The Pomodoro Technique

Issue 7, Volume 113

By Ryan Lin 

It’s Sunday night. There is a stack of untouched homework due the following day. This situation is all too common among students, whether they be high schoolers at Stuyvesant or college students. Though procrastination is often associated with pupils, those in the workforce can also have this harmful habit. So, how do we prevent this? To eliminate procrastination, many methods can be introduced into an individual’s daily life. One of these is the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, who was a university student at the time. The technique utilizes a combination of productive time blocks and short breaks. It consists of four sets of 25-minute work periods, known as pomodoros, which are separated by five-minute breaks. After completing the four sets of intensive work, the individual is rewarded with a longer rest time that ranges from 15 to 30 minutes. By combining this method with a to-do list, tasks can be organized by the amount of time they take to complete. For instance, an assignment that may take over four pomodoros can be divided into smaller chunks. Conversely, smaller tasks that can be completed in less than one pomodoro are combined with other short tasks.

The simplicity of this technique is what allows it to be successful in reducing procrastination. Though procrastination is often associated with laziness, it is human nature to avoid unpleasant tasks that create negative feelings. The Pomodoro Technique shrinks these daunting tasks into smaller, manageable steps. This creates an atmosphere that helps to focus on the task at hand, rather than stressing over the assignment’s deadline and procrastinating. The consistent scheduling of tasks leads to the smaller components being completed in a structure where the entire task is finished before one knows it.

In addition to the work periods, the short breaks between them are designed to keep a person’s attention focused on one task for 25 minutes straight. Alejandro Lleras, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, led a study that concluded that short breaks help keep one’s attention span on track. The addition of short breaks is especially beneficial as technology has become an integral part of our daily lives. With distractions constantly coming from our devices, such as notifications popping up on our smartphones from social media, having brief breaks can increase productivity. While the process seems counterintuitive, it helps individuals stay focused on the task in the long term. Working continuously on the same task without rest prompts cognitive boredom. As a result, the individual’s disengagement disrupts their workflow.

The short breaks between work go beyond helping an individual maintain focus through boring tasks; it provides motivation and a goal for the individual to achieve. The breaks act as incentives for a student to get through the 25 minutes of work. These 25 minutes are then uninterrupted and solely intended to get as much of a task done as possible before receiving the reward. Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist, and Dr. Larry D. Rosen, a psychologist, explain that the shorter the time between rewards, the stronger the motivation to complete the behavior. Therefore, the time allocated to each pomodoro and break is optimal for inducing a focused environment.

The Pomodoro Technique also discourages multitasking, a form of work that is often considered labor-saving. Multitasking is often more harmful than beneficial, as it can take a serious toll on an individual’s productivity. The human brain is not equipped for performing multiple tasks simultaneously, so while people feel like they are multitasking, they are actually often switching from one task to another. A study conducted by the University of California, Irvine showed that it took approximately 23 minutes and 15 seconds to completely refocus after switching tasks. The implementation of the Pomodoro Technique eliminates the need for someone to feel like they must multitask.

The workflow of the Pomodoro Technique is largely fueled by the self-reward system that is geared toward simple human nature. With distractions and procrastination kept in check, students and workers can feel confident in their ability to complete even the most complex tasks. As students become burnt out as the year progresses, the Pomodoro Technique provides a helpful solution. The extensive to-do lists on your notes app will be blank in no time. The next time you sit down to complete your homework or study for your tests, consider implementing the Pomodoro Technique to maximize efficiency and save time for leisure.