What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management solution developed by a college student, Francesco Cirillo, in the 1980s. Based on numerous timed intervals spaced throughout the day, the technique is named after the Italian word for ‘tomato’, based on the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used himself when perfecting his time management method.
Designed to be simple to implement – yet reap big rewards in terms of productivity – the basic structure of the Pomodoro Technique is as follows:
- Set a goal/task to be completed on your to-do list
- Set your Pomodoro timer
- Work for the set period of time
- When the timer rings, mark your work interval down as a tick
- After each work session, take a 5-minute break
- After the fourth session, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes
- Reset your timer and begin the process once again
What is a Pomodoro?
As well as the name for Cirillo’s tomato timer of choice, Pomodoro is also the term used to refer to each time period, which, according to the original technique, is 25 minutes. So, the idea is: work for one 25-minute Pomodoro, then take a short break. After four Pomodoros in a row, you can take a longer break. As you get used to working for 25-minute increments and build up your ability to focus, you can extend them to 60–90 minutes at a time. Just be sure to get up and move and not sit for too long!
Modern Pomodoro methods
While in Cirillo’s case, the classic method required a dedicated timer – a Pomodoro oven timer – you can use your phone alarm, too. It’s also easy to schedule your Pomodoros using an app. Use an oven timer if you like. But keep in mind that apps can offer handy extras such as:
- Reports and trackers
- Competition leaderboards – great for teams
- Phone and desktop integration
- Social media usage limits, phone call blocking and other focus booster options
How to use the Pomodoro Technique in your office
Modern offices are more open than ever when it comes to maximising efficiency and company culture. The Pomodoro technique can help elevate your workspace and culture and truly motivate your team. It can be ideal for freelancers and remote teams who are looking to stay on task and ‘in the zone’. And if you want to ensure your team focuses on a single task, encourage them to engage in group Pomodoros. Shared work and break times can go a long way in helping your team feel more unified, even if they’re miles apart.
By rewarding small blocks of work time with short but refreshing breaks – and with a longer break to look forward to – the Pomodoro technique can be satisfying for reaching small goals. The important coffee and lunch breaks throughout the day are actively encouraged in the Pomodoro structure to help make work time more focused, and also rewarding.
While the Pomodororo technique may not be for everyone, particularly not for those who are already savvy at time management, it’s a valuable tool when your team really needs to get work done, like working in agile and heading a sprint.
Pomodoros for future timing
Once you and your team are used to the Pomodoro technique, it’s simple to calculate how many work sessions you need for future work. This can be a great way to plan your work week or month. Try assigning the most important tasks at 25-minute blocks first thing in the morning to make sure your priorities are always addressed, even if you don’t use any Pomodoro sessions for the rest of the day.
You might even want to implement a set Pomodoro session per week. Decide on the most popular time for your team to accomplish goals and put it in the diary as a set hour to use the Pomodoro method.
Alternatives to the Pomodoro Technique
If the idea behind this method appeals to you but you can’t quite see it working in your team, there are variations you can try:
The Eisenhower Method
This can actually be used in conjunction with the Pomodoro method and helps you decide what your priorities are. You can then tackle these tasks in Pomodoros. The Eisenhower method requires you to draw a grid of four boxes. The horizontal axis names one box ‘Urgent’ and one ‘Not Urgent’. The vertical axis names one box ‘Important’ and one ‘Not Important’ resulting in four boxes that create a numbered to-do list:
- Urgent and important, e.g. deadlines, project roadblocks, etc.
- Not urgent and important, e.g. project planning
- Not important and urgent, e.g. lunch with team today
- Not important and not urgent, e.g. after-work drinks
Agile is a work methodology that can be adopted for full-time use, although it was designed for, and is best adopted by, programmers and developers. For time management, though, it still has value. The most interesting aspect comes in the form of ‘Sprints’. Sprints are a time period where everyone pulls together to get a certain task done. A Sprint calls on members of different teams to contribute their particular skills to a task, with the aim being to create a fully recognised deliverable by the end of the time period.
Make the Pomodoro technique work for you
The Pomodoro method is highly customisable, so you can create the perfect time management tool for your team. Use it to set a period of intense collaboration once a week, to encourage your team to get those tedious tasks out of the way or to keep everyone on track for a deadline.
Let’s say your team works remotely and a whole range of new issues can squander your best efforts – think poor connection, disruptions from elsewhere, etc. Using the Pomodoro technique, you can encourage your team to get down to business for a solid 25 minutes at a time, allowing them to make strides in small, but important, increments.
By minimising your time but maximising your efficiency, you also don’t have to worry about disruptions. You can keep things short, sweet and on track using the Pomodoro technique.