A Useful Guide to the Pomodoro Technique

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What lays ahead is probably the biggest game-changer to my overall productivity so far: the amazinglysimpleyetstillsomehowsupereffective… Pomodoro Technique! <- (Originally developed by this guy)

I’m going to explain what the Pomodoro Technique is, describe my experience with it, then touch on some science-y/study-y/why it works bits.  At the end I also share a couple of resources including a chart I’ve created for you to track your own little tomatoey pomodoros (I’ll explain how that one works a little later).

The Pomodoro Technique, Step-by-Step

So the idea is that you do a pomodoro and take a short break, then every fourth one you take a longer break.

“Wait a second there Craig, you haven’t even vaguely explained what the hell the pomodoro technique is or indeed anything about it other than the fact that it’s useful to you! You’re already 111 words into the article here, don’t you think it’s about time you gave all of us readers a bit of a clue…?”

Right you are enraged reader, I did get a bit carried away there didn’t I. The pomodoro technique is a very simple time management tool, the main idea being that you focus on a specific task for short bursts of time, with frequent breaks of varying lengths.

Thanks Craig, very succinctly explained, you’re turning into a bit of a master wordsmith. I’m sorry if I seemed a little short tempered before.”

No problem at all significantly less enraged reader, I understand your frustration. Thanks for your kind words.

Ok, sorry about that, the actual step-by-step starts here:

Pick a task
The first thing you have to do is choose a task. This could be something small like “Pay the bills” or a small part of something bigger like “Create the iceberg metaphor graphic for your journal article”. The only criteria here is that it has to be a task you can focus on and work to complete. So “write a fiction book” is not a task, whereas “research possible subjects for my future fiction book” is a task.

Watch this space…

Complete your first pomodoro
All you have to do now is set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on your chosen task with your full attention.

The important thing here is to avoid getting distracted as much as possible. This is why it’s important to pick a specific task, as the lines can get blurry here. If you’re in the middle of a “Pay the bills” pomodoro then you shouldn’t be researching a new electricity supplier because although it’s related, it’s not the task you set yourself.

The Distractions List
“But I don’t want to forget to find a new electricity supplier!” I hear you cry.

This is where the distractions list comes into play. Each time you feel a temptation to switch to another task you should write down whatever it is on a bit of paper, so in this instance write down “research new electricity supplier” and continue the task of paying the bills. Not all distractions will become tasks but the important thing here is to save your precious brain energy and stay focused on the task you started with.

Take a 5 minute break
Congratulations, you’ve finished your first ever pomodoro and now you deserve a break! Take five minutes to do something non-work related. Whether that’s meditating, stretching, making a cup of tea or flying remote control helicopters.

Shampoo, rinse, repeat, then condition
After your 5 minute break, it’s time to go back to your focused pomodoro, either carrying on with your initial task or choosing a new one.

Longer break
After each set of 4 pomodoros give yourself a longer break. I usually take 30 minutes because it fits nice and easily into my calendar planning.

That’s it, told you it was simple!

The Science-y Bit

It seems there are two things at play here, firstly that a big task or project is easier to digest when split up into chunks. The philosopher Henri Bergson talked about how time is only stress-inducing when viewed as a dimension and not thought of in terms of activities or smaller chunks of time (I found that out here).

The second point is to do with the breaks in between pomodoros. We humans are not good at focusing for extended periods of time – this study of 84 people in Illinois showed that a group asked to remember and then recall a set of numbers for 50 minutes showed a significant loss in performance, whereas a group given two brief breaks during that time showed no loss in performance whatsoever.


All you really need is any old timer on your phone or computer or kitchen timer or 25-minute sand timer (turns out they do exist), but here are another couple of options.

The Being On Wheels Pomodoro-omatic


It can be very helpful to track your progress when it comes to this sort of thing because it allows you to look back at what you’ve already achieved, so with that in mind I’ve created the Pomodoro-omatic.

I’ve tried to keep it simple:

  1. Print out your TOTALLY FREE chart.
  2. Put your first project in the top box.
  3. Put your task in the white box.
  4. Tick off your breaks as you start them.
  5. Write your distractions in… well, the distractions list box.
  6. Be productive?


Ok, so I admit that this has very little to do with the article and is basically an excuse to upload this rather lovely picture of a forest we visited in France…

I constantly use an app called Forest. You grow virtual trees by completing pomodoros, and you can eventually use your in-app coin things to get real trees planted. At the time of writing this, they’ve planted 271,160 trees.

Another feature of this app that I like is that you can’t use your phone while you have a timer counting down without “killing” the tree. This is great for reducing distractions, but it does mean that you can’t use this app if the task you are doing involves your phone.

Also, they have a community and you can join other people to improve your productivity, so if you end up using this app join my room thing!

Try The Pomodoro Technique for Yourself

Next time you have a task to complete, give the pomodoro technique a go. As I said it’s been a total game-changer for me and seems to work well for many other people so why not you too!

If you end up trying this out, put your task in the comments below! Oh and also, I’m keen to hear if anyone finds the chart useful.

Want to know how to get into the habit of completing your pomodoros? Look no further!
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5 responses to “A Useful Guide to the Pomodoro Technique”

  1. Marie B avatar
    Marie B

    Thanks for another enlightening post. Loving the Pomodoro-omatic – I’m going to try this! 🙂

    1. Craig avatar

      You’re welcome, looking forward to hearing how you get on!

  2. Joshuan McSlard avatar

    Golden! You’re always a couple of steps ahead of my life eh, nicely done. Here I sit with my Pomodoro-omatic and Trusty Habit Tracker all printed off and ripe to roll! Will certainly be joining your woodland ‘room’ on Forest when I get a phone-that-actually-phones next week, through that lovely there link ‘course.

    Thanks for the constant illuminations Being On Wheels.

    1. Craig avatar

      I really hope you find them useful, I’ve got a couple of habit trackers and a pomodoro-omatic on the go at the moment so lets ‘av some chart solidarity up in here!

      Thanks for the uplifting words Joshuan.

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