Do you get distracted easily when you’re trying to work on your to-do list? Do you have trouble staying focused long enough to get tasks accomplished? The Pomodoro Technique may be a good solution for you.

I stumbled upon the Pomodoro Technique about a couple of years ago, and I’m hooked. The method was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and is named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student (pomodoro is Italian for tomato). The technique is a time management method that uses work increments of 25 minutes each, called pomodori, with a short break (3–5 minutes) between each pomodori. After every 4 pomodori (set), you can take a 15– 30-minute break.

You can apply the Pomodoro Technique to any kind of task. It works particularly well if you tend to feel anxious by “the ticking clock” when you’re busy or on a deadline. Anxiety leads to procrastination and poor work habits. Using the Pomodoro Technique can help you view time more as a friend than an enemy, and you can improve your work habits over time with the consistent use of the method.

How it works

  • Grab your to-do list and set a timer for 25 minutes. Starting with the most important task, work for 25 minutes. If you don’t currently have a to-do list, you might want to devote your first pomodori to making one.
  • When the timer rings, you can take a 3– 5-minute break.
  • Immediately after the short break, get to work on another 25-minute pomodori.
  • When the timer rings, you can take another 3– 5-minute break.
  • Continue this pattern as long as needed. After every 4 pomodori, take a longer 15– 30-minute break.
  • As you finish each task, put a big old X on it — it’s quite satisfying to watch those Xs pile up.

A few things to keep in mind

  • A pomodoro is indivisible. If you think a task will take less than one pomodori to complete, combine it with other small tasks so you can maximize efficiency during your pomodori.
  • If a task is going to take more than 4 pomodori, break it down into smaller tasks or components.
  • Once you begin a pomodori, you need to finish it. Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked. Use your to-do list to jot down notes of tasks or ideas that come to you while you’re working so you can continue on with the pomodori without fear of forgetting the task or idea that tried to distract you.

The Pomodoro Technique is an easy time management trick to teach children too, for anything from working on homework to cleaning their room. The simple system of work — rest — work — rest gives kids much-needed breaks while keeping a consistent structure for their tasks.

You can do this technique with any timer, or there are special apps available that track your pomodori for you.

Sandy is a writer and editor, wife, Whovian, and mom to two gorgeous boys. She helps people living in chaos simplify their lives so they can live with intention and focus in a more sustainable way. Visit Sandy at ModernSimplicity.org.
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Sandy is a writer and editor, wife, Whovian, and mom to two gorgeous boys. She helps people living in chaos simplify their lives so they can live with intention and focus in a more sustainable way. Visit Sandy at ModernSimplicity.org.

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