Developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is a time-management tool which uses the classic kitchen tomato timer to break tasks down into bite-size chunks. Traditionally these periods last for 25 minutes and are followed by a brief break of three to five minutes.

But this not being the 1980s you may not have a tomato-shaped timer knocking around in your kitchen. It may now reside in the Thrift Store with your synth-pop vinyls, but fear not, as this being the 21st century there is indeed an app for that.

Check out Tomato Timer or this blog which highlights the 12 best tomato timer apps. It seems that there may be more apps than variety of tomato.

You can read more in the following link about how to implement the Pomodoro Technique, and find out if it is for you. This post will focus on its pros and cons.

The Pros Of The Pomodoro Technique

Improved Focus On Tasks

By accepting you have 25 minutes (or whatever amount of time you choose) to focus on getting as much done as possible, it becomes easier to mute your phone, close email and instant messaging clients and focus solely on one task for the allotted time. When your timer goes off, you know you can check messages, grab a drink or snack, or get a quick breath of fresh air.

It’s often reported this is a great way of tackling the bigger, perhaps more boring, tasks you need to get off your plate, as chipping away at these in more manageable chunks makes it seem a less onerous task. Once you’ve completed one pomodoro, you can check it off on a tally sheet. This, as luck would have it, is a perfect segue to…

Recording how you spend your time 

…Yes, pro number 2. The benefit of recording your time cannot be understated. It gives an indication of how long similar tasks will take, how long you have actually worked that day, and if you are self-employed, for how much time you should be billing your clients.

There’s also a great psychological benefit to checking off work; it’s a process known, wonderfully, as chunking.

Regular breaks

We mention in a previous post on Roche Online Business Services (in a post titled 5 Ways To Improve Productivity) that taking regular breaks is great for helping us learn and focus. This article in Psychology Today further reinforces that by highlighting the many benefits of regular breaks. These include that regular breaks can help reduce decision fatigue and improve creativity and productivity. Ultimately these are two sides of the same coin (in many ways it’s a five-sided coin!) but the psychology is solid: stepping away from work, a conundrum, or a screen (or all three at once!) can have a lot of benefits to your workrate.

All of us will be familiar with this problem. How often, when trying to recall a fact that is on the tip of your tongue, does the answer come to you once you’ve stopped searching for it? Once you refocus, start chatting away about something else, then all of a sudden the fact you were racking your brain for not long ago suddenly reappears. This interesting article reports this phenomena happens more often to bilingual people.

The Cons Of The Pomodoro Technique

It Can Impede Your Creativity

Creative thought is not necessarily an easy process to fit into a strict time-management schedule, which means pursuing the Pomodoro Technique may not work. Though it is a romantic myth creativity just pings like a lightbulb moment, it should still be pursued with discipline, like any form of writing or work.

However, expecting to be able to work through a creative project or issue in the same way as going though your email inbox is a misnomer. It could take numerous pomodoros (25-minute time frames), and hundreds of napkins of ideas and notes to get you to the point of needing to write with disciplined focus. So by restricting yourself to time intervals where nothing but a few ideas have been generated could have an adverse psychological effect, making you feel nothing has been achieved, thereby forcing you further from your goal, perceived or otherwise.

The Pomodoro Technique Is Too Inflexible

Anyone who has a role with a diverse workload prone to numerous interruptions from staff, clients and phone calls will understand exactly what we mean. Ultimately, it may just be impossible for you to start a timer and shut off the outside world. If so, it’s hard to imagine the Pomodoro Technique working for you.

The Pomodoro Technique Has Too Many Short Breaks

As has been mentioned earlier, there are many benefits to regular breaks. And while you can interpret the Pomodoro Technique however it works best for you (longer pomodores than 25 minutes, fewer breaks etc), there is no doubt that for some people too many breaks can interrupt flow, focus and a train of thought. It may be that even deciding not to take the break won’t be enough — if the timer blaring its alarm is enough to break your train of thought then the damage is already done!

The Pomodoro Technique In Conclusion

Ultimately there is no right or wrong way to manage your time. As with all things it is about what works best for for. By shining a light in the Pomodoro Technique we hope to have introduced you to a process you may find useful, either in its traditional method or by employing longer pomodores, fewer breaks or longer breaks when they come along.

But if this post has whetted your appetite to learn more about time management techniques then great, as the purpose of this, and indeed any post, is to make people think.

Thanks for reading.

If you find a particular task hard to focus on, it could be that you don’t enjoy that task. Consider hiring a virtual assistant or skilled contractor. By contracting out the work, you’ll save time and stress and be free to focus on the tasks that you love doing!