Using the Pomodoro Technique for time management


Before you brush this off as just another time management post, answer this: When was the last time you actually checked off every box on your to-do list in a single day? If you’re anything like me—juggling far more tasks than one person can handle—it’s likely been a while since you had the satisfaction of completing every item. Thankfully, there’s a little something known as the Pomodoro Technique, which can greatly help increase productivity. So, let’s take a look at what it is, how it works and why you’ll probably want to start using it immediately. 

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy developed Francesco Cirillo in the late 90s as a way to eliminate distractions and increase productivity.

Cirillo started the technique using a physical timer that looked like a tomato (which, in Italian, translates to pomodoro). When he sat down to accomplish a task, he would set the timer for 25 minutes. When the audible ding occurred, he’d stop, reset the timer for five minutes and take that time to do whatever relaxing thing he wanted. Once he heard the alert again, he’d stop his Youtube, Facebook or Twitter (although he probably just waited on his 28.8kbps modem to negotiate being in the 90s) and would then reset the tomato-shaped timer to 25 minutes. Cirillo would repeat this series of short breaks until it was time for a longer, more rewarding one. 

How does the Pomodoro Technique work?

It works in just the same way that Cirillo used it. The idea is simple: You break down a project or task into a series of work times, called pomodoros, which are spaced out by regular breaks in between. Typically, the technique consists of working for 25 minutes, taking a break for five minutes and then repeating that cycle four times. Once you’ve got four pomodoros under your belt, you then earn a longer break; typically 15-20 minutes in length. The best part? It’s really as easy as it sounds.

When to reset the timer

While the sheer simplicity of the Pomodoro Technique makes it beyond approachable, we can’t all work under such static conditions. There will still certainly be times when you experience unexpected interruptions during your journey for that next break. When this happens, you may be tempted to stop the timer, wait until your coworker stops raving about the game last night and then hit the timer again. But no such luck, as this would be considered cheating.

The Pomodoro Technique is all about productivity, and it requires a certain amount of discipline. If you’re interrupted, it breaks your flow—and you can’t give yourself credit for an incomplete pomodoro. So, when this happens, you must reset the timer and start over. Talk about some incentive for putting up as many distraction deterrents as you can!

Pomodoro apps

Although the original incarnation of the Pomodoro Technique required a physical timer, there are now dozens of different software applications you can download and use to accomplish the same effect. You won’t have trouble finding these  for the iPhone, the Mac and every other operating system known to man. Even Kanban sites like Kanbanflow have a Pomodoro Technique built right into the app itself. I like the free Pomodoro One Mac application for it’s no frills approach, and the fact that it just works like you’d expect it to.

Now that you’ve got a time management tool that actually encourages you to take breaks, what are you waiting for? Go check out one of the aforementioned sites or, if you’re so inclined, order yourself a tomato-shaped timer and get cracking on that to-do list! 

For more time-management techniques, check out Pluralsight's course on Time Management in a World of Interruptions


Adam Bertram

is an independent consultant, technical writer, trainer and presenter. Adam specializes in consulting and evangelizing all things IT automation mainly focused around Windows PowerShell. Adam is a Microsoft Windows PowerShell MVP, 2015 PowerShell hero and has numerous Microsoft IT pro certifications. He is a writer, trainer and presenter and authors IT pro course content for Pluralsight. He is also a regular contributor to numerous print and online publications and presents at various user groups and conferences. You can find Adam at his site listed below or on Twitter at @adbertram.