Give me a Break: The Pomodoro Technique

Have you ever hit a roadblock when working on a project, and felt like you just couldn’t work on it for one second longer? For some of us, that’s due to procrastination: feeling like we need to race against the clock to finish assignments and meet deadlines. Others are overachievers: filling our schedules down to the last minute and viewing downtime as an enemy. Either of these mindsets can cause stress and anxiety, physical and emotional fatigue, and a feeling of being burnt out. The Pomodoro Technique is a series of 6 simple steps that teach you to work with time instead of against it. 

yellow clock with the words "25 Min" in the middle.
The trick is to break your to-do list down into manageable, 25-minute blocks of time, or “pomodoros.”

What Is A “Pomodoro”?

According to the Pomodoro technique, the trick is to break your to-do list down into manageable, 25-minute blocks of time, or “pomodoros.” Creator Franceso Cirollos named these for the tomato-shaped timer he used throughout college. During each block you focus exclusively on one task until it’s complete, and reward yourself with short, relaxing breaks. All you need to get started with this time-management tool is a piece of paper, a pen, and a timer. 

Step 1: Pick your task.

Decide what to prioritize first. It should be something worthy of your full, uninterrupted attention. The task can be big or small. It can be something that just came onto your radar today, or something that’s been on your to-do list for weeks.

Step 2: Set a timer for 25 minutes.

It’s time to commit. Francesco Cirillo, originator of the technique, says, “make a small oath to yourself: I will spend 25 minutes on this task and I will not interrupt myself. You can do it! After all, it’s just 25 minutes.” 

woman sitting at a desk with her hands over a laptop and notebook next to the laptop.
For 25 minutes, work exclusively on the chosen task.

Step 3: Work until the timer rings.

For the next 25 minutes, work exclusively on the chosen task. If another task or idea comes into your peripherals, write it down on a piece of paper as something to revisit when the 25 minutes is up.

Step 4: Mark it down.

When the timer goes off, make a checkmark on the piece of paper. Congratulate yourself for spending an uninterrupted “pomodoro” on your task! 

Step 5: Take a short break.

You can take a breath, meditate, go for a short walk, or anything else you find relaxing. Give yourself 5-10 minutes of free time to reset, then dive back into the same project. Set the timer, and get back to work! 

"take a break" grafitti on a wall.

Step 6: Reward yourself.

As you work, mark off every 25 minute block. After every 4 blocks of time, take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. Get up, stretch, move your body around. Your brain needs a minute to catch up to the work you’ve done and rest before the next round. 

With this strategy to help focus your brain, narrow your attention span, and use time efficiently, you’ll be moving through your to-do list in no time! 

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