You’ve been hearing about study blogs raving about this “Pomodoro Technique” and how to do it.
Well, I’ve been experimenting on this productivity technique in the last 2 years, and I’ve almost never gone back to untimed work again.
So, does the Pomodoro Technique work?
The Pomodoro Technique works because it allows you to perform cognitively demanding tasks at a faster rate compared to untimed work—all while preventing burnout. All it takes is to cycle 25 minutes of undistracted work and 5 minutes of break.
In this post, you’ll learn why this is the case, along with some tips to make it work EVEN better.
Let’s dive right in.
What is Pomodoro Technique?
For those who are unfamiliar, the Pomodoro Technique is a productivity method that prevents burnout, maximizes your working efficiency, and allows you to work without distractions.
Francesco Cirillo, the inventor of the Pomodoro Technique, states that it teaches you to work with time, instead of struggling against its pressure.
How the Pomodoro Technique Works: Deep Work, Parkinson’s Law, and the Law of Diminishing Returns
Because the Pomodoro Technique relies on distraction-less nature of work, it allows you to access the full power of your cognitive abilities, finish tasks faster, and prevent burnouts.
Talk about wins!
Unlock your Brain’s Full Potential: Deep Work
Nowadays, you’ll often see people working while basically drowning in distractions—notifications, emails, and low-value chatter.
The type of work done in this fashion is usually easy to replicate and has less value—which Cal Newport calls Shallow Work.
As stated by Cal Newport in his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, the intense amount of focus (which we acquire once we use the Pomodoro Technique) is substantial in creating rare, and valuable type of work not usually done in this world full of distraction—which he calls Deep Work.
When we work in a distraction-free environment, our brain’s full attention and cognitive power are given to the current task; this frees up some brain space and allows you to have more ideas, understand better what you’re trying to learn, and learn a skill better.
Put simply, the Pomodoro Technique allows you to perform Deep Work, the superpower of the 21st century.
Finish Tasks Faster: Parkinson’s Law
Another thing is that the soft deadline that we use in Pomodoro Technique also works in our favor by virtue of the Parkinson’s Law, which states that:
“Work expands as to fill up the time needed for its completion.”
Which basically means the shorter the time you actually have to finish a task, the faster you’ll theoretically work towards completing it.
I say theoretically because there’s a tendency that you’ll be distracted by other possible tasks along the way.
Luckily, we have a solution for that—the DEP method (more on this later).
Perhaps this “ability” to work faster is brought by the intensity of focus that you gain when using the method, or perhaps the limited time creates the illusion that “there’s no time to focus on other things”.
Either way, by using the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll be surprised how you’re able to finish tasks faster than ever before.
NOTE: This isn’t the same as having REAL deadlines, though—you want to be more proactive than that.
Using higher-stake deadlines may allow you to work faster than a horse, but there’s a higher chance that you’ll make more mistakes and worse, repeat working on the same thing with even more pressure.
Instantly Gain Maximum Efficiency: The Law of Diminishing Returns
Have you ever wondered why some people can study less but get higher grades?
Have you ever thought of what entrepreneurs do to increase their income while reducing their work hours?
The answer is they work smart. They’re all about maximum efficiency.
You have to realize that MORE input does not necessarily mean MORE output; there is a fine line between the two.
As what I’ve learned in the book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by George McKeown, we have to understand that we can do so much LESS but accomplish so much MORE.
Does the Pomodoro Technique Work on _____?
The Pomodoro Technique is best used when doing any type of focused work.
Tasks that are especially skill-based or learning-based reap the most benefits from the Pomodoro Technique.
However, there are arguments on the topic of focusing itself on whether it’s good for creative thinking or not. (See: Adam Grant’s TED Talk on Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers)
In my opinion, it’s still good to use it for learning some materials that are relevant for your creative work.
With that out of the way, here are the things that I’ve found the most effective use of Pomodoro Technique on:
#1. Reading books faster
I’ve found the Pomodoro most effective when used while reading textbooks.
It can be used for reading personal development books as well (just like what I’m doing), and I find it really easy to finish a book when you’re focusing intently on it.
For fiction…no, not for fiction.
#2. Practicing Skills: Solving Math, Playing Music, Programming, etc.
Skill building is all about building myelin, an insulating sheath that makes neurons fire more efficiently.
The secret to building myelin faster? Focused, deliberate practice.
According to Cal Newport in his book Deep Work, to be good at something is to be well-myelinated.
When researching or writing, sometimes it is troublesome to find highly interesting articles that are only remotely relevant to our topic.
By using the Pomodoro Technique, we become more mindful of this distracted behavior so we can do research/writing ONLY on those important at the moment.
BONUS #1: The Best Tools for Pomodoro Technique
An effective technique can be further improved by using more effective tools.
I’ve been using these tools for about 2 years now, and I only liked them even better the more I use them.
#1. In-ear Earphones/Noise Cancelling Headphones + Forest/Tide (Android/iOS)
In-ear Earphones are one of the best things you could buy to improve your studying.
Ambient noise isn’t anymore a problem, plus it sets a habitual trigger for “Let’s get started” once you put them on.
You can never go wrong with these as long as your earphones can reduce the amount of noise you hear in your work area.
If you have the money, I’d go for some Noise-Cancelling Headphones for a better experience.
When I put my earphones on, I make sure that I use Pomodoro apps like Forest or Tide along with it.
I like Forest better because it “game-ifies” your Pomodoro experience; for each Pomodoro session you complete, you plant a single tree in your Forest.
It also has an option for background music—Rain, Forest, Café, etc. for those who doesn’t want dull work sessions like myself. (I prefer piano music, though)
It’s oddly satisfying to see a whole bunch of trees when you start piling up some Pomodoro Sessions. Here’s mine:
When I want to work continuously, I use Tide (available on both Play Store and App Store).
It has a Work Mode option to make your Work-Break cycles automatic. Similarly, it has some good, chill background music as well.
#2. The DEP Method: Distraction-Externalization-Procrastination
Externalizing distractions is the cornerstone of becoming more present in your work.
To do this, you follow these easy steps:
- Get a piece of paper or open a notepad app
- Every time you THINK of something that’s NOT the current task, write it down
- Then tell yourself: “I’ll check it out later”
Here’s an example, from Thomas Frank of College Info Geek:
Basically, when you think of something else unrelated to the task (Distraction), you write it down (Externalization), and tell yourself to put it off for later (Procrastination).
This is what I call Productive Procrastination.
In the book, Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy, he stated that everyone procrastinates on something; but you should do this on your Posteriorities (which he calls the opposite of Priorities), and avoid it at all costs on your most valuable tasks.
As I’ve said a couple of times in my posts, your brain is meant for having ideas, not for holding them.
So, make sure to always incorporate the DEP method into your Pomodoro sessions!
BONUS #2: The RIGHT Way to Take Pomodoro Breaks
When taking breaks, make sure that you’re actually doing something that’s NOT focused work.
This is your brain’s chance to enter the diffuse mode of thinking: a relaxed state of MAXIMUM creativity.
To enter the diffuse mode, here are some of the best things you can do:
- Take a walk
- Sleeping or Napping
- Take a Bath
Basically, anything that either allows your mind to wander, or allows it to rest.
You can learn more about the diffuse mode of thinking from the learning expert
However, I would advise against using social media, because they are engineered (by using behavioral psychology) to make people use them more.
Because of this, they instantly become detrimental to your attention and hence, productivity.
Now I want you to answer this question: Does the Pomodoro Technique work?
What part of this post convinced you the most?
Tell us more about it in the comment section! 😊
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