This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you purchase through a link on my site, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Using a pomodoro productivity timer helps you get more done by allowing you to focus on important tasks for short periods. Built in breaks take away the overwhelm.
Procrastination and Resistance
I’ll never forget how hard it was to work on my dissertation. I had before me an 80+ page paper to write on a relatively boring topic. It was the last step I had to take in order to graduate with my doctorate and it felt like the Grand Canyon. Prior to discovering the pomodoro productivity timer, I was in real danger of never completing it.
Although I even took a year off to complete it, I had a heck of a time getting myself to work on it.
I spent a lot of that time becoming a master at Minesweeper rather than working on my dissertation. (Have you ever played that game? It can be pretty addicting!)
I’d sit down at the computer and end up turning on the game. Talk about time loss!
Something had to give.
This is when I learned about the Pomodoro method (developed by Francesco Cirillo). I didn’t know what it was called or any science behind it, but I decided to give it a try because it sounded easy.
Pomodoro Productivity Timer
So what exactly is the pomodoro method and how do you use a pomodoro productivity timer? Here’s a video describing the method:
It’s actually pretty simple. You set a timer for a specified period of time, usually around 25 minutes and commit to focused work during that period of time. When the time is up, you reward yourself with a short break, usually 5 minutes.
A pomodoro productivity timer is just a timer that counts down a time you select. You could even use your phone or Amazon Echo. (I use the Echo all the time for cooking, so why not this?)
Let me break this down:
- Pick a task to work on (you don’t want to spend the whole time making the decision about what to work on).
- Set your pomodoro productivity timer for 25 minutes. Or just say “Alexa, set a timer for 25 minutes!”
- Once the timer is started, work on your task for the 25 minutes. Stay focused and do not allow yourself to be distracted during this time. No phones! No Facebook! No Minesweeper if that’s still a thing!
- Once your timer goes off, take a five minute break. Get up, walk around, look at Facebook…whatever.
- Restart the timer and do another 25 minute session followed by a five minute break.
- Once you do four sessions, take a longer break: somewhere between fifteen and thirty minutes.
I’ve seen people do 45 minute pomodoro sessions as well with 15 minute breaks. Do whatever works for you. I suggest starting off with the 25 minute sessions and then working your way up if you desire.
(Funny story: when I was using this in grad school, I would have a 25 minute session of productivity followed by crazy long breaks of four hours or so. I didn’t get a ton done, but it was an improvement haha. I didn’t know you were supposed to time your breaks too).
Free Pomodoro Productivity Timers Online
There are several pomodoro productivity timers online that you can use for free. Here are a couple I found that look pretty useful:
Tracking Your Progress
It can be helpful to track your sessions to show your progress over time. That is exactly what the Mastery Journal does. I like using this journal for pomodoro sessions, though I find it a little limiting because there are only four sessions in the journal per day. If using 25 minute sessions, this would only be two hours of work.
That said, the Mastery Journal helps you to rate your productivity and discipline over time and focus on one task until completion in a ninety day time frame. I recommend trying it out. It will help you learn how to use the method consistently to reach your goals. You can buy it on Amazon here.
You can also download my free pomodoro worksheet by signing up for my resource library below.
Benefits of Breaks
When working on my blog I sometimes have a hard time justifying to myself that I need breaks. I find myself saying that I don’t have much time so must use all of it to focus on getting things done.
I’m sure you’ve thought the same thing! “I don’t need no breaks!!!”
The problem is, most of the time I’m not doing useful things when I am working straight through. I get lost in Facebook groups or spend a ton of time doing busy work rather than writing content or doing things I need to do.
If I were to use this scenario with something else like cleaning the house, something similar would happen. I’d be “cleaning the house” but end up distracted by playing with my dogs or something.
When you schedule in breaks, you’re more likely be be able to maintain your focus for the work time and then do the distractors during the break time.
The reason you need breaks is because it gives you some fresh perspective. When you leave the task and focus on something else, your brain continues to process what you were working on but you are focused on something else. This can be so freeing because rather than focusing on what is right in front of you, it allows space for your mind to be creative.
According to an article in Psychology Today, breaks have these benefits:
- Reduce decision fatigue
- Decision fatigue comes when we have to make a lot of decisions in our work. When we are constantly thinking about what to do next, it is exhausting.
- Improve emotional and physical health
- A break can help you to restart your motivation for long projects (such as a giant boring paper).
- Breaks increase creativity and productivity. I know this sounds counterintuitive since it feels like if you keep working without breaks it feels like you would get more done, but regular breaks help reduce stress and tiredness.
- Breaks improve the formation of memory. Since your brain continues to process the material you were focused on, it tends to review what you’ve done and to remember it better. Think about it this way: when you step away and aren’t focused in the moment, you leave space for creativity.
There are times when you might want to skip a break. For instance, if you are “in flow” and really getting things done, you may wish to stay on task.
Dealing With Distractions
The key to success with the pomodoro method is the commitment to focused work. During the 25 minutes, you do not look at your phone or at social media. You limit distractions as much as possible. See my post here on how to limit distractions to get more things done.
Sometimes others’ don’t cooperate. Or maybe something happens that needs your attention. What do you do in those situations?
My recommendation is to stop your timer and restart from the beginning when you are able to have a more focused session. I don’t think it is that useful to stop it at ten minutes to deal with something and then restart for the next fifteen minutes. I think you need the full twenty five minutes to really get some momentum going on your task.
You can certainly try out different time periods because shorter ones may work for you.
When you’re ready to try out this method to increase your productivity, sign up for my resource library where you can download my pomodoro productivity worksheet. Let me know how you like it. Did you find this method helped you increase your productivity? Leave me a comment below or come join me in the new Facebook group.
If you’re interested in productivity, here are some related productivity posts:
Hi there, I’m Marlena. I am the owner of A Pen and A Purpose and I help people to get past fears and limiting beliefs to live a live they love. As a psychologist, I’ve worked with several people to help them reach their goals around health, business, and personal development. I’m happy you stopped by.