The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that has millions of loyal fans who’ve said it’s changed their life—and an equal number of critics who say it’s all just overmarketed hype.
To be fair, there’s no universally effective time management system. You find what works for your lifestyle and personality, and even then, a lot of it depends on your discipline. Systems don’t change lives, you do.
To decide if the Pomodoro Technique is for you, read this article—one of the many life tips you’ll find here on o5.com.
The Pomodoro Technique aims to sharpen your focus, maximize your creativity, and minimize mental fatigue. In a nutshell, it forces you to work in short but very effective bursts (25 minutes, in fact) before taking a 5 minute break.
(Read our suggestions on how to de-stress in one minute or less.)
And so it goes: 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of rest, 25 minutes of work, etc. Each 25 minute work period is called a pomodoro, because the inventor (Francesco Cirillo) used a tomato-shaped timer. When you finish a cycle of 4 pomodoros (or 100 work minutes and 15 rest minutes) you’re allowed a longer 20 minute break.
During this entire period you keep track of your progress in a chart, marking a successful pomodoro with an ‘x’ as well as any moments when you lost your focus or was tempted to prematurely move on to another task.
The Pomodoro technique teaches discipline, but also lets you take enough breaks so your mind stays fresh. Admittedly, it takes a while to get used to this method, but fans say that they had it mastered by the third week. They stopped dawdling, and didn’t get distracted from a task. The Pomodoro technique also helped people who had a tendency to be overwhelmed by a long to-do list, since they were able to tackle things one Pomodoro at a time.
The Pomodoro also echoes many popular time management principles: break big tasks into smaller chunks, and celebrate small accomplishments. The chart also makes you accountable for your time, and to notice any patterns of distraction or tendencies to waffle about.
Critics, however, say the 25 minute period is too strict. You could break your creative momentum, and it doesn’t take into account the delays that happen in real life (like long meetings). Others may get so caught in the 25 minute paradigm that they avoid tasks that won’t fit into its time frame.
But then again, you can adapt the Pomodoro technique to your liking. Break goals into manageable tasks, set a time limit, and put all your attention to completing it. Reward yourself with a short break, and then take the next task. It’s systematic, and—through constant self-monitoring and self-motivation (I’ll finish this by this time!) you can get through a seemingly impossible schedule. And no matter what the critics say about Pomodoro, that’s still better than staring at a screen or snoring at your desk.