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

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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!

cycle

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).

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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.

  • Greg Chudecke

    Hi Chris. Thanks for the awesome blog by the way I’m really enjoying it. This sounds like a cool idea do you still use this technique every day?

    • Happy to hear you’re enjoying it, thanks a lot!

      I don’t use the technique every day, but I use it whenever I have a big deadline to ship something by, or when I really want to focus on something. On days when I write a couple thousand words for the project I use it all day, but on days like today, where my mind wants to move at a slower pace, I don’t use it as much. I probably use it every second day, on average.

      Let me know when you give it a shot – I’d love to hear how it works out for you.

      • Greg Chudecke

        Will do

  • Greg Chudecke

    Hi Chris. Thanks for the awesome blog by the way I’m really enjoying it. This sounds like a cool idea do you still use this technique every day?

    • Happy to hear you’re enjoying it, thanks a lot!

      I don’t use the technique every day, but I use it whenever I have a big deadline to ship something by, or when I really want to focus on something. On days when I write a couple thousand words for the project I use it all day, but on days like today, where my mind wants to move at a slower pace, I don’t use it as much. I probably use it every second day, on average.

      Let me know when you give it a shot – I’d love to hear how it works out for you.

      • Greg Chudecke

        Will do

  • Max Power

    Loved the article. I would like to share another Pomodoro app for iPhone (Disclaimer: I’m one of the developers). It’s just 1.99 and we think we’ve put out the best UI out there! You can get it at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pomodoro-timer-focus-on-your/id703145045?ls=1&mt=8

  • Brett Miller

    I use Pomdoro with the Chrome Strict Workflow extension. Works very well for me.

  • Brett Miller

    I use Pomdoro with the Chrome Strict Workflow extension. Works very well for me.

  • Nee

    FocusBooster for the PC, you can even switch up the time from 25 min to anything you want, I usually keep it 30 min but hey, it’s tres flexible :)
    Stays on top of your windows and shows time with a colour changing bar. Great if you have mild to moderate ADD ^_^

  • Nee

    FocusBooster for the PC, you can even switch up the time from 25 min to anything you want, I usually keep it 30 min but hey, it’s tres flexible :)
    Stays on top of your windows and shows time with a colour changing bar. Great if you have mild to moderate ADD ^_^

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