We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Does the Pomodoro Technique Really Work?

A young woman wearing glasses peeling a sticky note and sitting with a computer and notebook

At some point, even the most focused workers can find themselves struggling with productivity. If this sounds like you, then trying the popular “Pomodoro Technique” just might be the solution you need.

There are a ton of productivity tips and hacks out there, but the Pomodoro Technique is one of the most widespread, well-known, and straightforward. It’s a simple process that takes advantage of how the human brain works to help you tackle any task at hand. Here’s everything you need to ramp up your productivity while ramping down your stress.

What Is the Pomodoro Technique?

A tomato-shaped timer; a hand writing in a black notebook

Originally developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique is a productivity method built on the idea of dividing tasks into more manageable segments. Inspired by the tomato (“pomodoro” in Italian) timer he used to set his schedule, the Pomodoro Technique alternates between segments of uninterrupted productivity and shorter “rest” periods.

Follow these steps to try the Pomodoro Method for yourself:

  1. Choose one specific task from your to-do list.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and focus on your task without distraction until the timer rings. This segment of time is called a “pomodoro.”
  3. When the timer rings, take a 5 minute break.
  4. Repeat until you have completed four pomodoros.
  5. After the fourth pomodoro, instead of a 5 minute break, take a longer break of 20 to 30 minutes.
  6. Repeat Steps 2-5 until you’re done.

Yueton Rotating Tomato Shape Timer

A "pomodoro" timer for the Pomodoro Technique.

In other words, the technique simply asks you to sit down at your desk, pick something, and focus only on it, with the understanding that you’ll get a break pretty soon.

Along with the basic process, the Pomodoro Technique includes other corollaries and rules, such as:

  • A pomodoro cannot be shortened or stopped. Once the timer is set, you must complete it.
  • If you have multiple tiny tasks, you can group them into a single pomodoro.
  • If you finish a task before its allotted pomodoro is over, use the remaining time to review it and make any small changes or improvements.
  • You can use a specially-designed app to track your pomodoros, but the recommended method is just tracking it with pen and paper.

AISBUGUR Pocket Notebook

Keep a mini notebook handy for tracking your time.

How Effective Is the Pomodoro Technique?

A woman wearing glasses looks at a paper while talking on the phone

As you might guess by its popularity, the Pomodoro Technique is highly effective. Its biggest benefit is how it tackles the root of procrastination and unproductivity: feeling overwhelmed by the sheer scope of what needs to be done.

It’s easy to just put something off that feels too big or intimidating to tackle. That’s one of the things that makes the Pomodoro Technique so effective. Instead of demanding that you simply “get on with it” and dive into the deep end, it makes things feel more doable by breaking things down into smaller, more manageable pieces. By doing so, it also encourages you to give each piece the attention it needs individually, rather than speeding through to get to the next one, so the quality of your work is likely to be higher, too.

The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work

Learn all the ins and outs of the Pomodoro Technique with Francesco Cirillo’s original book.

One of the other key components to the Pomodoro Technique is its strict elimination of distractions. The technique requires each “pomodoro” of productive time to be solely dedicated to the task at hand—no justifying distractions allowed. Distractions come from both external and internal sources, and it is important to take “brain breaks” in order to refresh and recharge. By building short breaks into the system, the Pomodoro Technique balances both needs, allowing users to focus for a dedicated period while knowing that they don’t have to wait hours and hours before they can take a little break.

Those little breaks, in fact, are critical to the technique’s success. One 2011 study in the science journal Cognition revealed the value of short breaks or diversions for long-term focus. We’ve all experienced that moment when we’re knee-deep in a task and we just zone out from just having too much information. Short, regular breaks keep the mind sharp and focused—and with a break just around the corner at every turn, there’s no real need to get distracted, either.

How to Use the Pomodoro Technique in Your Life

A productivity timer next to a notebook on a white desk surface

The Pomodoro Technique is simple and straightforward enough that it can be used in any aspect of your life that needs a little boost.

For students who are struggling with their homework load, the Pomodoro Technique can help streamline studying. Rather than trying to tackle what feels like an overwhelming amount of homework assignments, essays, projects, and exams to study for, students using the technique can break down their studying into more manageable chunks. We’ve all been told, time and time again, that “cramming” for tests doesn’t work and can actually lead to forgetting information when you need it the most.

Home & Office Timer with Clock

Bite-sized segements of time are built in to this productivity timer.

The Pomodoro Technique offers an alternative, helping students learn the skills they need to tackle their to-do lists for school and for the future. Each individual assignment, project, or study session can be broken down into pomodoros, which encourage dedicated, focused effort along with much-needed regular breaks.

Similarly, working professionals can use the technique to tackle tasks for their jobs. The Pomodoro Technique is especially good for work-from-home professionals, who may find themselves with more flexible schedules, but also in need of a little more structure and motivation to replace the office environment. Instead of procrastinating by reading the news or checking emails over and over, use this technique to make your workdays productive in a positive way.

ScribeTime Goods To Do List Notepad

Make your to-do list here, then tackle it with the Pomodoro Technique.

Working at home isn’t the only at-home task that the Pomodoro Technique can help with, either. Even getting through those pesky household chores is easier with a productivity method like this. Pick a task or a room to start with, set your timer, and get to work. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done when you set yourself some uninterrupted work time—and getting chores over with faster means more time for the things you really want to do.

When your productivity needs a boost, the Pomodoro Technique can transform your life. Combine it with a few helpful productivity tools, and your to-do list will be done in no time!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?