Revisiting the pomodoro technique

By James Hayton,
November 12, 2018
I'm James, I'm a former physicist (PhD, Nottingham, 2007) and author of "PhD: An Uncommon Guide to Research, Writing & PhD Life".
Since 2010, I've been helping PhD students all over the world overcome barriers in their research and writing
My strategies have helped thousands of PhD students just like you to build confidence, write better and finish on time

Set a timer for 25 minutes. Work on just one thing for those 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. After 4 rounds, take a longer break. When I first tried the pomodoro technique back in 2010, I loved it for its simplicity and effectiveness.Since then, I've often used timers to help myself focus; it's always easier to keep going when you know how much time you have left. Usually, I've done bursts of 40-45 minutes, but over the last few weeks I've revisited the original 25:5 formula.I've found that;

  • By forcing myself to take breaks after only 25 minutes, I'm finding that I want to carry on. My brain is still engaged with the task I was doing.
  • I don't have to decide how long to work for; the decision is made once, so it frees up a bit of mental space
  • I like the rhythm it imposes on the day
  • I'm not working to the point of fatigue or distraction

But the pomodoro technique on its own is not enough...

  • You need a way of prioritizing and deciding what to focus on, and, of course, you need the skills to do what you aim to do
  • Turning the internet off (or blocking email and other distractions) is a huge help
  • Having a deliberate routine for what you do in the breaks stops bad habits creeping in (don't check email!)

Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below!

External references:
The pomodoro technique
I'm currently using the Flat Tomato timer app and Cold Turkey to block internet distractions.
See also:
Procrastination hack: Get to zero
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