Does The Pomodoro Technique Work?

As I have mentioned in other posts, when it comes to time management, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is very much a case of trial and error to find the system or systems that work best for you.

However, when it comes to the Pomodoro Technique, having done some asking around and also a little research myself, the success rate seems very high.

I decided to give this technique a try some time back and have kept a record of my progress. I used a spreadsheet based on the simple tracker shown in the Pomodoro Technique book, but have since made a new funky printable tracker, which you can get here if you want to give it a go. [COMING SOON!]

If working in this way is new to you, it can take you a while to adapt.

This is because you are basically trying to alter your habits and tasks that you wish to become habits need to be repeated for a length of time before they become ingrained as habits.

The other part is that is can be quite a big upheaval to remove the distractions you are used to, the obvious one for most people being notifications.

Being disconnected from your phone and emails, even for 25 minutes can be be really tough at first, so it may take several attempts before you can get through a whole 25 minutes without even thinking about checking your phone or inbox.

If you are not used to giving a task 100% attention for any period of time, you will likely find it difficult to start with, as I did.

The most effective way to adopt this method is to introduce it gradually into your routine.

If you sit down and decide that you are going to implement the Pomodoro Technique to your whole day every day, you’re gonna burn out – most likely on Day One.

And that is pretty much what happened to me.

I failed my first few attempts, only managing to get through one full Pomodoro each day, plus numerous aborted efforts in the first week.

However, once I got used to it, I found it much easier to work in this way.

Another thing you should consider about the Pomodoro Technique is that it lends itself better to some tasks than others.

Duration of intervals

The recommended interval duration is four sets of 25 minutes, each with a 5-minute break and a 20-30 minute break between sets. However, this may not be appropriate for everybody, depending on both your individual preferences and the nature of the task at hand.

For example, when I am writing, I know that I can stay “in the zone” for longer than 25 minutes and in fact, at that point, I usually feel that I am just getting up to full speed, so taking a break at that time feels like it is breaking the flow.

Therefore, when doing this particular task I am finding that it is better to work in blocks of around 40 minutes with a 10 minute break instead. This method is still a work in progress for me and I may change my mind later, but it seems to be suiting me so far.

Benefits of the Pomodoro Technique

There are numerous benefits of using this kind of technique to manage your time more effectively and be more productive

  • Encourages you to focus on one task at a time, prevents task-switching
  • Reduces tasks into shorter, but highly-focused sessions
  • Designed to eliminate distractions
  • Develops discipline
  • Discourages procrastination
  • Structured to reduce idle and ineffective use of time
  • Helps you to build momentum (because completing each block successfully builds confidence that carries over into the next one)
  • Forces a break when you may have otherwise stayed at your desk being less effective
  • Simple to employ (but difficult to sustain at first!)
  • Get more done in less time

Limitations of the technique

While I find that this method of time and attention management generally works quite well for my situation, I recognize that it has its (potential) limitations and there are going to be people who find this difficult to implement due to their job or circumstances.

1. Sustainability

Firstly, I would say that regardless of what kind of job you do, I don’t think the Pomodoro Technique can realistically be used all day. I just don’t feel it is sustainable and there are some tasks that you cannot do in 25-minute blocks. Meetings with clients, for example, can’t just be wrapped up at 25 minutes, just because you are working to a timer.

Having said that, I feel that if it isn’t used with some consistency, you’re like to slip back into less productive ways of working before long, so it is probably to schedule at least a few hours’ worth of Pomodoro blocks into your day each day.

For example, having now used this technique for several months, I am now working in pomodoros throughout the morning and early afternoon, so I do up to 5 sessions per day (either 25 or 40-minute pomodoros, depending on what I am working on), which I think is as productive as I can get.

I then block out the rest of the afternoon for a slightly less rigid way of working and for what may be considered as more low-value tasks, such as phone calls, research and more clerical type tasks that don’t require the same level of focus.

Even when I am not using it strictly though, I do still try to maintain the discipline focusing on one task at a time and not being distracted by email (which I check and process only twice per day), my mobile phone or my biggest time-suck weakness, YouTube.

Anything less than 5 pomodoros (if you are doing 25-minute sessions) is probably not worth it, because that is only a couple of hours focussed work and it means that you are probably using time ineffectively at other times of the day.

2. Job type

Of course, there are a number of jobs that don’t allow you to work in this way over sustained periods during the day, because the nature of the work is more reactive than proactive and involves constant interruption and task switching, e.g. customer services, nursing, IT, to name a few, but if you have tasks within your job that could be completed in a block, try using the Pomodoro Technique for that block and see if it makes a difference.

Some jobs could allow you to use this technique, but you would first have to get your colleagues on board with what you are doing and perhaps re-organize the way you manage your emails, etc.

See my post on Inbox Zero for some ideas on how to manage your emails more effectively.

3. Task type

Our lives/jobs involve many different types of task and I don’t think that the Pomodoro Technique can be applied (or at least, fully applied) to all of them.

From my experience, it seems to work best for creative writing and studying, which I guess was Cirillo’s focus when he developed the technique. For example, it probably isn’t ideal for tasks like coding, designing and painting. Also, any tasks where the way in which you have to work is dictated by someone else, e.g. a lot of tasks!

Time Hack Hero Takeaway

Having been using this method for several months now, I feel that, if used in conjunction with other time management strategies, the Pomodoro Technique can be extremely effective, particularly if you have a short attention span and know that you are prone to distraction.

If you can relate to some of the limitations I mentioned, that does not mean that it will be impossible for you to employ this technique. It just means that you may be dealing with a situation that perhaps isn’t particularly conducive to using it. With a bit of reorganization and planning, you still may be able to use this excellent technique to your benefit, even if it is just for a couple of specific tasks during your day.

Go give it a try!

For some useful resources, check out this post: What Is The Pomodoro Technique?

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