The Pomodoro Technique, Explained: How to Increase Your Productivity

The Pomodoro method is one of the most commonly practiced time management tricks out there, but what exactly is it?

by Rob Eades / 2021-08-20

We’ve all at some point in our lives looked at a tomato and thought: “I know the secret to time management has something to do with you."

Okay, maybe we haven’t. But luckily for us, a man named Francesco Cirillo did exactly that when he came up with the Pomodoro Technique in the late 1980s. (And yes, 'pomodoro' means tomato in Italian.)

Simply put, Pomodoro is a time management technique to boost your productivity that is based around five steps:

  1. Create a list of tasks ordered by importance.
  2. Set a timer to 25 minutes
  3. Work on the first task for the duration of the timer
  4. Take a 5-minute break
  5. After four pomodoros, take a 15-30 minute break

There is obviously much more behind this technique than these five steps, so let’s take a look in a bit more detail and hear from the man himself. We’ll also discuss some more time management methods with the experts.

The Pomodoro Technique - Francisco Cirillo

On Uptime

The man himself takes us through his tomato technique. 

1. Chop the task into small time blocks

Francesco Cirillo’s method is based around a 25-5 structure of focused work. 

By 'focused', he means intense work with no interruptions. So no checking your phone, no flicking on the TV, no social media, just good old fashioned work. 25 minutes was chosen as it’s long enough to get things done, but not too long to send you stir crazy. 

2. What’s the best way?

Almost any app that involves time management will offer a ‘Pomodoro system’, but using your phone isn’t particularly necessary. Phones will be seen as more of a distraction than a help.

Francesco maintains that using a physical alarm still works best. Doing the physical action of winding the timer solidifies your commitment to the time block, and the ticking noise is a constant reminder that it’s a time to be focused. 

3. Commit

As with anything, you need to have self-discipline to succeed. There can be no ‘I can quickly just check this email’ or ‘let me just grab a quick snack’, those 25 minutes are purely for work. 

This technique only works if you commit to what you’re doing and stick with it. 

How to Study for Exams: An Evidence-Based Masterclass - Ali Abdaal

On Uptime

Ali Abdaal walks us through the most effective studying techniques for exam time preparation. 

1. Don’t memorise. Understand.

Richard Feynman was a famous physicist who said if you properly understand a topic, you should be able to explain it to anyone. 

Memory can fail you. Things can be forgotten. But if something is truly understood, it will stay with you forever. 

2. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

Repetition is key to improving your understanding. When you go over something again and again, it imprints itself in your brain. 

You should set out intervals - daily, weekly, or monthly and keep going over the same content. This is what’s known as space repetition. 

3. Manage the pressure

There’s no getting around it - exams are pressure-filled situations. This can lead to a lot of stress when you’re studying for the exam.

Abdaal recommends listening to instrumental music with no lyrics. It can give you a sense of calm, and there won’t be any lyrics to break your focus.

The Now Habit - Neil A. Flore

On Uptime

Do you have an issue with procrastination? Neil A. Flore helps us to eliminate distractions from our lives with a sense of fun and enjoyment. 

1. Procrastination is a learned habit

No one is innately lazy. We just don’t consider the things we call ‘work’ to be fun. For example, a kid will never procrastinate from playing - because they don’t judge it to be ‘work’. 

School teaches us that work isn’t supposed to be fun, it’s the opposite of playing and only the best is good enough. So if no intrinsic value is put towards work, then that’s the perfect set-up for procrastination.

2. Build work around our fun

Work isn’t fun because it’s not supposed to be. That’s what we’ve always been taught and that idea is ingrained in your mind. This means that we’re basically promoting a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Your life shouldn’t centre around work. We should schedule our life based on the things we want to do, and fit work in around that. 

3. Block distractions

When you’re busy, you can often be distracted by small things that require your immediate attention. Neil suggests that instead of instantly sorting these distractions, you should instead write them down in a list. 

Then at the end of the day, look at that list and evaluate whether or not they are actually important and deserving of your time. You’ll often realise that most are not at all urgent.

How to Learn: Strategies for Starting, Practicing & Mastering the Skills You’ve Always Wanted - Mike Boyd

On Uptime

Mike Boyd is here to tell you that you’re capable of anything. Forget being ‘naturally talented’ - you go out there and you master that skill! 

1. Document each step

When learning a new skill, make sure that you take the time to document all the actions you make and the time you spend. 

This not only allows you to keep a track of your progress but allows you to be more easily objective as you have physical notes to refer to.

2. Give your brain a workout

One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is “I’m not talented enough”. That’s rubbish according to Mike, and it’s just an excuse so we can allow ourselves to fail. 

Our brains are like computers. They can constantly be updated and improved - you just need to put the work in. 

3. Don’t practise hard - practise smart

Working when you’re tired isn’t the ideal state of mind to be in for learning. In fact, it can even be counterproductive. You also need to hold yourself accountable for keeping up with practice. If you say you’re going to play the guitar every other day - make sure that you keep that promise. 

Boyd recommends using the Pomodoro Technique as the perfect way to keep your brain sharp and your input up.

The Pomodoro Technique is a wonderful way to have a direct effect on your timekeeping and keep your productivity high. Your brain is a muscle that can easily get tired, so there’s no point pushing through the pain and burning yourself out. 

Your learning will be far more productive and effective if you take regular breaks and learn in small blocks of time instead of just working around the clock. For more easy, actionable productivity tips and tricks, head over to Uptime to start seizing knowledge.

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