When he was still a college student in the late 1980s, Italian entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo developed a simple study habit that maximized his productivity and reduced a feeling of burnout.
This practice went on to become one of the most written-about and practiced productivity hacks of the past few decades. His “Pomodoro Technique” gets its name from the Italian word for “tomato,” because Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer as he worked.
His time management hack has been popular since the ’90s due to how easy and effective it is. It’s recently inspired several mobile apps and was voted as the most popular productivity method by Lifehacker users a couple years ago.
Here’s how the Pomodoro Technique works:
- A pomodoro is an interval of time, traditionally 25 minutes. Set a timer for this interval.
- After you start the timer, intensely work on a task without distractions. This is key. Do not check your phone, answer an email, open a new tab in your web browser, or do anything at all unrelated to the task in front of you. If something very important interrupts your flow, abandon the pomodoro and start again later.
- Once the interval is complete, take a three- to five-minute break. Cirillo’s team recommends getting up to stretch, grab a drink, or do a quick organizational chore like tidying up your work bag. Anything that gives you some distance from you and your desk and gets your blood flowing. “One thing to keep in mind is that five minutes goes by faster than you’d think, so don’t commit to anything too taxing or absorbing, or it will be difficult to get back into the zone once the break is over,” they say.
- Every four pomodoros (or “pomodori,” if you’d like to keep it Italian), take a longer, 15- to 30-minute break. Use this to get out of “the zone” for a bit and give your brain some time to relax.
Those are the basic principles, but there’s plenty of room for customisation. Cirillo’s book, “The Pomodoro Technique,” which popularised the idea, recommends planning out your entire day based on how many pomodoros you think each task on your to-do list requires, but you can also decide to do just a couple every day.
Paul Klipp, president of Lunar Logic’s Polish branch, explains on Quora that the latter method works best for his schedule. “You might think that a person could do 16 of these cycles in a day,” Klipp says. “I’m lucky to get more than two in a day without interruptions. But in those 50 minutes I get more done than I do in the other seven hours of my work day, at least in terms of advancing the most important aspects of my most important projects,” he says.
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