Can the Pomodoro technique help with effective time management? (Yes, it can.)

Is the Pomodoro technique effective? Here’s our take on it.

We here at Variable are all about the latest technology and games. But we also know that the piece of technology you’ll be spending the most hours within a day is your PC and gadgets—as you finish reports, work on your projects and pretty much, just make sense of this strange spacetime we’re in.

But let’s accept the fact that it’s hard to get anything done these days when many of us are learning to work from home while taking care of family members or are stuck in isolation without social interaction. If that’s you, then the Pomodoro technique may help you out.

The Pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo as a simple yet effective tool for focused work with planned breaks in between. If you’re a fan of Italian cuisine, you’ll know that “pomodoro” translates to tomato—the name actually comes from the tomato-shaped timer he used as a university student.

Basically, the method goes something like this:

  • Pick a project or task you want to focus on.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Work on your task until the time is up.
  • Take a 5-minute break.
  • Take longer breaks (around 15 to 30 minutes) for every four pomodoro intervals.

It’s worth noting that the Pomodoro technique works if you’re easily distracted while working on a project, or you want to understand how long a project takes. [Full disclosure: I’m the former, so the Pomodoro technique helps me not look at my phone and focus while I’m writing this article.]

The Pomodoro technique may also help you if you find yourself working past the point of productivity, or if you’re lost in a sea of open-ended work. It’s also good for people who want to enjoy a game but still keep track of the minutes they play.

Making the most of the Pomodoro technique

In theory, the Pomodoro technique looks easy—just divide your day into 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest, and you’re set—but there’s a lot more to consider before you even start. Here are some things you should do to make the most of the Pomodoro technique.

  • Simplify complex projects. If a task looks challenging—take, for example, writing a story on the Pomodoro technique—it helps to break it down into smaller, actionable steps. This allows you to break down a complex project with clear milestones.
  • Group small tasks. If your day is full of small tasks that pile up, try to group them into one Pomodoro session. For example, “feed the cat, water the plants and throw out the trash” could be grouped into one session, instead of individual tasks that you have to do throughout the day.
  • The tomato is sacred. After you’ve broken down your projects and grouped your tasks, it’s time to start a Pomodoro session. Once you start though, note that you should commit to working on the task at hand until the timer rings. For anything that comes up, take note of it and come back to it later. If you need to break your Pomodoro session, take the 5-minute break and start again, rather than making up for the lost minutes.

Your work style may vary with this one. For some, their Pomodoro session means noise-canceling headphones and a podcast like The EXP Show with Franz and Bea they can play in the background, while others use their breaks to set the mood for them to work. That said, it will take considerable discipline to focus on the task at hand.

With everything that’s going on today—we could all use a tomato clock to get things done.

You can learn more about the Pomodoro technique, as well as other exercises to improve your productivity while working at home by listening to our latest episode with holistic health expert Kit de Silva.

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Ralph Gurango

explainer | newsman | jrpg adventurer