Using Pomodoro to Get Stuff Done

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Have you ever [awoken]( "How Efficient Are Your Sleeping Habits?")determined to achieve a lot in a day, only to find that despite working solidlyyou’venot really made any [progress]( "Project-Focused Routine")? Have the small amounts of slippage – facebook here, long tea break there – added up to reduce your efficiency?

How can you be more efficient and achieve more? The answer is Pomodoro.

What is Pomodoro?

Developed by Francesco Cirillio, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management system based on the idea of taking frequent short breaks to improve output.

You set a timer to work for 25 minutes, and then take a five minute break. Every four or five cycles you take a longer break, a good point to do something physical or have a quick meal.

I use an online timer at, look for Pomodoro under ‘Special Timers’. Check it out.

Why 25 minutes? Why a five minute break?

At first I thought that fragmenting time too much would be counter productive, recalling the roughly 50 minute periods at high school. But it is easy for the mind to wonder after about half an hour.

25 minutes is a good period of time to complete a small task, while keeping you engaged and focused. 25 minutes is also a good amount of time to reflect back on how productive you were for that cycle, thus encouraging you to improve productivity on the next cycle.

A five minute break provides a quick rest while preventing you from starting any significant non-work related activity. Five minutes is just enough time to get a cup of tea or water and go to the bathroom, keeping you active and hydrated, important for preventing headaches.

How I use Pomodoro at work

At work there are many distractions: phone calls, ‘urgent’ emails, IM systems, people coming up to your desk, chatting to colleagues, eating donuts or biscuits, and the need for water and the bathroom.

My aim with Pomodoro at work is to get as many straight 25-minute work sessions as possible. It reduces my tendency to wander to the tea room after every interruption. I keep the timer running during an interruption but won’t personally be the cause of any interruption during the 25 minute period.

Since using Pomodoro, a colleague noticed that I was ‘always’ walking around to the tea room. I countered by asking what the maximum amount of time I was gone for on any of these breaks, knowing that it was always less than five minutes.

Unfortunately some hold a perception that being out of the chair = being unproductive. You have to ask yourself if your chair time is as effective as possible, and I am certain that with frequent regulated breaks it is.

How I use Pomodoro at home.

Personally, I find it easy to work for long periods of time at home without external distractions. The challenge therefore is to remain effective, and cut out the inane web browsing. Thus Pomodoro serves a slightly different function: punctuating work periods with breaks to improve work effectiveness.

I’vealways got a couple of projects on the go, and log how many cycles I have done on each. If I was less than 80% productive on a cycle (i.e. I spend more than five minutes off task) then I won’t count that cycle. This allows me to track progress and provide an instant feedback loop of my performance.

Why you should use Pomodoro

If you are working on any task in your room or on your computer, there will be a way to integrate Pomodoro for increased effectiveness. This is helpful for a wide range of tasks, from learning a language, to analysing the share market, to writing blog posts.

I challenge you to give the timer a try and see how you can improve your productivity. Please share your comments on your experiences using Pomodoro.