Why Pomodoro Works

focus Jul 14, 2022

There is a real struggle at my house to empty the dishwasher. It's a kid's chore, but I find myself bracing myself every time I utter "empty the dishwasher."


A recent therapy session addressed this power struggle. One of the recommendations was to use a timer and make a game out of how fast you can empty the dishwasher.


I smiled because I instantly thought of the pomodoro technique. (Yep productivity nerd over here). Of course, why didn’t I think of that.  One of the advantages of pomodoro is gamification.  The race to beat the clock makes a boring task more fun.


What is the Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro is a staple productivity technique for focus (and you’ve probably heard of it before) but before I get into more reasons why it works, here's a brief description of what it is…


In the late 1980s, Francesco Cirillo developed the Pomodoro Technique. It uses a kitchen timer to break work into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. The intervals are called pomodoros, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used as a student.


It works like this:

🍅 You'll need a timer and a to-do list.

🍅 Set a timer for 25 minutes, and focus on a single task until it rings.

🍅 Once your session has ended, mark off one pomodoro and record your progress.

🍅 Then take a 5-minute break.

🍅 Take a longer, more restorative break after four pomodoros.


You can play with the length of time (45 - 60 min is what works best for me). In fact, I wrote a post in August of 2020 of my day in pomodoros if you want to take a peek.


Why it Works

I’ve already touched on how the race to beat the clock can inspire focus and effort (gamification).  The race to beat the clock makes a boring task more fun.  Plus the reset to a new pomodoro is a chance to beat the clock again.  A chance to refocus.  A chance to crush that goal.


Another reason pomodoro works is the actual like sounds of ticking timer and the bell create a pavlovian effect If you use it often enough.  Those sounds become associated stimuli with focus and flow. 


Additionally, pomodoro forces you to commit to action. You break down larger tasks into smaller ones. As an example, if I am writing a blog post that takes two hours, that would be two Pomodoros (since mine are set for 60 minutes).  You can also group together small tasks that are related.  Here are a few small tasks you could put together:

  • Small errands
  • Tidying up
  • Admin work


Finally the breaks of Pomodoro are a key to the process. You need to do something restorative, not something that will steal your attention away from the task.  I’m looking at you Instagram.


The timer just went off, so I have to wrap up this post.  The perfect analogy for this productivity technique comes from my friend Tollisha. Think of Pomodoro as HIIT (high intensity interval training) for your tasks. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

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