Get Unstuck: How to manage your time with the Pomodoro Technique

by | Apr 30, 2013 | Time


About 30 seconds ago, I tapped the “Productivity” folder on my iPhone and then opened Focus Time, an app that works seamlessly with a dead-simple time management technique called the Pomodoro Technique. The timer is now counting down from 25 minutes, and when it hits 0 I’ll take a 5-minute break, and then do a couple more cycles of this technique until I’m done writing this post.

The Pomodoro Technique is a simple time management technique that breaks your time down into chunks. You work for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break, wash, rinse, repeat two more times, and finally work for another 25 minutes and take a 15-minute (or longer) break. If it sounds complicated, it isn’t; I illustrated the process in the handsome diagram below!


The main benefit of the Pomodoro Technique (named after the kitchen timer in the picture up above) is that it reduces the ugly, ambiguous things on your to-do list down to something you do into a series of easy-to-manage, 25-minute chunks of time. This means you don’t have to go at something blindly, which will stop you from pushing back the things you don’t know how to start (at least in my case).


Focus Time for the iPhone.

Why the Pomodoro Technique is so great:

  • It gets you unstuck because it completely changes how you think about your work and your time
  • It forces you to sit your ass down and focus for a solid 25 minutes at a time – something that’s pretty hard with so many distractions buzzing around
  • It plays with your subconscious mind. If you have an actual timer, winding it up confirms your determination to start a task, ringing let’s you know there’s a break, and you begin to associate focus and flow with your timer (or iPhone app, in my case)
  • It provides structure to otherwise ambiguous tasks

Not only is it a great time management technique, it’s also really easy to integrate it into your workflow. First, make a simple list of the stuff you need to get done. Second, fire (or wind) up your pomodoro timer (I’ve listed a bunch of them below), and work in 25-minute chunks. Make sure to minimize your outside distractions during each work cycle. Third, after you finish each pomodoro, put an “X” next to each task you dedicate them to! It’s that simple.

Aaaaaaand blog post done, 2.5 pomodoros later!

Next steps:

  • Skim the Pomodoro Technique’s official handbook (PDF, 512KB)
  • Pick up a Pomodoro kitchen timer, or download a Pomodoro app:
  • Try it out tomorrow. Write down a few things you have to do and do them with the technique. You’ll be surprised at just how powerful it is.

Pomodoro photo credit: Michael Zero Mayer.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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