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Keeping Focus: The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique
I discovered the Pomodoro Technique about five years ago when I was back in school for design. I lean towards being a procrastinator (okay, I am a procrastinator) and I needed a way to focus on what I was doing. I guess I googled for help and stumbled on the Pomodoro Technique.

It’s named Pomodoro — Italian for “tomato” — after those old school tomato kitchen timers. It’s super simple: You set a timer for 25 minutes, which equals a pomodoro, and work on your task without interruption. When time’s up, you take a short break, like 5 minutes. After 4 pomodoros, you take a longer break, like 15 minutes. If you get distracted by, say, reading an email or checking out Twitter, you reset your pomodoro. That’s it. So simple. But amazingly effective.

When I first stumbled on the Pomodoro Technique website it was very simple, but now I see that there’s an official Pomodoro timer, books for sale, online courses, and it even says something about becoming a “Certified Pomodoro Master.” There’s money to be made — I get it. But I just want to stress that it’s not something to overthink.

Work for three pomodoros with short breaks after each one, and then take a longer break after the fourth pomodoro. If you get distracted from the task at hand, reset your pomodoro. That’s it.

I use an app called Pomodoro Timer to keep track of mine. I searched through a bunch and this was the winner. It’s minimal, not ugly (I’m a designer — that’s very important to me), and has the functionality I want. You can adjust the time lengths (I like 25-minute pomodoros, 5-minute short breaks and 15-minute long breaks), and you can both pause and reset pomodoros. It tracks your pomodoros for the day and resets at midnight. There’s an iphone version and a Mac version. On the Mac it shows on your toolbar so you can see where you’re at — I love that feature. They’re not free, but only $5 for both and totally worth it.

I like tracking my to-do list with pomodoros. Like, I’ll say I’ll spend four pomodoros writing blog posts today, or I’ll even use it to add in chores in my day, like I’ll clean my place for a pomodoro.

Like I said, I’m a procrastinator at heart, but this incredibly simple technique has helped me focus. It’s hard to sit down and work on a big task, and it’s easy to take a moment to look at Instagram and get lost in it. But saying you’ll work on something for 25 minutes is easy, and then you get 5 minutes to take a breather. But when the pomodoro dings, you know it’s time to get back to work. Procrastinators rejoice!

I hope this helps somebody out there focus better and get down to business. If you try it, let me know what you think! Would love to hear.


reader comments

  1. Amber

    I use the Pomodoro Method a lot. It’s a great way to get things done in a short amount of time. Isn’t it interesting that if we have all day to do something, then that’s how long it takes; but if we only have 25 minutes, we can complete the task in 25 minutes.

    • Beth Alessi

      Oh absolutely, Amber! It’s like when you have a deadline — it gets done. Pomodoro puts little deadlines on your work throughout the day. And then you don’t get to the end of the day and wonder where all your time went.

  2. Sandra

    This is the first I’ve heard of the Pomodoro Technique, and as someone who understands the art of procrastination all too well, I’m so glad I did! Thanks for writing about this method. I look forward to trying it out.

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