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Get More Done in Less Time: How to Do Pomodoro Technique Like a Pro

Updated: Jan 15


One of the secrets to productivity is focus. But staying in focus all the time is not an easy feat. Looking for a simple time management tool to boost your productivity? Discover the step-by-step processes and advanced tips on how to do Pomodoro Technique to boost productivity and get more done in less time.

Modern people know it too well. It's easy to lose focus and get distracted by menial things. If you have too many things on your plate without knowing the priority, you'll just do whatever comes your way - or play those cat videos and do nothing at all. Imagine turning off the computer at the end of your workday, feeling exhausted, but achieving nothing. Sounds familiar?

You'll need to know how to do Pomodoro Technique. It is a productivity-enhancing technique that will help you manage your work time and finish your tasks. It also helps you understand yourself better, reevaluate your understanding of productivity, and improve your approach to project management.


01 - The Pomodoro Cycle DreamGravity - How to Do Pomodoro Technique



What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method that involves using a timer to break down work into 25-minute intervals separated by five-minute breaks. The technique helps to boost productivity by giving a sense of urgency to complete a task within the interval and allowing for short breaks to refocus and grab a snack.

At the end of every fourth set, the break is set to be longer - usually around 20–30 minutes. You can restart the sets from the beginning if you need to.

Why 25 minutes? One interval - or commonly said one Pomodoro - is set to a 25-minute work sprint because it's the perfect length of time to stay in focus before one starts mind wandering. This setting will also keep the productivity level high and stop procrastinating.

In a single Pomodoro, you must focus on doing ONLY ONE task. You'll learn to resist the self-interruptions and re-train your brain to focus. The breaks are designed to reset, refresh, and help bring your attention back to the current task at hand.

One of the key benefits of using the Pomodoro Technique is that it helps you to increase productivity by breaking down your work day into focused work intervals separated by short breaks. This allows you to stay focused and get more done in less time.

The technique becomes popular because it's simple. Different from many productivity methods out there, there are no complicated rules and conditions to memorize. All you need is a timer. Even glancing at your watch or wall clock is enough.



02 - Focus on Doing ONLY ONE Task DreamGravity - How to Do Pomodoro Technique



A Kitchen Timer and The Brief History of Pomodoro Technique

Where did this Pomodoro method originate from? And why named the productivity slash time management method "tomato"? Pomodoro is the Italian for tomato.

It goes back to the late 1980s, the time when young Francesco Cirillo needed extra time to live as a university student. Since he couldn't exactly create more time, he needed to improve his productivity to free more time. Thus, the Pomodoro Technique was born.

There was no Pomodoro timer app back then because the mobile phone hasn't been invented yet. And also, because he's just invented the technique. So, he used the available tool in the vicinity - a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to time the 25-minute and 5-minute chunks.

And, like everybody always says, the rest is history.


How To Use the Pomodoro Technique to Improve Your Productivity?

The Pomodoro Technique timer allows us to be human. We do love our regular breaks, be it a 15 or a 5-minute break after some amount of work periods. The breaks keep us sane. That said, having more frequent breaks than your focus time will kill your productivity. You need to find the best balance.

One way to use the Pomodoro Technique is to create a to-do list, put the things you need to complete in the inbox, and then use the 25-minute intervals to work on specific tasks. After four consecutive pomodoros, take a longer break and reevaluate your to-do list. This can help you stay focused and motivated, and prevent feeling overwhelmed while you get things done.

Additionally, it is important to give your eyes a rest from staring at a screen by using the 5-minute breaks to look away or do something else.

To plan your pomodoros for the work day, Cirillo recommends determining the tasks that will take less than 25 minutes to complete and building in a buffer of 2-4 pomodoros for tasks that may take longer.


The key is effective planning. Here are a few pointers that you can implement.


Set Up Your Priorities

How do you expect to achieve anything if you don't know what to do? And how do you know that you don't end up doing random things just to look busy?

So, before you do anything else, list down all the important and urgent things to tackle first. Limit the number of tasks to handle each day so that you can work efficiently and won't get overwhelmed.

How many tasks should you put on the list? Only you know your capacity. Don't overestimate yourself, but don't undersell yourself either. The rule of thumb is between three and six important and urgent tasks per day.

To know more about setting up priorities, read the INI UNU - Ivy Lee Method.


Decide on the Number of Pomodoros

The next step of the Pomodoro Technique is to plan how many Pomodoro slots you need and how many Pomodoro sessions per day you can fit into your schedule.

This calls for an honest review of what you can do and how you work. You’re the only one who knows how many slots you need. It questions you about how much real work you can do in each twenty-five-minute sprint.

Before you begin, take a look at your to-do list and plan out how many pomodoros you will need to complete all of your tasks. This will help you stay on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s just an objective question about how much you can produce, and once again, only for you to answer.

For example: if you predict a task will take you about one hour or two to finish, then you'll need 2-5 pomodoros - 25+5 minutes each. Take into consideration that at the end of the fourth Pomodoro, you'll have a longer 30-minute break. So, the total time you'll need is about two and a half hours. But remember, you might finish your task faster as you'll be more focused during the pomodoros.

The key is to practice, experiment, and refine your workflow. You'll get better over time.


Do The Daily Routines

When you know what to do and estimate how much time you need, the next step is to do it.

Go with the first item on your task entries, and get your hands dirty. Use the Pomodoro technique timer to do only that task until you complete it, then move on to the next items until you call it a day. If you have any unfinished tasks, move them to tomorrow's list while you plan your next day.

Repeat the routines every day until it becomes your habit.



03 - Improve Your Productivity DreamGravity - How to Do Pomodoro Technique



The Good, The Bad, and The Compromise

As ideal as it sounds, the Pomodoro technique timer is not for everyone. There are types of tasks that are better off done without using this method. Let's see the advantages, disadvantages, and compromises of the method.

The Pomodoro Method is Good For...

If you have tasks that you don't like doing, or the type of routine tasks that you just need to go out and just do, then the Pomodoro is perfect to help you finish them on (or ahead of) schedule.

The method is also perfect for handling larger tasks or projects that require a longer time to finish because you can chunk the big milestones into smaller tasks and spread them into sessions or days until you finish all of them. You can also continue working on an unfinished task later without missing a beat.

However, ...

The Pomodoro Technique is Not Fit For...

If you are doing creative/imaginative endeavors that require long thinking / pondering / problem-solving / daydreaming time, or you are the type of person who needs to warm up your inner machine before you can start the race, then the method might not be for you.

Those who work in these kinds of fields - like writers, coders, and designers - know too well that it will take time to go into the "zone" where torrents of ideas come pouring down and the work pace accelerates. The interruption will break the concentration and flow state, and you can't just simply continue where you left off. You need to restart building the momentum from scratch.

In this case, the constant mandatory "work-break" arrangement of the ticking Pomodoro timers might backfire and end up becoming an annoyance instead of helping you focus on your work.



04 - Pomodoro is Not Fit For DreamGravity - How to Do Pomodoro Technique



The Compromise

But it doesn't mean that writers or designers or anybody along that line can't use Pomodoro. You can use it for the non-day-dreaming part of the work.

For example, an architect can take the sweet time on the concept building and designing part, and use the Pomodoro to speed up the technical drawing work later. A writer can work on the story plot, craft the outline, or create the content brief early on; and then use the Pomodoro technique timer for the researching/typing/editing process.

The method itself is also open to adjustment. As each person works differently, you can set the work and break time to fit your needs. It doesn't have to be the 25-5 sprints. It's possible to work for a longer time and have an extended break.


The Alternatives

That leaves us with the question: is there any alternative to Pomodoro for the kinds of work that should not be interrupted with breaks every now and then? The main advantage (and also disadvantage) of Pomodoro is its short pattern. For the kinds of work that needs longer cycles or with no set of exact time chunks, the Pomodoro technique time becomes useless.

That's why people come up with alternative work rhythms. Here are some of them.

The Ultradian Rhythm

A study about the habits of elite sports players and musicians revealed that they follow a different routine compared to Pomodoro. These elites use 90 minutes of highly focused work with a 15-minute break in each sprint. A supersized Pomodoro.

This setting is backed by Nathan Kleitman's research about the "basic rest-activity cycle" conducted more than 50 years ago. He found out that human bodies operate following a 90-minute rhythm - from higher to lower alertness, both during the day and during sleep.

Adapted to work rhythm, there should be an extended break - 15 minutes or more, at the end of every cycle.

The Desktime Variation

If 25 minutes is too short while 90 minutes is too long, you can meet them halfway.

A time-tracking tool called Desktime.com found out that their most productive users work for 52 minutes and take a break for 17 minutes before repeating the cycles. This arrangement is called the Desktime variation, and it's a work rhythm that you can try.

The Flowtime

Another variation is the one with free-flow focus sessions called Flowtime created by Zoë Read-Bivens. It's the alternative to the Pomodoro method for people who dislike the consistent alarms telling them when to start working and when to take a break.

The basic rule of Flowtime is no rule. You start working until you feel that you need a break. Then you get back to the sprint when you're refreshed and feel ready. To track your work time, make sure to note down in a simple spreadsheet what you do during the session, the start and end time, and the interruption(s) - if any.

The downside of using this technique is that you must be someone with a strong will and focus. Otherwise, the absence of a fixed rule might sway you away from your main tasks.



05 - Pomodoro Alternative DreamGravity - How to Do Pomodoro Technique



Recap: The Step-by-Step on How to Use Pomodoro Technique

If you're sold to try the method (or the alternatives), here's the step-by-step on how to use Pomodoro Technique Timer.

1. Plan on the tasks that you want to do - use the INI UNU - Ivy Lee method.

2. Set the Pomodoro timer to 25 minutes.

3. Start working and focus only on ONE task.

4. When the timer rings, stop working and take a 5-minute break. Get a cup of coffee or something.

5. Repeat the process - do the 25-plus-5-minute work sprint.

6. At the end of the fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break - about 20 to 30 minutes.

7. Go back to number 2 and repeat everything until you finish your task.

8. If you still have time, move to the second task on your list.

9. Rinse and repeat.


Bonus: Tools to Help You Implement Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro is one of the easiest productivity methods to implement as all you need is a timer. But there are tools - both manual and digital, that can make the process so much easier. Here are some of the alternatives.



06 - Pomodoro Tools DreamGravity - How to Do Pomodoro Technique



The Traditional Option

If you are a kinesthetic person, you can try the traditional option of using a pen, a piece of paper, and a kitchen timer. Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique, used a tomato-shaped timer to track his work intervals. But it's optional. Using a timer of any kind can help you stay on track.

The physical act of writing your task on paper and setting the timer can help you build your determination to start your task.

While it's physically stimulating, this method lacks the features offered by the more digital counterparts - this includes automatically-generated reports and charts showing your progress. And it's easy to lose your pen and paper while moving around.

A Tomato for Apple

Loving your iOS device is not a character flaw, and the good people of Apple have put some apps in the App Store for you to try. One that is easy to recommend is Be Focused Pro.

  • The free version is ad-galore. The Pro version will cost you USD 8. Not that steep a price to get a well-built app.

  • It’s iOS optimized. You can use your account on any iOS device that you have seamlessly.

  • Customizable alarm sounds and even customizable timing.

  • Progress tracking helps you to stay on track.

Tomato Timer in Tree Form

If you’re not a tomato person, fear not. The people from Forest changed the Pomodoro image to trees. They’re not stopping there; Forest users are planting literal trees together with Trees for the Future.

  • Exchanging your time to being productive and green at the same time!

  • Symbolizes your projects/tasks as trees. If you leave the app halfway, your tree dies of neglect, as does your task.

The Simple Option