The Pomodoro Technique of Studying and Working

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Are you a multi-tasker? Do you have many tabs open on your computer at once? Do you feel overwhelmed by a project and find it difficult to focus? You need a tomato kitchen timer and the Pomodoro Technique! It helps you focus and be more productive. Truly.

When was the Pomodoro Technique invented?

It all started in the late 80s. Francesco Cirillo attended all of his business school classes in Rome, did his homework, and studied his heart out but felt that he wasn’t really learning. He thought about it & watched other students, and felt that in comparison he was too distracted and had a low level of concentration.

He challenged himself to focus for just 2 minutes. Could he do it? He found a tomato-shaped kitchen timer and timed himself. He couldn’t do it the first try. He needed practice. So his pomodoro (Italian for tomato) became his Time Tutor. The timer, and the technique that he developed in using it, helped him improve his studying and later his work process as well.

Pomodoro Technique Benefits

These are the benefits that you’ll discover:

  • no more procrastinating
  • stop jumping from thing to thing, and get your project finished
  • focus, instead of listening to doubts about how to do a task or another task you should be doing
  • increase focus by cutting down on interruptions
  • don’t feel overwhelmed, know that you’ll finish in time
  • increased attention span
  • improved motivation & determination to meet goals

A Quick Overview

The Pomodoro® Technique

Pomodoro Technique Explained

The Goals

Cirrillo explains, “Anxiety caused by the ‘ticking clock’ leads to ineffective work and study behavior which in turn elicits the tendency to procrastinate. The Pomodoro Technique was created with the aim of using time as a valuable ally to accomplish what we want to do, the way we want to do it, and to empower us to continually improve our work or study processes.”

So the first goal is to see time differently, in a way that isn’t threatening but becomes manageable. The second goal is to improve your ability to focus over time and be able to concentrate on your projects.

The 5 Stages of the Method

Stage 1

Planning: at the beginning of the day decide on the tasks to be accomplished.

Stage 2

Tracking: throughout the day keep track of how many 25-minute work sessions it takes to complete a task.

Stage 3

Recording: at the end of the day, write down how long (how many pomodoros) it took to complete the day’s tasks.

Stage 4:

Processing: look at the information to see how long it takes to complete a task to help estimate the time for future tasks, see where a task took too long and find out why, and compare the day’s timing to past endeavors to see if there is progress. This is key to the process.

Stage 5:

Visualizing: at the end of the day, the week, and/or the month take the time to discover patterns. When is the best time for your to focus on heavy duty tasks? At what time are you the most productive? When do you experience the most distractions? Where do you need to make changes to be more productive?

woman studying or working using the pomodoro technique

The Steps in Practicing the Pomodoro Technique

  1. Write the date on your Activity Inventory Sheet and make a list of the tasks you’d like to accomplish in the day. As new tasks arise, add them to this list. (If you’ve already broken your project down into smaller tasks, just write what you want to finish today.)
  2. Prioritize your tasks for the day and list them on the To Do Today sheet. (Having 2 lists helps you keep focus because you concentrate on the To Do List do the most important – rather than urgent – first.)
  3. Set the pomodoro timer for 25 minutes and set out to accomplish the first task on the list.
  4. When the timer rings, immediately stop working. If you accomplished the task cross it off the list. If you need to continue to work on it, put an X beside the task on your To Do List.
  5. Set the timer for 5 minutes and walk away from your desk. Get a coffee, walk around, grab a snack, daydream about what you’re going to do later. Do NOT think about work or read emails. This is a brain break.
  6. Return to your desk and set the timer for another 25 minutes, focus on the task at hand until the timer rings and take another break.
  7. After you have 4 Xs on your To Do List (which is 2 hours) take a longer break between 15-30 minutes.
  8. When you finish a task on your list, draw a line through it to show it as completed and move on to the next task.
  9. At the end of the day, write on your Record the number of tasks completed and how many pomodoros they required.
  10. Take a moment to reflect on how well you did compared to other days. If there was an issue, think about what the cause could be and how to fix it. If you did well, take a moment to be proud of yourself.

Tools to Help

The Pomodoro Technique Sheets

At the official Website for a small fee you can download the activity inventory sheet, the to do today sheet and the records sheet.

The Pomodoro Tomato Timer

You need a Time Tutor in order to master the pomodoro technique, so why not use the same timer Cirillo did?

Here is the typical kitchen timer in a tomato shape*.

You might be able to find it at your local department store, but it is also available at Amazon*.

tomato or pomodoro timer

More Aesthetic Pomodoro Technique Timer

Find the tick* tick* tick* and that loud kitchen timer buzzer too much to bear? (Ring anxiety is a thing!) Do others around you complain about the noise?

The TimeCube has 3 choices: High/Low Buzzer Alarm, 4 Blue LED silent light alarm, or both.

TimeCube Timer for Pomodoro Technique 2
TimeCube Timer for Pomodoro Technique
TimeCube Timer for Pomodoro Technique

Apps for the Pomodoro Technique

pomodoro technique app for phone

Pomodoro Technique Timer App

Also available at the official website, you can download the Pomodoro Technique Timer app timer for FREE.

iPhone Apps

The focus time activity tracker is available for a small fee. And the Focus Keeper is free.

Android Apps

The Pomodoro Timer Lite is available for free.

Want to learn more?

The Pomodoro Technique Book

This is the original book written by Francesco Cirillo*, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique.

Be very careful to check the author’s name when purchasing the book. There are several others who have written about The Pomodoro who are not the original author.

pomodoro technique book

Learning How to Learn Coursera Course includes lessons on the Pomodoro Technique.

There is a FREE Coursera course by Barbara Oakley, PhD that teaches the Pomodoro Technique. She has written numerous books* on learning and “brain science”.

“Learning is creating a pattern in your brain. The more you practice, the stronger and the more available it will be for you in the future.” 

Barbara Oakley

My personal experience with the Pomodoro Technique

I came to this idea from a physical need rather than a productivity crisis. I have a propensity for blood clots in my legs, and can’t sit at the computer all day (like I’d love to so I can be “productive”!) The problem I had was telling myself I just wanted “to do one more thing” before I got out of my chair to do something or to eat. Before I knew it an hour or more had passed.

I had to set a timer and force myself to stop as soon as the timer rang. Initially I set the timer for longer periods of time and then took a long break. The Pomodoro Technique of working for 25 minutes and taking a 5 minute break is genius! It has been scientifically proven that this is the length of time that the average person can truly focus.

Another issue I had was that I didn’t stop “working” just because I was out of my chair. I was still problem solving in my head. The Pomodoro Technique not only gave me “permission” to let go of my work when I left my desk but made it imperative that I do so. The 25/5 and then the longer break after 2 hours is the perfect balance for me mentally and physically.

What I do during my 5 minute break

I used to be stuck in a rut of seeing my “work” time as separate from my “home” time even though I worked from home. I had the same issues I did when I worked away from home, trying to get my household To Do List done during family time. The Pomodoro Technique game me the “freedom” I needed to change that pattern for the better.

  • vacuum the floor
  • take the dishes out of the dishwasher
  • throw clothes in the washer or dryer or fold them
  • put dinner in the slow cooker or oven
  • have a snack
  • dance to my favorite song of the day
  • send a Voice Note to someone about a personal, not business, topic

I am grateful that I discovered this Life Hack. Not only does it help me get my work done faster & better because I can fully concentrate, it helps me segment my housework into manageable bites. All areas of my life are richer for it.


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The Pomodoro Technique of Studying and Working

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