Pomodoro technique: dividing work to gain productivity

William Bauer

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The Pomodoro method is a technique that consists of organizing one's activities into 25-minute work sessions, called pomodori (which means "tomatoes" in Italian), interspersed with 5-minute breaks. After four pomodoros, a longer break is required. In this article, we look back at the origin of the Pomodoro technique and how best to implement it. Then we look at its benefits and present some alternatives to the Pomodoro method. 

The Pomodoro technique: where does it come from and what is it?

The Pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Francesco Cirillo was a university student at the time and found it difficult to manage his time and be productive. He set himself the goal of concentrating on a 10-minute work session. To respect this timing and to time himself, he uses a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato ("pomodoro" in Italian). He then tried to refine his technique and finally developed the Pomodoro method.

The Pomodoro technique uses a timer to divide work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes long, separated by short 5 minute breaks. These intervals are called pomodoros, the plural of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato). Instead of working for two hours straight, this method allows you to structure your work time into shorter intervals, framed by short breaks. 

The steps of the pomodoro technique: how to implement it properly?

Here are the six steps to follow Francesco Cirillo's precepts: 

1- Prepare your sessions by deciding beforehand on the tasks to be accomplished

Define the tasks to be carried out during the day by using your todo-list or your agenda. List the tasks and prioritize them from the most important to the least important. Each task should be completed in 25 minutes. Don't be too ambitious. If you are afraid that your tasks cannot be completed in 25 minutes, break them down into several tasks.

2- Plan your work day without overloading your schedule

Be realistic in your planning. The goal is to complete the tasks you have planned, not to put pressure on yourself with an untenable schedule. In general, 16 pomodoros are planned for a full-time work day.

3- Isolate yourself from all sources of distraction

Tell your colleagues, put your laptop on airplane mode, close your office door, pause email alerts and other notifications, close unnecessary tabs on your web browser... In short, remove any source of distraction that would compromise your concentration.

4- Set your timer for 25 minutes and get to work

It is fundamental to use a timer, whether it is mechanical like the kitchen tomato or an application on your mobile. Set your timer for 25 minutes and get to work on your task. Once you hear the buzzer sound, you're done. Mark your task in your calendar as done. If an idea comes up during this intensive work period, write it on a post-it note but immediately return to the task you were doing.

5- Take a 5 minute break

During this break, you can get some fresh air, take a walk, have a drink, move around, look at the trees through the window. This break is important because it allows you to recharge your batteries and avoid mental exhaustion. It is not a waste of time. Be careful, don't take advantage of this break to check your emails or hang out on social networks. You need to take a real break and cut off your screens. 

6- Every 4 sessions, recover for 20 to 30 minutes

After this intensive work, your mind and body need to relax. After a cycle of 4 pomodoros, take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes. Reset your counter to zero and start over from step 

What are the productivity benefits of the Pomodoro method?

These short work sessions have the advantage of being more productive and motivating. If we were to list the benefits of the Pomodoro method, we could mention: 

Simple method that is easily applicable wherever you are working.

More concentration: this technique avoids working on several tasks at the same time. 

Better project planning: once you get used to doing pomodoros, you will be able to plan your tasks and set reasonable deadlines for projects.

Fewer distractions: this method allows you not to be disturbed by external events and to optimize your work environment for maximum concentration.

More motivation: you'll soon realize that you can get a lot of work done in 25 minutes. Nothing better to motivate yourself to stay productive and prevent procrastination! 

Simplified team communication: it is possible to organize team pomodoros so that everyone is fully aware of their responsibilities and respects everyone's concentration time.

In short, the Pomodoro technique helps to overcome procrastination and stay focused on the task at hand. From an individual point of view, it maintains motivation and concentration. From a collective point of view, it guarantees respect within the communication between colleagues by limiting the external solicitations.

The Pomodoro technique applied in teams 

The Pomodoro method can indeed be applied in teams. It is ideal for freelancers and remote teams who want to maintain their focus while keeping a link. As an example, group pomodori are perfect if you want to make sure your team is focused on one task. Having the same work and break times can greatly help your team feel more united, even from a distance. The Pomodoro method can therefore be a real ally if you want to motivate your team and boost their involvement despite the massification of hybrid work. 

Alternatives to the Pomodoro technique: the best time management methods. There are various alternative methods to the Pomodoro technique to boost your team's productivity.

These include

The JATO method

The JA(but) TO(days) method allows you to be autonomous in creating solutions adapted to your context. It consists of noting the times when you say "never" or "always" followed by a negative connotation. 

The Moscow Method

The MoSCoW method is a technique for prioritizing needs or requirements for project management assistance and software development. The goal is for the prime contractor and the project owner to agree on the importance of the tasks to be completed in relation to the expected timeframe. The MoSCoW method allows to focus on the most important requirements. 

The GTD method

Invented in 2001 by David Allen, the GTD methodology - "Getting Things Done" - is based on 5 steps: collect, process, organize, review, act. This method allows you to improve your personal productivity through better organization. 

The Eisenhower matrix

The Eisenhower matrix helps to identify priorities by drawing a matrix with four boxes. On the horizontal axis, there is an "Urgent" box and a "Not Urgent" box. On the vertical axis, an "Important" box and a "Not Important" box. With four squares, the Eisenhower matrix teaches you to differentiate between urgent and important tasks.

The agile methodology

The agile work methodology is an interesting time management method thanks to the "sprints". These are time slots during which everyone comes together to accomplish the same task. Sprints bring together members of different teams to diversify skills, the objective being to create a fully recognized deliverable at the end of the defined periods.

The NERAC method 

The NERAC method is an acronym for the 5 verbs: note, estimate, reserve, arbitrate and control.

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