Manage Stress with the Pomodoro Technique

It’s hard to focus when you’re feeling stressed, and it’s easy to feel stressed when you can’t focus and the work starts piling up. What can you do to break free of this vicious cycle? Is there a better way to handle a stressful workload, learn how to increase productivity, and stop procrastinating? Meet the Pomodoro technique, a productivity hack that can help you stop procrastinating!

What is the Pomodoro technique?

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method developed by a stressed-out student, Francesco Cirillo, in the late 1980s. Cirillo devised the technique while studying for upcoming exams, using nothing but tenacity and a basic tomato-shaped kitchen timer (hence the name, Pomodoro). Cirillo realized that forcing himself to sit at his desk hour after hour wasn’t helping him study. His focus wavered. He wasn’t learning effectively. And he found it hard to remember what he had just learned. Shaking things up, Cirillo set his kitchen timer for 10 minutes and worked solidly until the timer went off. He then rewarded himself with a break, before setting the timer for another 10-minute study-session. Even with the break time, Cirillo found that he accomplished more. Over time, Cirillo refined the technique. Eventually, he settled on the following:

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes (each session is called a “Pomodoro”)
  • Work solidly until the timer goes off
  • Take a break of five minutes
  • Set the Pomodoro technique timer again for 25 minutes
  • Work solidly until the timer goes off
  • Repeat until you have completed four consecutive Pomodoros
  • Take a longer 15- to 20-minute break

Why is the Pomodoro technique so effective?

Working according to the Pomodoro technique is sometimes referred to as practising “spaced repetitions” and has been shown to support better productivity and greater learning ability. Not only does the Pomodoro technique timer enhance your ability to get things done, it’s also a great way to avoid sitting for hours at a time. Research has shown that such sedentary behaviour is a major health risk. Getting up for lunch, or to go get coffee can help, but taking regular breaks, where you move around after every “Pomodoro” is even better.

How to handle distractions during a Pomodoro

The Pomodoro technique can also help you beat procrastination. If you’re distracted by a thought during a session, simply make a note of it and then get back to work, safe in the knowledge that you can address the thought more fully at the end of the 25 minutes. As you practise the technique, you’ll find that your ability to focus, and your productivity will improve during each session. What happens if you get pulled away from work during a Pomodoro? Cirillo suggests an “inform, negotiate, and call backˮ technique, that is to let the person who is distracting you know that you’re working on something right now, then negotiate a time to talk later, say in ten minutes. This will help you feel more in control of your day and has the bonus of letting your colleagues know you respect their time while helping them to respect yours. If you absolutely must stop what you’re doing, to address an emergency for instance, you’ll need to end your Pomodoro and begin another session later.

More benefits of the Pomodoro technique

Cutting down big tasks into 25-minute sessions can also make daunting projects feel more manageable. And, the fixed time limit means you’re less likely to skip lunch, sleep, or have social interaction and physical activity, all of which are essential for effective stress management. Best of all, the Pomodoro technique is free! You can use a regular kitchen timer or download one of the many apps available for your browser or smartphone. Some apps even have built-in trackers, so you can see when you’re most productive and when to reward yourself with a longer break.

Which Pomodoro app should you use, if any?

The Marinara Timer is a browser-based app with lots of flexibility and nothing to install. Tomighty is a desktop timer that works with Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems, and is easily customized to suit your schedule.

For Android, you might want to consider installing the free, open-source Simple Pomodoro that integrates with Google Tasks and helps you track your daily Pomodoros.

For iOS, the official Pomodoro app (now called Focus Timer) is one of the best productivity apps around and is available free
or as an ad-free paid version.

Remember, though, that a key advantage of the Pomodoro technique is its simplicity. Don’t get distracted by the features of these apps! Keep it simple, stay focused, and do what works for you to get back on top of time management.

And finally, if you feel overwhelmed by work or life stressors and are having trouble focusing, relaxing, or getting good quality sleep, Natural Factors have put together the Stress-Relax line of natural health products. The innovative formulas include Mental Calmness, GABA, Serenity Formula, Mind Retreat, and Tranquil Sleep to help you relax, stay focused, and get the rest and recuperation you need.