This straightforward time management technique can help you stay focused and cross everything off your to-do list. 

By Stephanie Sisco and Maggie Seaver
May 21, 2020
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If concentration and productivity are a struggle for you these days (or anytime), you need a no-frills time management solution—and fast. There are a lot of productivity tips and dozens of fancy time management apps, all of them helpful to someone out there. But many people find that getting stuff done everyday shouldn’t require a new download with bells, whistles, or subscription fees—it simply requires a plain old kitchen timer and a can-do mindset.

Enter: The Pomodoro Technique. Created by Berlin-based business consultant Francesco Crillo nearly 20 years ago, The Pomodoro Technique has become a life-changing strategy for working smarter, not harder. Crillo first developed this system as a university student trying to get more done in less time. He found that boxing his study time into 30-minute increments (25 minutes of pure, uninterrupted work followed by a five-minute break), helped boost task efficiency, minimize deadline-induced anxiety, and sharpen mental focus, to name a few awesome benefits.

How It Works

Set a timer for 25 minutes, Crillo says, to focus on the task at hand. When time’s up, take a five-minute break before starting another 25-minute session. And really give yourself a mental rest here; breaks should not require much brain power (so no emails, phone calls, or trying to squeeze in other tasks). While you’re working within the twenty-fiver, though, be all-in: This is centered, uninterrupted work time until the timer rings.

After four sets of these 30-minute increments, take a longer, 15- to 20-minute break before starting the cycle again. The theory is that by working in manageable bursts of time with rest in between, we can become more productive and focused.

One of the key tenets of The Pomodoro Technique that makes it so appealing to fans is that it doesn’t require anything other than a basic kitchen timer (you could use your phone clock timer, but set it to Do Not Disturb to curb distractions). The original tomato-shaped kitchen timer Crillo first used to mark these focus periods inspired the name—“pomodoro” is Italian for tomato. That said, this timer method has now been adapted by others for numerous handy countdown apps, which many fans of the technique find helpful for tracking progress, managing digital to-do lists, and storing everything in one place. Some popular ones include Focus Booster, Be Focused, and PomoDoneApp.  

While The Pomodoro Technique is great for staying focused at work, you can (and should!) use it to your advantage in other creative and effective ways. Trying to finish a book club book before the meeting this week? Set that timer and get ready to turn pages. Or maybe you moved homes and have to unpack a mountain of boxes. Whip out a timer and get to work. Doing things in short, but intense bursts—coupled with rewarding microbreaks—makes any task more manageable.