A tomato kitchen timer, from which the Pomodoro Technique gets its name
This unassuming tomato kitchen timer could help you hack your productivity. | iStock/GideoniJunior

Pareto Principle

Your time and resources are limited. Efficiency means learning to prioritize. The Pareto principle (also called the 80-20 rule) can help you identify the best way to use your time for maximum results.

What do tomatoes, kitchen timers, and productivity have in common? This may sound like a riddle, but there’s a legitimate answer.

The Pomodoro Technique is one of the top productivity tips out there. It’s a time management method designed to balance your working time with short, scheduled breaks for more consistent efficiency and focused work.

Pareto Principle

Your time and resources are limited. Efficiency means learning to prioritize. The Pareto principle (also called the 80-20 rule) can help you identify the best way to use your time for maximum results.

The Origin of the Pomodoro Technique

What are pomodoros, anyway? Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. And if you’re thinking tomatoes have nothing to do with productivity, well, you’re right. Except when it comes to the origin of this popular time-management system.

Developed by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique got its name from the kitchen timer (which happened to be shaped like a tomato) that he used to create the method in the 1980s.

The Pomodoro Technique, even without a tomato timer, has since become a popular time management tool with variations for businesspeople, university students, and trainers.

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How the Pomodoro Technique Works

Before you get started, it’s worth noting that you don’t actually need a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. But you will need some kind of timekeeping device. The Pomodoro Technique is all about timing.

Step 1: Choose your task.

Pick a task, any task, off of your to-do list for the day. It can be big or small, stress-inducing or simple. But it should be something that you struggle to stay focused on.

Step 2: Work for 25 minutes.

Set your timer for twenty-five minutes and start working on your chosen task. Deny any distractions during this time—no getting up for tea, no quick email checks, and certainly no glances at social media.

Step 3: Take a short break.

When the timer goes off, take a three-to-five-minute break. Don’t keep working, even if you feel like you’re in the zone. These work and break times might seem random, but Cirillo carefully crafted them through trial and error for maximum productivity.

Step 4: Repeat.

Repeat the cycle of Steps 2 and 3 four times.

Step 5: Take a break for 30 minutes, then repeat.

Take a longer break, between fifteen and thirty minutes. Then repeat Steps 1 through 5 until your task is done.

You can use the Pomodoro Technique over and over. Just choose an item off your to-do list and disperse short breaks and longer breaks with working time in the same rhythm.

Remember, Cirillo’s technique was tried and tested to find the sweet spot for focus bursts and break time intervals. Deviate from the suggested amounts of time at your own risk.

The Benefits of the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique has proven a popular method for time management and knocking things off a to-do list. But there are long-term benefits, as well:

  • Improve your focus
  • Think differently about time
  • Do more with less effort
  • Reduce anxiety

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