The Pomodoro Technique™ is a time management method devised by Francesco Curillo in the late 1980’s.
To begin with this method of time management, you will create a list of projects or tasks you need to complete for the day. These tasks and to do items should each take approximately 25 minutes each (this is a critical component of the Pomodoro time management technique). If it is a larger task you are working on, you will want to continue to break it down even further until you can get to activities or components of the overall project you can believe can be completed in the 25-minute allotment.
The 25-minute blocks are called “pomodoros”. After each pomodoro is complete, you will put a checkmark on a piece of paper and then take a 3 – 5 minute break. After you have four checkmarks on your piece of paper, you will take a 15 – 30 minute break and start your checkmarks over at zero.
The Pomodoro Technique technique claims to garner its effectiveness in regards to time management by standing on the premise (proven by scientific study) that frequent breaks during productivity periods increase mental agility and acuity.
Basically, this theory falls back on the idea that the brain is a muscle that can be overstressed. Interestingly, in this case, putting in more hours all at once, doesn’t equate to getting more work done….
“Rather, like a runner starting to flag after a few miles, our ability to perform tasks has diminishing returns over time. We need breaks strategically served between our work sessions.”(The Atlantic, The Formula for Perfect Productivity)
In 2013, a study by the Draugiem Group further tested this general idea and came up with some very specific numbers for their be more productive formula. They started by using the time-tracking productivity app “Desk Time” and looked to see what set apart highly productive employees from others.
What they discovered was the most productive employees were not even the ones who worked more hours than anyone else or even who worked eight full hours a day. Instead, they were the ones who literally worked ‘smarter’ and not ‘harder’. They worked hard in bursts and then took regular breaks. Specifically, the worked 52 minutes and then took 17 minute breaks.
It appeared that the key to maintaining or keeping high productivity was not necessarily working ‘harder’ or ‘longer’ but keeping extremely focused in “bursts” of work and then stepping completely away and letting the mind and body rest to prepare for the next burst period.
This theory is at the heart of the Pomodoro Technique…
Again, the perfect time for these breaks – as established in many subsequent experiments and studies – is 17 minutes. This falls in line with the Pomodoro Technique’s “big break” (that occurs after the fourth checkmark / project component completed). Where the Pomodoro Technique is strong is that it maximizes the positive benefit of the 17-minute break while pairing it with specific goal and project completion.
Similar strategies and background pedagogy are used in a process called “timeboxing” and in the software design process “iterative and incremental development”.
All of these time management methods – ways to increase productivity and get more done in less time – are based on the idea of breaking complex projects into smaller blocks and then taking frequent breaks between bursts of work.
So next time you need to get something major done – some big project accomplished – break your work down into 52 minute spans and then take a 17 minute break. Get completely away from your workspace – take a walk, make a social call, etc. Then, get back on the next part of your task. Or, if you just can’t bear to take a break that long many times through the day, start smaller with The Pomodoro Technique.
And if you try any of these methods to increase productivity and have better time management, be sure to leave us a comment and let us know which one you chose, how it went, and any feedback or recommendations you might have for others who want to give either of these time management strategies a try!
is a best selling author, speaker and entrepreneur. She has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime Television and the CBN. Susan is the mother of five children and resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.