Increase Your Productivity with the Pomodoro Technique

By Tristan Montoya:

We live in an age of multitasking. It’s not uncommon for high school students to find themselves watching TV, texting, and using Facebook or Twitter – all while supposedly studying for tomorrow’s test. While most of us are able to divide our attention between multiple activities (such as chewing gum while walking), certain tasks demand full concentration to be done well.

This uninterrupted focus is known in psychology as Flow. We’ve all experienced Flow while doing activities we enjoy, such as musical or theatrical performances, playing sports, or video gaming. It’s that feeling of being “in the zone”, “in the groove”, “wired in” or “on fire”, in which thoughts of the past and the future don’t cross your mind. Flow is the ultimate immersion in the present.

In the late 1980s, Francesco Cirillo developed a time management technique designed to harness the power of Flow to increase one’s productivity. Named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by Cirillo (pomodoro is Italian for tomato), the Pomodoro Technique consists of just a few simple steps:

1) Choose a task.
2) Set a timer for 25 minutes (there are apps for Android and iOS specifically designed for the Pomodoro Technique)
3) Work on said task for 25 minutes straight, without interruption. This period is known as a pomodoro. During a pomodoro, you are only permitted to work on the chosen task – if you interrupt your focus for any reason (e.g. to take a phone call), the pomodoro is considered to be failed and you must restart the 25-minute timer.
4) Once the 25 minutes are over, take a 5 minute break.
5) Repeat the cycle of 25 minutes work and 5 minutes rest until the task is completed. After four pomodori (plural of pomodoro), you might want to take a longer break.

The uninterrupted focus encouraged by the Pomodoro Technique promotes Flow, and practitioners of the technique often find themselves experiencing Flow in activities they previously considered tedious or boring. The frequent 5-minute breaks keep your mind fresh and will allow you to maintain your interest in the activity. Breaking up tasks into 25-minute blocks also makes overwhelming amounts of work more achievable – four hours of homework isn’t nearly as daunting when you’re working on it for 25 minutes at a time.

It’s important to note, however, that the technique described above might not work for everyone. While often effective, the 25-minute pomodori and 5-minute breaks are fairly arbitrary amounts of time and can be adapted to better suit your specific needs. Nonetheless, nearly everyone can benefit from some form of the Pomodoro Technique; from studying for a test to practicing an instrument to working out, practically any important activity can be done more effectively with unbroken focus and frequent breaks.

Though the “rules” for Pomodoro Technique were developed relatively recently, the principles behind the technique have been around for centuries. While multitasking nowadays has become the norm, undivided, single-minded immersion into one’s work is essential to becoming more productive.