Pomodoro Technique / Life Hacker Article

Productivity 101: A Primer to The Pomodoro TechniqueThe Pomodoro Technique can help you power through distractions, hyper-focus, and get things done in short bursts, while taking frequent breaks to come up for air and relax. Best of all, it’s easy. If you have a busy job where you’re expected to produce, it’s a great way to get through your tasks. Let’s break it down and see how you can apply it to your work.

We’ve definitely discussed the Pomodoro Technique before. We gave a brief description of it a few years back, and highlighted its distraction-fighting, brain training benefits around the same time. You even voted it your favorite productivity method . However, we’ve never done a deep dive into how it works and how to get started with it. So let’s do that now.

What Is the Pomodoro Technique?


The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the early 90s by developer, entrepeneur, and author Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo named the system “Pomodoro” after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student. The methodology is simple: When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly-refilling inboxes. With time it can even help improve your attention span and concentration .

Pomodoro is a cyclical system. You work in short sprints , which makes sure you’re consistently productive. You also get to take regular breaks that bolster your motivation and keep you creative.

How the Pomodoro Technique Works

Productivity 101: A Primer to The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is probably one of the simplest productivity methods to implement. All you’ll need is a timer. Beyond that, there are no special apps, books, or tools required. Cirillo’s book, The Pomodoro Technique, is a helpful read, but Cirillo himself doesn’t hide the core of the method behind a purchase. Here’s how to get started with Pomodoro, in five steps:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished.
  2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
  5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

That “longer break” is usually on the order of 15-30 minutes, whatever it takes to make you feel recharged and ready to start another 25-minute work session. Repeat that process a few times over the course of a workday, and you actually get a lot accomplished—and took plenty of breaks to grab a cup of coffee or refill your water bottle in the process.

It’s important to note that a pomodoro is an indivisible unit of work—that means if you’re distracted part-way by a coworker, meeting, or emergency, you either have to end the pomodoro there (saving your work and starting a new one later), or you have to postpone the distraction until the pomodoro is complete. If you can do the latter, Cirillo suggests the “inform, negotiate, and call back” strategy:

  1. Inform the other (distracting) party that you’re working on something right now.
  2. Negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue in a timely manner.
  3. Schedule that follow-up immediately.
  4. Call back the other party when your pomodoro is complete and you’re ready to tackle their issue.

Of course, not every distraction is that simple, and some things demand immediate attention—but not every distraction does. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to tell your coworker “I’m in the middle of something right now, but can I get back to you in….ten minutes?” Doing so doesn’t just keep you in the groove, it also gives you control over your workday.

How to Get Started with the Pomodoro Technique

Productivity 101: A Primer to The Pomodoro Technique

Since a timer is the only essential Pomodoro tool, you can get started with any phone with a timer app, a countdown clock, or even a plain old egg timer. Cirillo himself prefers a manual timer, and says winding one up “confirms your determination to work.” Even so, we’ve highlighted a number of Pomodoro apps that offer more features than a simple timer offers. Here are a few to consider:

  • Marinara Timer (Web) is a webapp we’ve highlighted before that you can keep open in a pinned tab. You can select your timer alerts so you know when to take a break, or reconfigure the work times and break times to suit you. It’s remarkably flexible, and you don’t have to install anything.
  • Tomighty (Win/Mac/Linux) is a cross-platform desktop Pomodoro timerthat you can fire and forget, following the traditional Pomodoro rules, or use to customize your own work and break periods.
  • Pomodorable (OS X) is a combination Pomodoro timer and to-do app. It offers more visual cues when your tasks are complete and what you have coming up next, and it integrates nicely with OS X’s Reminders app. Plus, you can estimate how many pomodoros you’ll need to complete a task, and then track your progress.
  • Simple Pomodoro (Android) is a free, open-source timer with a minimal aesthetic. Tap to start the timer and get to work, and take your breaks when your phone’s alarm goes off. You can’t do a lot of tweaking to the work and break periods, but you get notifications when to take your breaks and when to go back to work, and you can go back over your day to see how many Pomodoros you’ve accomplished over the day. It even integrates with Google Tasks.
  • Focus Timer (iOS) used to be calledPomodoroPro , and is a pretty feature-rich timer for iPhone and iPad. You can customize work and break durations, review your work history to see how your focus is improving, easily see how much time is left in your work session, and the app even offers a star-based rating system to keep you motivated. You can even customize the sounds, and hear the clock ticking when you lock your phone so you stay on task.

These are just a few good tools to choose from. Don’t hesitate to experiment with others, but remember, the focus of the Pomodoro Technique is on the work, not the timer you use. If you would like an actual tomato timer like Cirillo uses, this one is available for $7 at Amazon. Alternatively, you can buy a tomato timer and a copy of the book together from him directly. If you want Kindle or ePub versions of the book, grab them directly from Cirillo’s store as well.

Is the joy of tidying up real?

Great article – for all of my colleagues and friends who have asked me about this book – this is exactly what I would have shared with you.#‎onesizeorstyledoesnotfitall‬

Is Organizing Like Marie Kondo Right for You?

9 September 2015 by 

If you’re into organization you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo. Her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” talks about decluttering and really doing so in a cold-turkey sort of way.

According to the New York TimesMs. Kondo’s decluttering theories are unique, and can be reduced to two basic tenets: Discard everything that does not “spark joy,” after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service; and do not buy organizing equipment — your home already has all the storage you need.

So we decided to hear the pros and cons of Kondo’s theory from the mouths of three professional organizers.

Let’s start with Shelly Collins who is the founder of Clutter Contained, LLC and a professional organizer.

Collins on Kondo’s Recommendations

All at Once Doesn’t Work for Everyone

“Tidying everything at once is often not possible for many of my clients. They are busy professionals with families to tend to, and it is necessary that we plan their projects so that we can organize over time while making sure their spaces remain functional between our sessions,” shares Collins.

Collins adds that if her clients do decide to tackle everything at once, they often end up overwhelmed and “burnt out” before completing a project.

Going Paperless

Kondo also suggests going paperless and although this can be something extremely beneficial, a lot of people still like hard copies of documents, not to mention have hundreds of “papers” already filed away which could require a deep organizing before parting ways. The decision requires an online management system as well as a process to make sure everything is accounted for.

“For clients dealing with a large amount of paper due to their industry or financial situation it is simply faster to use a paper system. Some clients also have a tactile preference for physical paper over electronic copies and find it very difficult to work with a completely paperless system,” says Collins.

The Joy Factor

keep or tossKondo suggests that an item that sparks joy is one to keep and if it doesn’t, you can toss it. Collins has a different view on the subject.

“While loving an item (or having it “spark joy”) is a good measure for whether to keep or part with an item, it is not the only measure. Many functional items may not spark joy. Instead, I like to ask my clients: Do you use it? Do you love it? If the answer is yes to both it is something that should be kept…There are also clients who do not respond to emotional language at all when it comes to their belongings. For these clients, it is important to work together to understand how they can best make decisions about what to keep and what to part with,” explains Collins.

Another perspective comes from Author and Speaker, Janice Holly Booth. She tells us she’s in the process of testing some of Kondo’s theories as well as other expert suggestions for organizing, and shares some of her thoughts on the methods.

What Works According to Booth

Booth says that Kondo recommends the following actions and she believes they can work:

-Putting everything from the same category (coats, dresses, etc.) in one area so you can see how much–and what you have.

“When I did my pantry (a very small category) I was shocked at the unnecessary excess. If that’s not an incentive to purge, I don’t know what is,” says Booth.

-The “roll and store” method is surprisingly effective for keeping items from being buried and forgotten. You can also see exactly what you have at any given moment. That’s also an incentive to avoid shopping trips,” shares Booth.

Rolling things like sushi rolls can help you identify what you have and have visibility of it all at one particular time, according to Kondo.

What Doesn’t Work According to Booth

-Going Paperless: We talked about this previously and now we share another opinion on the theory.

“Kondo suggests we get rid of ALL paper, especially the magazines or books or articles we plan on reading ‘some day.’ Well, as a writer, I have to keep papers around. Scanning them isn’t really an option. When I am researching for a new book, I’ll typically have boxes and boxes of papers, letters, court transcripts, newspaper clippings, etc.,” says Booth.

And she seems to agree with Collins about the “sparking joy” perspective that Kondo suggests.

“Not everything ‘sparks joy,’ yet we must keep it/them. I have a horse and my barn clothes– while very serviceable, do not spark joy but I’m not about to get rid of my mud boots or the big, insulated (and kind of ugly) jacket that keeps me toasty on rides during the winter,” says Booth.

“She also eschews storage solutions, but I need them and they work for me. They actually don’t encourage me to keep more stuff; they make it possible for me to do my work more efficiently,” adds Booth.

Why Kondo Has “The Magic Touch”

Hazel Thornton from Organized For Life shares with us the fact that much of what Kondo says in her book is not that different from what American organizers have been saying for years, however; she has “a magical way of saying it.”

36589580_lThornton Breaks it Down

“Keeping only things that “spark joy” is just another way of saying, ‘Do you love it? Use it? Need to keep it?’ or, ‘Do you know it to be useful, or believe it to be beautiful?’…I approve of whatever phrases work to make you stop and think about your stuff. How much of it do you really need to keep? How much is standing in the way of living the life you really want to be living?” says Thornton.

She also says that she loves Kondo’s book title because it keeps that magic feel going.

“’Tidying up’ certainly sounds easier than ‘organizing,’ doesn’t it? Well, that’s because once you’ve sorted, purged, assigned homes, containerized, and created a system for maintaining order it is so much easier to tidy up!” says Thornton. “It really is life-changing and magical! And any NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) member can help you do it,” says Thornton.

Thornton’s Criticisms:

Thornton says that while she agrees with much of the “KonMari Method,” she has two main citicisms:

  1. It’s her way or the highway:

“I, too, think that a decluttering blitz is the best way to show quick results and create momentum in what can seem to be an overwhelming project. But that simply doesn’t work for everyone. My clients vary widely in terms of their personalities, project goals, what “organized” means to them, available time, ability to make decisions, physical stamina, and ability to pay for multiple sessions. If professional organizers can’t adapt their methods to accommodate their clients, then many people in need of help will fall by the wayside,” says Thornton.

  1. No Failure:

“I am skeptical of Kondo’s claim that no one who has followed her methods has ever backslid. I’d like to know how many did not stick with her through the entire process and therefore are not included in the “no backsliding” claim. New habits (of any sort) are rarely established overnight with no backsliding at all,” saya Thornton.

Thornton adds that she hopes those who read the book and try to implement Kondo’s methods don’t let any “failures” allow them to get discouraged. She says that even “one step back plus two steps forward equal progress!”

To close, we know that there are many, many organizing resources out there and we’re happy many people are positively impacted by some– or all of them but, take what works for you and don’t worry about what doesn’t. The important thing is that you accomplish what you set out to do.

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