How to Increase Productivity with the Pomodoro Technique

Career Development

Tick, tick, tick, tick. The metronome ticking of my “focus keeper” app sounds in my ears.

Despite this entire essay being about unlocking productivity, I’ve been looking for excuses not to write it.

It’s not that I have difficulty with focusing. I’ve been working in a bustling open studio for years (and hip advertising offices with little to no privacy before). I’ve been a contractor for five years, and at times, work from home, mere feet away from three very loud children.

Focus isn’t my problem.

Where I do run into trouble is with accomplishing one significant task, as opposed to a myriad of smaller, yet still substantial, to-do items.

What led me to the Pomodoro Technique was research and participation in developing the Wit & Delight line of productivity tools and planners (available now!). I’m not sure what you discuss at your office, but around here, we are swapping strategies and techniques on how to get shit done both efficiently and on time.

In doing a bit of research on how to get more done with less time, I came across the Pomodoro Technique. Knowing just a teensy bit of Italian, I was instantly intrigued at how a tomato could unlock my focus and increase productivity.

Not a fad diet, nor harnessing the power of lutein, the Pomodoro Technique was named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer of Francesco Cirillo, the developer of the method.

It’s time blocking, with a much more colorful name. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and in those 25 minutes, focus on ONE THING. No multitasking. No coffee break. No scrolling through Instagram. Just concentrate on the singular task at hand.

The brass tacks definition? It’s time blocking, with a much more colorful name. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and in those 25 minutes, focus on ONE THING. No multitasking. No coffee break. No scrolling through Instagram. Just concentrate on the singular task at hand.

After 25 minutes of pure, unadulterated focus, you get a 5-minute break. Scroll, text, grab another cup of coffee because, after that 5, it’s go time again.

Repeat.

That’s it.

No brainer, right?

It was much harder than I thought. As someone who juggles a variety of tasks on the reg, focusing on just one was tougher than I imagined. My mind wandered, and one task led to another item I had to add to my to-do list. Rather than writing the less critical duty down, I’d do it immediately, and lose steam on whatever main task I should have been focusing on. With this technique, I had to retrain my thinking after years of multitasking, rushing through assignments, and getting things done RIGHT NOW to fully focus on one main task in each sitting.

Here’s how I practice the Pomodoro Technique:

I start the morning by writing out my to-do list for the day (this part is not timed!). I then organize my list into chronological order of priority. Knowing I’m much more productive in the morning, I schedule the tasks I’ve been putting off first, so I can spend my afternoons doing more manageable tasks, like responding to emails or reviewing analytics.

Once I’ve turned on my SAD light and have a cup of coffee in hand, I dive into the first couple of 25-minute blocks. It looks something like this:

  • 25-minute block: Content development.
  • 5-minute break: Coffee break.
  • 25-minute block: Project Management
  • 5-minute break: Coffee & text break.
  • 25-minute block: Account management.
  • 5-minute break: Bathroom break.

I continue this pattern of focusing on one task until the ding and then treat myself to five minutes of Insta scrolling or texting guilt-free, knowing that I’ve completed (or mostly completed) a task.

If you are a multitasker (and really, who isn’t?), this method does take some getting used to. I’ve found it helpful to turn off notifications and hide my phone as not to cause distractions. Obviously, this method might not work in all professional settings—customer service (“I’m on my 5-minute break, I’ll be with you in a sec.”) or meetings (Sorry client, the timer went off, I’m going to put you on mute so I can select the perfect GIF for this group text.) might not be the best outlet for this technique.

By following the Pomodoro Technique, I have been able to get more done in the same amount of time, without feeling the same exhaustion at the end of the day.

I’d love to hear if you’ve tried this technique before, or what works for you to stay focused.

Want to increase your productivity? Download our free time tracking worksheet (pictured below) to help you stay focused on the task at hand!

BY Bridgette Dutkowski - January 30, 2020

9 Comments  +

add a comment

  1. Kirsten Dutkowski

    January 30th, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    Great article. Always knew my sister is a genius!

  2. Ashley

    February 2nd, 2020 at 7:33 am

    I’ve never heard of this technique before, but I’m definitely going to try it this week. It seems so simple, and I hope I’ll see an increase in my productivity. 🙂

    Make Life Marvelous

  3. Bridgette Dutkowski

    February 3rd, 2020 at 10:23 am

    Thanks, Kirsten! Glad you *finally* realize my genius.

  4. Bridgette Dutkowski

    February 3rd, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Ashley – it’s SO SIMPLE! That’s why I was concerned it wouldn’t work. Let me know how it goes for you.

  5. GJ

    February 3rd, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    I’ve been using this worksheet Friday and today and it’s been a game changer! Getting so many things done that I’ve put off because I was multi-tasking and they’d fall to the end of the day. I’d love to see this worksheet as a tablet sold in the shop!

  6. Joan

    February 7th, 2020 at 11:40 am

    My first MacBook had a Pomodoro Timer app that I used in college, I found it so helpful at the time but I’d completely forgotten about it until now! Thank you so much for posting, I just downloaded the task sheet and I’m super excited to get back to being creative and productive.

  7. Bridgette Dutkowski

    February 11th, 2020 at 12:23 pm

    GJ – I’m thrilled to hear that it is working for you. I was strict with using it when I first started, and well…things fell apart.
    I started using the method when I was tasked to write this essay, and I’ve found myself even more productive since.

    RE: sold in the shop…we are working on it!

  8. Bridgette Dutkowski

    February 11th, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    Joan – I hadn’t heard about this method before trying it out about six months ago. I’ve been so conditioned to multi-task that it was incredibly foreign to me to just focus on one thing.
    I’m glad you were able to rediscover this method!

  9. www.floorrefinishingatlanta.com/

    February 17th, 2020 at 12:14 am

    Choose a task.
    Set your timer to 25 minutes.
    Work on the task until the timer rings.
    Take a 5 minute break.

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