April 17, 2023
Uncover overlooked elements of the Pomodoro Technique with insights from the official book.
The Pomodoro Technique has four fundamental steps:
1. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
2. Spend those 25 minutes on one project or activity.
3. Take a five-minute break.
My description above captures the essence of The Pomodoro Technique, the world's most famous timeboxing method. Francesco Cirillo, the technique's creator, would almost certainly disagree with my summary.
Cirillo outlines the complete approach in The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work (2018). Based on insights from his official Pomodoro book, this article highlights the method's most essential and overlooked aspects.
💡 Need a refresher on Pomodoro basics? Watch the video below or read The Pomodoro Technique and other work rhythms - which one suits you?
The objective of the entire technique is to develop personal awareness of time… Observation requires effort and discipline, and so you need to collect information about how you work—and you need to do it in a systematic way.
Most people—especially those in creative professions—never track their time. In fact, they oppose doing so with all their being. But without time awareness, you’re destined to waste much of it.
The Pomodoro Technique helps you develop time awareness without feeling like an accountant or robot. Collecting a tomato for every 25 minutes you work is fun, and those 🍅s teach you how long different activities take.
These insights aren't just negative. ("I spent way more time than I thought answering emails." 😢) You'll also discover tasks that appear like mental mountains but are actually molehills in disguise. ("Writing that report took me only two hours of focused work instead of a whole day!" 🕺🏽)
Starting a new exercise routine with excessive ambition can lead to injury and a premature end to your fitness journey. The same applies to focus:
At first, even getting through a single Pomodoro a day without interruptions is an excellent result… The next day your effort will be focused on completing at least one Pomodoro with no interruptions, possibly two or more… the number of Pomodoros you finish doesn’t matter so much as the pathway to consistently achieving more Pomodoros… it takes patience and a bit of training to reach 10 to 12 Pomodoros a day consistently.
I've practiced focus and the Pomodoro Technique for over a decade. Here’s an overview of my progress during one week in March, with total Pomodoros on the left, those for my Animalz writing work in the middle, and Saent tomatoes on the right.
While I have few meetings and management responsibilities now—leaving plenty of time for focus—any day with over 10 tomatoes is a success. (I should mention we have a 3-year-old—he consumes quite some tomatoes. 😂)
💡 In The Power of Pomodoro: Achieve anything with a tomato a day, I explain how you can use the Pomodoro Technique to hit important but non-urgent goals by dedicating one Pomodoro daily to them.
The break is the most important structural element of the Pomodoro Technique. Breaks allow you to step away for a moment, recognize fatigue, and decide whether to stop or continue. By taking a break you will begin the next Pomodoro with greater clarity and willingness to work. Breaks make us more productive, and they don’t involve any work.
To some productivity hustlers, not working is heresy. Every minute must be utilized; rest is for losers. Cirillo doesn't buy this philosophy.
He made breaks an essential component when he invented the Pomodoro Technique in the late 1980s. According to the official method, one Pomodoro isn't just a 25-minute session—it's a 25-minute session plus a 5-minute break.
💡 A bonus benefit of breaks is that they nudge you to stand up regularly. I'm continually amazed to see people in coffee shops and coworking spaces glued to their laptops for hours without getting up once. Such marathon sitting kills your productivity and health.
If time-tracking tops your list of dislikes, planning and estimating work likely comes a close second. It seems like tedious, pointless effort since plans often don’t go as planned—so why bother? And for those rare individuals who actually enjoy planning? They tend to spend too much time on it.
With the Pomodoro Technique, figuring out how much time is wasted isn’t important; how many Pomodoros we’ve accomplished is. The next day, keep that number in mind when you are deciding how many Pomodoros are available and write down activities to fill only those Pomodoros.
The Pomodoro Technique makes basic planning and task estimation almost effortless (especially if you use a Pomodoro app like Lifeline). Tracking the number of Pomodoros you complete daily is simple (and fun!), allowing you to quickly assess how much work you can handle the next day.
You can ask yourself how many Pomodoros a week you spend on work activities and on explorative activities, how many Pomodoros you do on an average day of the week, and so on.
With minimal extra effort, you can even engage in more detailed planning. Track the number of 🍅s required weekly for a specific activity, like client work, and adjust your calendar accordingly.
💡 Interested in a comprehensive guide on planning your work with the Pomodoro Technique? Explore Pomodoro planning: Step-by-step guide to track and finish work with 🍅s, which includes a free template.
The official Pomodoro book also includes a handy overview of the fundamental rules and principles that form The Pomodoro Technique. Here are the ones I find most helpful to keep in mind:
A Pomodoro consists of 25 minutes plus a 5-minute break.
After every four Pomodoros, take a 15- to 30-minute break.
Protect the Pomodoro. Inform effectively, negotiate quickly to reschedule the interruption, and get back to the person who interrupted you, as agreed.
If a Pomodoro is interrupted definitively, it’s void.
The Pomodoro is indivisible. There are no half or quarter Pomodoros.
If you complete an activity during a Pomodoro, review your work until the Pomodoro rings.
If it takes more than five to seven Pomodoros, break it down. Complex activities should be divided into several activities.
If it takes less than one Pomodoro, add it up. Simple tasks can be combined.
⭐️ Rating: 3/5
The Pomodoro book is worth reading if you already work in timed sessions and find that approach beneficial. The book offers a deeper understanding of the Pomodoro Technique and ideas for improving your current practice.
There are sections you can skip, such as the impractical suggestions for team collaboration using the Pomodoro Technique—I've yet to meet a group of people working together that way.
And if you just want to get started with the Pomodoro Technique? Refer to the quote at the beginning of this article—it's all you need to know for now.
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❗️ All quotes in this article are from The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work unless otherwise noted.
Links to the book mentioned in this article are Amazon affiliate links. When you click one and make a purchase on Amazon, we (Saent) receive a commission at no additional cost to you.