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The Pomodoro Technique For Time Management

Sometimes one of the most difficult problems people face is actually putting aside the time to work. People often attempt to multi-task multiple projects at one time while simultaneously juggling email, Twitter, etc. Frankly, it’s an incredibly ineffective method in which to conduct your work. We aren’t computers. We’re not good at phase switching. We need the opportunity for deep work. How to do this? How to schedule, really make time for deep work?

There are a number of complex time management systems out there, but I’ve long preferred a system of time management known as the Pomodoro Technique.

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished
  2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
  5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
Pomodoro-Technique-TimerThe method’s brilliance is in its simplicity. Instead of some complex system of time management, you merely choose one task, turn off email / Twitter / other distractions around you, and work on it non-stop for 25 minutes. Take a short break, rinse & repeat. The name Pomodoro comes from the Italian word for tomato. The creator of the method, Francesco Cirillo, had an egg timer in the shape of a tomato and came up with the concept while studying as a student in Rome. Hence, the Pomodoro Technique. If you want to learn more, the entire theory behind the method is available for free (PDF link).
Since you probably don’t have an egg timer sitting around the office, you can just click here. It’s a web-based 25/5 countdown timer.

Give it a try, I bet you’ll be surprised by the amount of work you are able to accomplish with it!

Note: This post originally appeared in May 2011. It has since been updated.

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About Keith Lee

I'm the founder and editor of Associate's Mind. I like to write, talk, and think about law, professional development, technology, and whatever else floats my boat. I practice law in Birmingham, AL.

86 comments

  1. This makes me want to manage my time better and make gravy!

  2. Sometimes I find that it takes me forever to get one task done, b/c I am constantly getting distracted by email and WordPress (like now!) :D….

    But this technique is definitely worth a shot. Thanks for the tip!

  3. First off: Love the idea…just wish others would abide by my commitment to staying on task for 25 minutes, uninterrupted…

    Second: Thanks for explaining the name! What a fun inspiration for a great time-management technique.

    :)

  4. Me encanto la idea que nos has dado en este escrito, porque la verdad en la actualidad las personas se las pasan en tantas cosas a la vez que terminan haciendo las cosas mal, sobre todo ahora con las redes sociales portables en los teléfonos celulares.

  5. thanks for the great advice… it can also work well for students like myself and reduce last moment stress

  6. What a great post. Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. The key thing there is FOCUS. Thanks for the idea!

  8. What a great concept for helping one stay on task…that tomato looks awesome is it a “Big Boy” or a “Beefsteak”, gosh I love gardening but I’ve got to mulch the garden but the stinkbugs this year well besides taking over the garden, they have gotton into the house and are a total nuisance…..;)

  9. After a rather fruitless week in work, where I didn’t get really stuck in and feeling a little deflated on this Friday evening I feel inspired by this technique. Thank you.
    I will be employing this on Monday!
    Actually, I will be starting from tomorrow as I have to do a chartership report which I have been putting off… This may be the key to focussing I need.
    So simple, but I bet so effective.
    Thanks

  10. I’m taking a leadership course now and one of the areas that is readily apparent to me that I need to work on is time management. And you’re right… it can get so complicated to learn how to manage time, we don’t have time to learn the method. I’m definitely going to try the pomodoro method… it makes total sense to me. Thanks for the inspiration and great suggestion!

  11. I love the Pomodoro Technique! I use it whenever I’m under a time crunch and really need to get work done. Works wonders. Also, seeing all the tick marks makes me feel productive, haha.

  12. wow – this is really great. I am so easily distracted from social media. I will have to give this a try!

    I must admit, when I saw the title – pomodoro- I was looking for a post on tomatoes! I really love cooking with tomatoes (though can’t eat them alone or in a salad). and am always looking for new tomoato recipes to try and post about.

    thank goodness for an online timer!

  13. Thanks everyone! I’m glad so many people found the post helpful.

    Big ups to the editors of WordPress.com for the feature on “Freshly Pressed.” I appreciate it!

  14. Interesting, I think that I am gonna try this!!!!

  15. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed–and thanks for the reminder about the importance of slicing large tasks into smaller, manageable (tomato-sized) segments.
    Love the online clock!

  16. focus is wat i need! congrats on pd’ed

  17. Great idea, thank you for sharing. I might have to apply it to my preparation for finals this week.

  18. The Pomodoro Technique is great!
    However, the only problem for me is to get rid of the distractions, even a slight click on mouse, takes hours to get rid off.

  19. Thanks! This method is nice because it contains a built-in reward — a break! I tend to never take them and get really tired, so this is a good way to build them in.

    It also reminds us to concentrate and focus, an increasingly counter-cultural behavior.

  20. Wow! I’m certainly going to try it out. I’m a multi-task junkie but I need a bit of rehab. Thanks for sharing this. K

  21. Nothing beats focusing on the high payoff activity.

  22. Omg, I have to try this.. I’m trying to manage my time better, this just may be the ticket!

  23. Darn…I opened this post thinking I was going to get a recipe for spaghetti sauce…..just kidding. Turning off twitter, facebook, and email is something I have to do to get anything done.
    Congratulations on being FP’d.

  24. My Pomodoro technique involves pasta and olive oil and Basil……

    spread the humor

  25. This pomodoro technique, it won’t work for an OC like me.

  26. I love the Pomodoro Technique! It works well enough for me that I made a Mac app that is a Pomodoro timer/task management utility to help me out. It’s called “My Little Pomodoro”, and you can find it on the Mac App Store (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-little-pomodoro/id412699095?mt=12). I’m willing to give out promo codes to the first five people that email me!

  27. after 24 mins, I tweeted “I’m using the promodoro technique and it’s effective!” :-(

  28. I love this concept! Thanks for sharing it! It’ll probably help me manage my time better (I’m a major procrastinator!).

  29. thank you for the sharing :)

  30. Hi,
    Learnt something new today….i.e. a technique with a name. I shall now try to implement the same in my life…..so that I may benefit from shared knowledge.

  31. My son’s school promotes this for revision. I recently downloaded a guide to the method and am trying it for my own revision for my first exam in 15 years. Boy is the brain much slower, nowadays.

  32. Definitely something I need to work on..focusing

  33. You are so right! Multitasking is actually MultiDISTRACTION!

    Focus & Keep it green!

    Stefan

  34. One at a time works better than multiple things at once. That is if you value quality over quantity…

  35. An interesting way to approach work tasks sounds reasonable to me. I’ll do it and let you know how it goes.

  36. Great advice thank you for posting this article

  37. sounds so simple and intriguing =) need to put this into practice

  38. I think this’ll come in handy with just about anything! Thank you.

  39. Great for procrastination! I can be done at whatever level I stopped at and still accomplish something, rather than stress “I don’t have enough time to get it all done at once!”

  40. brilliant! this is exactly what I do with my piano studies lol I just didn’t know there was a technical term for it “pomodoro technique”
    I think we’ve all been taught this way of time management at school before but we’ve long forgotten about it and that it can also be applied to tasks other than studying!

    btw congrats on being freshly pressed! :-) I hope one day one of my posts gets the same

  41. ooh also, a friend of mine was recently having writer’s block so I suggested this technique to him to use too! :-)

  42. For a self-admitted productivity junkie I’ve somewhat procrastinated finding out more about the Pomodoro Technique. Great job making it accessible for all!

    What I find really cool is how well Pomodoro lends itself to be used by anyone regardless of their existing productivity system (or lack of one).

  43. What a lovely idea, thanx for posting it here……….

  44. More here. If it works for me, it’ll work for most humans. :)

  45. I’m with you on this one! Good information.

  46. I have finals this coming week… I will give this a try because I am amazing at procrastination!

  47. I’ve tried a similar technique, where you focus on a task for 50-minute stretches, with a 10-minute break in between. I tend to use this technique during extremely busy periods at work, when I feel overwhelmed by my heavy workload. It works wonders – I just wish I remembered to use it more often…

  48. Perfect timing for finals. Also, it kind of makes sense if your attention span is short. Usually, people can concentrate long enough for a short half-hour TV show so the same could be applied to any number of tasks. It also makes sure that you take the time to stretch or look away from your computer like you’re supposed to do every 20-30 minutes. Nice post! :)

  49. good idea… I always get very distracted :)

  50. Wow, I love this post!
    I’m currently working on a new project, and sometimes feel overwhelmed with the many things needed to be done to make the deadline.
    The 25 minute timer is going to be great!
    Thanks for sharing:)

  51. Hi Keith. I like this concept. I usually work at a project until I’m blind from looking at the computer screen or my mind is spinning the same material over and over making no sense. When I first sit down to a project, I try to remind myself to take frequent brakes, but I’m not very forceful with myself. Maybe what is missing is an actual timer. I’m going to try this. Thanks!

  52. Wow, this is a great idea. I mult-task way too often. I need to find a good timer that I can use for this technique. It’s brilliant.

  53. This is great advice in today’s day and age of uber-multi-tasking! I normally skip FP posts, but the title and image of the tomato piqued my interest (Pomidor is tomato in Russian, which is what caught my attention).

    However, what would you suggest for mothers of small children whose time is fragmented into miniscule segments? Any tips?

    Oh, and congrats on being FP. :)

  54. Great! This is interesting! I actually thought of buying a kitchen timer and put it on my desk so I could be reminded of it and not forget to finish a specific task first before moving on to another. Somehow as it may not be practical in the office so I used the Outlook reminder and set a 15 minute reminder, which I snooze every time it pops up- if I’m finished with my work so I can move on and count another 15 minutes. I somehow stopped doing that but I think I need to do this again.

  55. That does seem more focused in getting work done. But what happens if you have a baby constantly interrupting those 25 minutes?

  56. I read the post and remembered I’ve seen a great lecture by the technique’s creator over at http://www.igniteshow.com. It’s really short and snappy-worth your while! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cH-z5kmVhzU&feature=player_embedded

  57. I’m sorry for the mix-up in my previous reply-this is not by the the creator, Francesco Cirillo, but rather by an independent speaker named Greg Head. Pardon me for the mix-up!

  58. ha! must buy a tomato timer

  59. Great idea! Thanks!

  60. Multitasking is an effective killer of an old, great concept of mindful living, which includes working of course! I salute you for this clever advice spiced by the “pomodoro” and a bit of humor. The Pomodoro Technique might help many to deal with our multitasking disease of today.

    P.S. You post caught my attention because I love tomatoes. Many thanks! I might even subscribe to your blog… if you subscribe to mine – just joking (a bit).

  61. This is the second time in the last couple of days I’ve heard about this… I’m definitely going to give it a bash. I find multi-tasking can be pretty good for creativity, but can also lead to you spending far too long on one thing (in my case trying to promote my work on twitter and facebook rather than researching and writing it!). Thanks for the post.

  62. will try this at home :)
    Thanks

  63. Hi guysl. I invite all the readers of this article to participate as BETA testers in my project orkanizer.com which is an on-line version of The Pomodoro Technique.

    Thank you!

  64. First off: Love the idea…just wish others would abide by my commitment to staying on task for 25 minutes, uninterrupted…

    Second: Thanks for explaining the name! What a fun inspiration for a great time-management technique.
    :)

  65. แพ็คเกจทัวร์,ทัวร์จีน,ทัวร์เกาหลี

    Wow, I love this post!
    I’m currently working on a new project, and sometimes feel overwhelmed with the many things needed to be done to make the deadline.
    The 25 minute timer is going to be great!
    Thanks for sharing:)

  66. I’ve been having great luck with the Pomodoro technique. It is great as a procrastination-killer and as a stress-management tool. When combined with the “next item” techniques from the whole GTD school – it becomes a powerful one-two punch.

    The only problem I have is when a boss or higher executive comes by snooping during a “rest” period, they get huffy about “wasting time.” It is a ridiculous attitude and exercise on their part (for example – they are walking around looking for something, anything to get excited about, that has to be the biggest waste of time of all) but I suppose it is a cross we all have to bear.

    Enjoy your blog, keep up the good work.

  67. there is pomodoro based rpg game :) Pomodorium

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