What is the pomodoro technique? The productivity method great for students and people with ADHD

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What is the pomodoro technique? The productivity method great for students and people with ADHD
If you feel overwhelmed with work or have trouble focusing, you should try the Pomodoro technique. Carol Yepes/Getty Images
  • The Pomodoro technique is a time management method meant to boost productivity and focus.
  • To do the Pomodoro technique, work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break, and then repeat.
  • Anyone can use the Pomodoro technique, but it may be especially beneficial for those with ADHD.

If you've ever sat down to work on a task and found yourself distracted mere moments later, you're not alone. Trouble concentrating is a common problem, and getting stuck in a cycle of distraction can leave you feeling overwhelmed by everything on your to-do list.

Fortunately, there are many productivity tips to combat a wandering mind, including the Pomodoro technique.

What is the Pomodoro technique?

The Pomodoro technique is a time management strategy designed to boost concentration by dividing tasks into small, manageable 25-minute chunks with breaks in-between.

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"The goal of this technique is to counteract boredom and distractibility while increasing efficiency," says Isaac P. Tourgeman, PhD, an assistant professor in the Psychology Doctoral Program at Albizu University. "For many, it may be quite challenging to engage in a task for an hour or two, but the premise of this technique is that most people can engage for 25 minutes."

How to do the Pomodoro technique

One of the appeals of the Pomodoro technique is that it is simple and only requires a timer. Here's how to do it:

  1. Choose what you are going to work on.
  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes, and work until it rings.
  3. Set the time for 5 minutes and take a break. Try getting up to stretch, reading a short article, or eating a snack.
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 4, for four intervals and then take a 15 to 30-minute break.
  5. Repeat the above steps until you've completed your work.

When practicing the Pomodoro technique, you can use a physical timer, the timer on your phone, or opt for a web or phone app to record your intervals.

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Does the Pomodoro technique work?

The Pomodoro technique's greatest strength is its simplicity and accessibility, says Rebecca Mannis, PhD, a Learning Specialist at Ivy Prep. You can use it anywhere for virtually any task - whether you're writing a book or just organizing your home. But as with any time management technique, Pomodoro will only work if you commit to using it.

"The technique is a tool to make the duration of activity less daunting, but one still has to do the work. It is not an excuse to not engage or make an early exit," Tourgeman says.

While the Pomodoro method can be used by anyone who feels overwhelmed with work or has trouble focusing on a task, it's flexibility makes it appealing to students, Mannis says.

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It may also be helpful for people with ADHD, since they have trouble focusing on lengthy tasks like long reading assignments or study sessions.

"By breaking down an activity, you are making a task more ADHD-friendly. Also, incorporating movement or motor activity [into break periods] highlights the intrinsic need to be physically active for someone with ADHD," Tourgeman says.

How to make the most out of each Pomodoro interval

  1. Be consistent: It may feel tempting to end a work session early or take an extended break, but consistency is key to making the most of the method.

    "Modifying the duration of task engagement or breaks can become a slippery slope where we may end up with all break or all work, both being not optimal," Tourgeman says.
  2. Turn off technology: When using the Pomodoro method, it's best to power down electronics that may be distracting, says Mannis.

    For example, if you find yourself tempted to use your phone while working, you might benefit from using a separate timer instead of the timer on your phone.
  3. Group together small tasks: Quick tasks that will take less than 25 minutes, like responding to an email, booking an appointment, or updating your calendar, can be grouped together into one Pomodoro interval.
  4. Mix up your break periods: Try meditating, eating a snack, walking around the room, doodling, catching up with a friend, or doing anything else that allows you to relax and disconnect.
  5. Be patient: "Learning to use a program is a learning process in and of itself, so don't expect huge changes right away," Mannis says. "Select a few tasks or a specific time of day when you will use it so that you can make use of Pomodoro in a gradual way."

Insider's takeaway

If you've ever felt overwhelmed by a project or lost in your to-do list, the Pomodoro method could make your tasks feel more manageable. It's simple to start and can be implemented throughout your day, helping you to train your brain and slowing the cycle of distraction and self-interruption through 25-minute work intervals.

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