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How to Use the Pomodoro Technique to Work More Efficiently

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Mar 20, 2020 • 3 min read

When there's an important task you need to complete—whether it's completing homework, filling out tax returns, or finishing a manuscript—it takes time management discipline to actually get it done. One well-known time management method is the Pomodoro Technique.



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What Is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique that breaks tasks into reasonable chunks and rewards you with regular breaks. It was invented by Francesco Cirillo, a Berlin-based consultant of Italian heritage. “Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato, and Cirillo named his technique after the tomato timer he used to time his work sessions and his breaks.

Cirillo’s method works as follows: Whenever you are faced with work that you've put off via procrastination, you should tackle it in precisely timed intervals with a short break between each interval. After several work intervals have passed, you can take a longer break. Cirillo calls each work interval a “pomodoro.” The number of pomodoros required to complete a task will depend upon the task's breadth and complexity. But by using the pomodoro method, you're assured that the work will be broken into manageable chunks.

Why Is the Pomodoro Technique Effective?

The Pomodoro Technique is effective because it makes long-delayed items from your to-do list seem less daunting. If you know that you'll only have to work on a task in short intervals—and that you'll be rewarded with regular breaks—you're shielded from the dread of an interminable task. When it's used effectively, the Pomodoro Technique can get you into a work rhythm where time flies by without you fulling noticing it. In fact, just five cycles of the full Pomodoro Technique can carry you through an entire workday.

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How to Use the Pomodoro Technique to Manage Your Time

Whether you're a business professional, a university student, or just someone who needs help getting things done, you can integrate the Pomodoro Technique into your workflow. Here's a simple step-by-step method for using the Pomodoro Technique the next time you schedule a work session:

  1. Identify the task at hand. This can be any task but the Pomodoro Technique is ideal for fairly involved tasks—the kind you’re be tempted to put off for some time.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes. This 25-minute interval is your first “pomodoro.” It’s your dedicated work time, and you should use it to tackle your task without interruption.
  3. Take a five-minute break. Uninterrupted work time is only one part of the Pomodoro Technique. The breaks are just as important. Stop after 25 minutes and set another timer for 5 minutes. Go to the bathroom, get a drink, check your phone—just don’t work during this break period.
  4. Repeat the process three more times. To complete a full cycle, you'll want to go through four 25-minute pomodoros. Take a five-minute break after each, except for the fourth.
  5. After the fourth pomodoro, take a long break. After four 25-minute work intervals, it's time for a longer break. Somewhere in the realm of 20 to 30 minutes is appropriate. You might grab lunch, make a phone call, or do some web browsing.
  6. Repeat the full cycle as needed. Once you've made it through four pomodoros (followed by three short breaks and one long break), you've completed a full cycle. Now you just have to cue up the next cycle and keep it going until your task is completed.

You can do all your timing on an egg timer or kitchen timer, as Francesco Cirillo did when he invented the technique. But the truth is you can make the Pomodoro Technique work with any sort of timer device, even the timer function on your phone. The important thing is that each of your pomodoro sessions be a 25-minute block.

When used properly, the Pomodoro Technique is an excellent time management tool and focus booster. It can help clear off some dreaded tasks from your to-do list, and it can help you accomplish your work in less time than it might otherwise require. Then you can get back to having fun.


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