The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals called “pomodori” (from the Italian word pomodoro for “tomato”), separated by short breaks. Closely related to concepts such as timeboxing and iterative and incremental development used in software design, the method has been adopted in pair programming contexts. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.
There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
- Decide on the task to be done
- Set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x
- Take a short break (3-5 minutes)
- Every four “pomodori” take a longer break (15–30 minutes)
The stages of planning, tracking, recording, processing and visualizing are fundamental to the technique. In the planning phase tasks are prioritized by recording them in a “To Do Today” list. This enables users to estimate the effort tasks require. As “pomodori” are completed, they are recorded, adding to a sense of accomplishment and providing raw data for subsequent self-observation and improvement.
For the purposes of the technique “pomodoro” refers to an indivisible 25-minute time interval. After task completion, any time remaining in the “pomodoro” is devoted to overlearning. Regular breaks are taken, aiding assimilation. A short (3-5 minute) rest separates consecutive “pomodori”. Four “pomodori” form a set. A longer (15-30 minute) rest is taken between sets.
An essential aim of the technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. A “pomodoro” is indivisible. When interrupted during a “pomodoro” either the other activity must be recorded and postponed (inform – negotiate – schedule – call back) or the “pomodoro” must be abandoned.
The creator and others encourage a low-tech approach using a mechanical timer, paper and pencil. The physical act of winding up the timer confirms the user’s determination to start the task; ticking externalises desire to complete the task; ringing announces a break. Flow and focus become associated with these physical stimuli.
The Pomodoro Technique is named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that was first used by technique creator Francesco Cirillo when he was a university student.