for you to test and continue if it benefits you, just like the Pomodoro Method itself.

Read More: Time Is A Non-Renewable Resource

38 thoughts on “How To Be More Productive With The Pomodoro Technique”

  1. I love the Podomoro technique but don’t use it very often. I typically use it at work and do some push-ups during the break. It’s excellent when paired with the greasing the groove method. In any case, it’s a great tool to use when you need to get a task done.

      1. Greasing the groove is basically doing small sets of an exercise you’re trying to improve on throughout the day. The purpose is to never fatigue yourself. So with the Podomoro timer, I might do 5-10 push-ups during every break. Helps build the neurological connection more than anything else.

        1. That’s the idea. I’ve done it primarily with body weight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats. By the way, it looks like your link for getting shredded by jumping rope isn’t working. Not sure if that was intentional or not but I was hoping to read it. Great site, really enjoyed the content on breathing.

        2. Thanks for the feedback, I’ve updated the link. I’ve been writing for myself for a long time, but not for others. I’m still trying to nail down this blogging business.

    1. I don’t recommend Kettle Bell swings for five minutes though.
      Also, sitting doesn’t make you lazy, it makes you exhausted because its a stress position.

      1. True on sitting.
        I have seen more injuries from improper kettlebell use than pretty much anything else.
        As a side note, about 4 years ago I did the 10,000 kettle bell swing challenge. It was fun. Much more fun than when I attempted (and failed miserably) at the Burpee Mile.

        1. Such a severe degree of self-flagellation should be punished by a public stoning.
          I was just in the gym watching this PT train this guy on Kettle Bells. The trainee was doing every thing wrong (bent legs, curved back, shoulder hyper-extended, swinging the bell too high etc.) and I looked at the PT. He was staring off into space, probably somewhere with the fairies… Maybe one of his buddies is a chiropractor and he supplies the patients…

        2. Ha. the 10k kettle bell swings happened over a month btw it wasn’t all at one time.
          I think that, assuming a margin of error of 1-3%, 102% of the time that I have seen a non professional trainer using a kettle bell they were doing it incorrectly.

  2. Not practical when working in an open plan office. But definitely something that can be implemented when you are working from home, or if you are a student and studying or revising

  3. I discovered this method by myself some years ago. Nice to be able to put a label on it now.

  4. I need to do this in order to fight procrastination that is sneaking into me lately. Oh shit, I am on here posting again when I could be working!

  5. I use Pomodoro. I prefer a free browser-based Pomodoro timer here: Using Trello to track major tasks and the Pomodoro technique to power through them is an effective technique.

    1. I used moosti in the past, but it didn’t work for me. Each time I accidently closed the browser tab or rebooted my laptop, I had to begin from the very start. So I created , it solved this problem for me.

  6. I only use this when dealing with something more or less repetitive in nature. If I am into something creative and/or need to solve an abstract problem I don’t use it because it kills my momentum.

  7. I write this from the can while on my break after my very first 20 min Pom after having read this article. Thanks a lot to the writer- great and simple productivity tool

  8. I am currently picking my way through ‘A Mind for Numbers’ – Barbara Oakley, which mentions this technique and many other – validated – techniques to improve learning ANY new skill. Check her interviews out on Youtube with Stefan Molyneux. Very informative. Thanks for the article.

    1. Finished.
      I got a lot done – replying to this thread was one of the last things on my list.
      I like working for twenty-five minutes. It means break time is always just around the corner.
      Stopping work even when you’re in the flow is a devilishly clever idea. It makes you eager to get back to work, and helps to avoid procrastinating once you do. Also, it reduces the feeling that work is something to be done when you feel like you’ve hit your stride. Instead, work is something that needs to be done when the clock says so. This makes the tough, complicated jobs less agonizing.
      I agree with the author’s assessment – use it in a way that suits you. I like having a full fifteen minute break every three cycles because I’m as lazy as a French whore. You might find another time system works better for you.
      Reversal: this system won’t improve your sex life. My girlfriend got really annoyed when I picked up a book after twenty-five minutes of lovemaking and she was no longer in the mood after my five minute break.

  9. I’ll definitely give this a trial.
    I have been using Modafinal on and off for a couple of years now and it’s by far the best result i’ve had with productivity. It’s not something you can maintain for more than a few days in a row with at least a solid break of a week between use.

  10. I have a motorized desk that adjusts to any height, allowing standing or sitting work. I stand up if I begin to nod off.

  11. I had been using pomodoro technique in past, I have no idea why I stopped.
    I think it’s time for start using it again.

  12. So I get up in the morning . . I get up, then I go to the bathroom and take a leak . . then I turn the light on . . THEN I lift the lid on the toilet seat – – OOWWW!! Dang the shit’s backwards. If only I could rewind.
    Then I get to work. I sit at my desk . . THEN I go to sleep. Darn, got the shit backwards again. Man if only there were a system that I could control which would aid me in compartmentalizing my own time. It’s MY time. Others are always chirping and nagging for MY time. It’s MINE dammit. Alarm clock buzzers, traffic lights, phone rings all need to STFU. I better try this pomodoro business.

  13. I like the technique. I tried it since yesterday and it is an excellent motivator. Thanks for sharing the info with us.

  14. This reminds me of a slightly less insane version of something I tried back in graduate school called Polyphasic sleeping where I slept for 20 minutes every 4 hours.
    I kept a live journal (to give you an idea of how long ago that was). It really almost broke me.
    Not sure that this would suit my natural working patterns…but I will give it a shot at some point. Why not?

      1. I just have an internal clock that seems to work for me. Since it already works pretty well I am not sure I would want to retrain it.

  15. I purchased the app and will give it a try.
    I’ll report my results in a month or so.

  16. Great article thanks. I did this today at work today. For one thing, it made standing at my desk more tolerable because I knew I could stand for 25 minutes and then take a break as apposed to thinking, I can’t stand for 8 hours… A few times I was rushing to get as much done as possible because there was only a couple of minutes left on the timer and that made me more focused. I appreciate these type of tips very much thanks!

  17. Using this since Sunday. I’ve coded more in these past three days than I have in the past three months. I’m sticking to this. Thanks

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