Pomodoro Technique: a time-management tool so many students swear by!

You have noticed a tomato icon in your app store before, right? You might have even downloaded the app and tried using this time-management tool. If this technique with a funny name ‘Pomodoro’ worked for you—well, good to go!

You might not even need to read this article on how to use the technique (no rocket science anyway), but you can still find some advice on how to deal with Pomodoro-related anxieties and other problems eye-opening. If you’ve never heard of this time-management miracle technique or it didn’t work for you the first time you tried, this article will help you to nail this productivity tool down! We will also advise on what kind of apps to use and how to deal with anticipated problems.

How can it be that tomatoes help solve problems like deconcentration, multi-taking, or procrastination? Is it like in a kid’s chant — a tomato a day keeps procrastination away? Well, almost, but it’s not about consuming gallons of superfoods. This time-management method is named after a kitchen timer that looks like a tomato, which is Pomodoro in Italian.

You can check the official website of Francesco Cirillo, the inventor of this technique. In the beginning, it was only about tomatoes, but now it’s a huge business selling you coaching sessions for sky-rocket prices, ouch. He has also written a detailed guide about the Pomodoro Technique. If our explanations below are not enough, definitely get the book to dive into this system.

Why study or work with Pomodoro?

The keystone idea is to approach your tasks in intervals of 25, 40, or even 90 minutes and to take regular short breaks in between each interval and one longer break every 3 or 4 sessions. You should also track how many Pomodoros you’ve completed a day: it is important to visualize your progress as you go and to analyze it afterward.

The secret of this system is that it divides your time into manageable calculatable chunks. Instead of having all the time in the world (or until the deadline), you have just a dozen of minutes to work — this mental trick boosts your concentration. But you should always set clear goals for each and every Pomodoro and work on only one task per session. This is a great help when you have to work on your essay but you encounter a writer’s block and don’t know how to approach the assignment. However, making notes of your background research or crafting the outine for 25 minutes sounds less scary than “submitting an essay for your Organisational Psychology class”.

When uding the Pomodoro technique, you can alternate between several tasks in a day, just make sure you do not email your TA in the middle of preparing for your Anatomy class. Instead, allocate a separate Pomodoro for dealing with all the emailing.

Although the classic interval is just 25 minutes long, the length of your study or working session depends on your preferences and your assignments. If you are new to this technique, it is advisable to start with smaller chunks, even with the 25-minute classics. Actually, the standard Pomodoro length is not random: on average, we can keep focused on one task for about 20 minutes (that’s why most of the TED-talks are no longer than 20 minutes). However, many users prefer longer intervals of 60 or 90 minutes with a big break that you can really enjoy.

Why regular breaks?

Even a short break is beneficial for recovering your intellectual and physical abilities, so don’t skip them. The beauty of the Pomodoro system is that regular breaks are already integrated. Therefore, it is less probable that you will forget to stretch or drink some water after you’ve worked for an hour. “What should I do in a break” is a common question, here are some ideas. You can meditate, walk, stretch, drink water, even check your social media (better now than during your study interval!). One Pomodoro-adept recommended keeping a list on your phone or in your planner of 5-minute tasks like dropping an email or doing something around the house. Although it sounds hyper-productive, the time spent like this won’t feel like a real break. Choose wisely and relax when needed!

How to implement the technique?

As easy as pie: set a kitchen timer for the interval you’ve chosen, work, put a checkmark in your notebook when you complete an interval, set a timer for your break-interval, enjoy, repeat. That’s how an analog Pomodoro was done in the ’80s when the system was invented. Now there are tons of desktop programs or phone apps where you just customize the intervals for sessions and breaks. The app will beep to tell you when to start and stop working and will track your progress throughout the day.

Whichever way you choose, you must create a habit loop (here we’ve explained how habits work): winding up a timer or hearing a beeping sound works as a trigger for concentrating on a chosen activity. You get a feeling of accomplishment as a reward: seeing the number of sessions you have completed is extremely satisfactory, not to say about having some work done.

On top of that, you can set a goal of how many Pomodoro sessions per day you want to do for each task you are working on. However, it’s always hard to predict how much time you need for a task. You will learn it only through self-observation. So stay flexible and don’t be harsh on yourself if writing a class journal took you 12 Pomodoros instead of 8—you’ve done a fantastic job anyway 🙂

Anticipated problems and tips

  • “At first, I felt inspired by tracking completed Pomodoros and setting goals, but now it only feels irritating.”

If you use an app for tracking Pomodoros and your tasks, you should get back to using your phone or desktop timer to avoid unnecessary gamification included in some apps. You can also take a break in using the system.

  • “People around me don’t know that I’m in the middle of a Pomodoro and keep disturbing me.”

When working at home, in your dorm, or in some open space, you can tell your family and mates about Pomodoros in advance (a sticker on your door or your desk might as well do the job). Alternatively, go to a quieter place, like a library instead of a coffee shop where you have a higher chance of chatting. You can also think of setting up a Pomodoro-group with your peers so that you work together. In this way, you all will concentrate on your own tasks which you can discuss during the break. But don’t turn it into a competition—we all work at our own speed.

  • “I have a bunch of scheduled activities and I can’t squeeze even two consecutive Pomodoros in.”

You should consider using another technique on the days like that so that you don’t put extra pressure on yourself. Feel encouraged to use even short chunks of time (like 15 minutes) between your scheduled tasks for working on some of your projects: little goes a long way!

  • “I’m working in a flow-mode and then an alarm tells me to take a break. It’s so annoying, I just got in the right mood!”

Yeah, we feel for you! It is disturbing to abandon your flow of deep work. You should probably twinkle your timer for a longer working interval. However, remember that working for two or three hours without a break is draining you out. Use a Pomodoro app or any other timer for reminding you of regular breaks.

  • “Whenever I start a Pomodoro-timer, I feel anxious about time running away so I can’t concentrate on my task.”

Indeed, this time-management system can be imposing. You should accept that this technique is not for you and use something else that doesn’t evolve around calculating time, like GTD (Getting Things Done) or bullet-journaling.

The final piece of advice

No matter how cool the Pomodoro technique is, it is not a remedy for everything. You still need to use your analytical skills, imagination, and patience for working on tasks; you need to train your willpower to study even if you don’t want to, you need to sharpen your memory on daily basis. Moreover, don’t apply the Pomodoro system to all spheres of your life (imagine, it would be quite ridiculous to use it for cooking dinner). Pomodoro works at its best when you have a bigger project like writing an essay or preparing for the class.

Finally remember that this time-management system is not a tyrant but a friendly tool that you should adjust, adapt and enjoy. If it doesn’t work for you for any reason — feel free to abandon it and go for something else!

5 Pomodoro apps picked by Booksrun

  1. The best app for iOS is Be Focused. In a free version, you have basic Pomodoro tools with the option of tracking different tasks and reviewing your statistics. If you want to synchronize the app between the devices, track more than 10 Pomodoros a day, and avoid adds, you would need a paid upgrade.
  2. Forest app for iOS (paid) and Android (free) brings you magical visualizations and gamification while helping you to stay focused. During your work-intervals you can’t touch your phone—otherwise, a tree you’ve planted will be killed. The more intervals you complete without going on your phone, the bigger your forest is! If you know that these tools motivate you — paying a few dollars is a worthy investment. And you will take care of your own forest!
  3. Our favorite web-version is Tomato-timer. It has an essential toolkit where you can set up your intervals and go for it. No adds, no task-tracking, nothing to disturb you.
  4. Tomighty is a fine Pomodoro desktop version for macOS and Windows desktop for mac and Windows. It is extremely simple: basically, it is just a timer and you would need to keep track of the completed Pomodoros on a piece of paper or in your bullet journal.
  5. Or just use a google-timer or a timer on your phone—works as good as any other app if you know the Pomodoro technique!

Let the power of tomatoes be with you!

three cherry tomatoes on a table
Photo by Alex Ghizila on Unsplash