The Pomodoro time management technique and how to nurture it

As technology advances, we are distracted by more things than ever, and it is getting harder to draw a strict line between work and free time. There are several time management techniques offering help to make ourselves more effective while working. One of the most acknowledged among them is the Pomodoro technique. The best approach is to download a Pomodoro timer app, so we help you below to navigate the solution landscape.

Illustration of girl with tomato boxes

As I take a look around my desk, while writing this article, I see at least a dozen physical and virtual elements that distract me. Working from home office during the quarantine did even amplify my inner voices saying: “Chat with your friends instead.”, “That email could be extremely important!”, “Aren’t you hungry?”

Time management issues are among the hottest topics when it comes to organizing work. The above distractions cost the global economy billions of dollars as, according to a recent study, almost 80% of an average workday is spent on activities with low value. Distractions, poor prioritization, procrastination lead to in-effective days and longer-than-needed workdays.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro technique is a method with a single goal in mind: giving a valid, realistic timeframe in which you can focus, while also allowing you to have regular, yet controlled breaks. Pomodoro is a time management method invented by Italian gentleman Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. It was named after a tomato-shaped timer used in the kitchen working with 25-minute time intervals, the predecessor of today’s Pomodoro timer app solutions. The essence of the Pomodoro technique is to do only one task intensively and focused for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Then work again for 25 minutes and break again for 5 minutes. After every fourth Pomodoro-interval, take a longer break of 20-30 minutes.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t sip a cup of coffee during a 25-minute long Pomodoro, rather be prepared with that coffee beforehand, so that you wouldn’t need to get up your chair and with it fall out from the rhythm and paste you were just picking up.

What makes this technique so powerful?

Pomodoro is designed to be easy to start with

You do not need to populate page-long matrixes, nor estimate all the work for the whole week. It cannot be simpler! There are Pomodoro timer app solutions that don’t even require registration, making it super-easy to kick-off.

It helps to avoid multitasking

Continuous task-switching, regardless of how good you are in multitasking, heavily affects performance. A study by researcher Laura Bowman at Central Connecticut State University sheds light on what happens during a nowadays standard example of task-switching. Students who used Facebook Messenger while reading a textbook took 25% longer to read the same part (excluding time spent on chatting) than students who only used their time reading. The results clearly showed that the quality of performance deteriorates when concentrating on multiple tasks “simultaneously”.

It helps battling procrastination

Studies show that breaking down tasks to the smallest possible parts helps the brain to see them as easy-to-solve tasks, which eventually will hold back procrastination tendencies.

It also helps your body

Just use part of the 5-min long pauses to move and flex your back, hip, arms, and legs. Changing the focus distance of your eyes once in a while, aka not looking at your monitor constantly, also helps to keep them healthier.

Making good use of the Pomodoro technique

Here are a few tips on how to nurture this technique to achieve your best self.

Use to-do lists

Pomodoro is not simply about pushing a timer or using an app: the number one rule to this technique is to have well-prepared tasks at hand. If you have larger projects, break them down into the smallest parts that you can do. An example: writing an article is a complex project with a lot of research and creative penning. Putting simply “writing an article” on the to-do list is ineffective because it is hard to know how much time and what resources are needed. If you break it down into smaller elements like researching the topic, finding statistics, writing a catchy intro, etc. - that helps your brain to see the big picture and prioritize correctly.

Organize your tasks into pomodoros (tomatoes)

These little tomato timeframes should include as many tasks you can handle in a 25-minute long round. The experience will make you better at estimating the right amounts, however, you can do an educated guess if you have done the project breakdown correctly.

Focus, focus, and focus

Your 25-minute long Pomodoros should be done with only one thing in mind: finishing your tasks. This might sound too strict at first, but these timeframes are designed in the exact length of an average worker’s/student’s concentration capacity in mind. No emails, no Messenger, and other chats, only your favorite music and the tasks you prepared for yourself.

Applications and websites that support you along the journey

After the theory, let’s see how the above can be put into practice. While Francesco Cirillo had fewer distractions back in his day, he did not have a Pomodoro technique app to help him focus. Today’s solutions are much more than simple timers. Let’s see what apps out there you can leverage.

Productive Fish Pomodoro Timer

Platform: web

The basic idea: It's an intuitive Pomodoro timer that helps you focus right in your favorite browser. No app, no install — use it simply by accessing the website and allowing your browser to notify you. Just set up your workable time interval and focus on the task until the time is up.

Productive Fish pomodoro timer app screenshot

How it fits with Pomodoro: You can set up a 25-minute interval as well as 30/45/60-minutes and focus on the task until the time is up. Once you hear a short beep it's time to mark what you completed and take a break. Keep track of your productive Pomodoros with Productive Fish Pomodoro Timer.

Forest app

Platforms: iOS, Android

The basic idea: This application helps you to stay focused and introduces a gamified approach of planting and growing trees. If you start working and use your phone in a non-related way (eg. open Messenger), you get a waring. If you keep switching back from your tasks to less important distractions, your tree will stop growing and will eventually dry out. You are free to set the time frame for how long you want to focus between 10 and 120 minutes. After each period is completed, you receive coins in proportion to how long you have not used your phone. (From which you can buy beautiful trees that are just waiting to be grown.)

Moreover, if you are persistent enough, you can plant a real tree in a designated place, which can be a real motivating force. You can listen to the background noise of a Parisian café or a sandy beach to help to focus.

Forest app screenshot

How it fits with Pomodoro: Setting up 25-minute long intervals in Forest will just do the trick. However, measuring quick breaks and long pauses are not yet available. Still, if you are looking for a great Pomodoro timer app, that helps you focus and forces you - in a gamified way - to do so, Forest is a wonderful choice.

Flat Tomato

Platforms: iOs, macOS

The basic idea: This Mac- and iOS-only application is crafted to fulfill every need of a Pomodoro-er. Wonderful design with easy-to-use interfaces supports you along your day of study and work. You can set tasks, start timers for the different intervals and you can also listen to ambient music and background noises, such as ocean waves, to support your focus. And what makes it a top-ranked, best Pomodoro app? It offers smart reports and analytics to understand what you have done, which, to be honest, gives quite the satisfaction.

FlatTomato app screenshot

How it fits with Pomodoro: The app’s core is the Pomodoro technique, and all its features are designed with that in mind.

Focus To-do

Platforms: iOS, Android, macOS, Windows

The basic idea: At first, Focus To-Do seems similar to Flat Tomato and at its core, they both are to help you nurture the Pomodoro technique. However, Focus To-Do offers a complete platform to set up different tasks with categorization, prioritization capabilities. By standard Pomodoro and task management can be done via two different solutions using integrations, Focus To-Do offers them under one umbrella.

FocusToDo app screenshot

How it fits with Pomodoro: You will be able to break down your tasks into small pomodoros and organize them throughout your day. This is by far the best Pomodoro technique app if you are looking for an all-in-one solution.

Focus Booster

Platforms: web, iOS, Android, macOS, Windows

The basic idea: This solution is close to its competitor, Flat Tomato, but is available on all platforms, including on the web via a browser. Its features are centered on the Pomodoro technique. You can set timers, do the intervals and breaks, and review your data after your session on a minimalist, yet beautiful user interface.

FocusBooster app screenshot

How it fits with Pomodoro: One of the best solutions to utilize the Pomodoro technique as it is easy-to-setup and affordable.

Pomofocus

Platform: web

The basic idea: The most straightforward and minimalistic approach to measure your intervals. You can make the best out of it even as a guest, but then you won't be able to see your results in well-organized charts. If you need to quickly set up your Pomodoro infrastructure, this is the best solution.

Pomofocus app screenshot

How it fits with Pomodoro: Stripped down to its very core is by far the most intuitive Pomodoro solution. No app, no install - use it simply by accessing their website and allowing your browser to notify you.

What makes a Pomodoro application and website effective?

Easy-to-use

Any apps should be intuitive to be picked up by users, but it especially stands for solutions meant to make our lives easier. Imagine a software that takes away your time to make you able to get a better performer.

Integrations

Managing complex projects nowadays require several software solutions to use and the best way to utilize them is via integrations. Data shared between these apps makes your life so much easier.

Reporting

Analytics is key not just for your boss to see your performance, but to show results for yourself. It provides satisfaction to see all the tasks you’ve accomplished.

FAQs

Why are the Pomodoro technique intervals 25 minutes long?

The Pomodoro technique intervals could be 25 minutes, however, you can also set up your own time periods. Rather than a 25 minute focus period, you could work in 45, 60, or 90-minute blocks. 25 minutes could be the perfect length of time to help you be productive, create urgency, not procrastinate, and help you stay focused on any task you are tackling.

Moreover, you could find natural time markers in your life, like the break between meetings, the time until your partner comes home, or the time until the dishwasher finishes. Use these to define focus periods and tailor the principles of the Pomodoro Technique to better suit your personal working style.

How many Pomodoros can you do in a day?

It all depends on you, how much you have to do, what focus-time period you choose (25/45/60 minutes), and how fun the work is. From our experience, using 25 minute intervals, performing 12 Pomodoros would be a really good day, and 16 would be just spectacular.

What do you do during the 5-minute break?

The best option would be to create your own list of things you can do during the break, and have the list somewhere convenient for you to check on the list. It really helps to prevent falling into the unproductive habit of scrolling social media. Here are some ideas from us, but it's still super individual depending on what you do, where you work, and your environment:

  1. Take a short walk
  2. Do breathing exercises/meditate
  3. Do a quick yoga routine
  4. Make yourself a cup of tea, coffee, or just water
  5. Declutter your space
  6. Make yourself a snack
  7. Fold laundry or throw a load of laundry into the washer
  8. Empty the dishwasher
  9. Do some food preparation for lunch or dinner

Does the Pomodoro technique really work?

While I was searching for the best Pomodoro timer app, and writing this article, I received 5 messages on Facebook Messenger, 3 Instagram likes and got 16 emails. On a normal day, I would have rushed to open and check them out, but today I’ve used Pomofocus to be able to honestly review whether Pomodoro is more than a myth or not.

Before knowing anything about it, I often used other techniques intuitively, and what I can confirm is that Pomodoro works. There is no holy grail, but there are many Pomodoro technique app solutions to nurture. I’ve found Pomofocus the most effective, as it was the easiest to set up. Check out any of the apps above and use them for your advantage to make yourself the best self.