How effective is the Pomodoro technique 1

How you can do more in a single day with the Pomodoro Technique than in a whole week

by Tim Reichel

Many students are incredibly wasteful of their time. And without wanting to offend you: I bet you do too.

These two mistakes most often lead to the fact that your studies remain below your possibilities and your to-do list is bursting at the seams:

  1. You don't care about the important things, but fill your time with small things.
  2. You are putting off your important tasks and waiting too long.

In plain language this means: You waste your time with unimportant crap until your deadline is so close that you can no longer wait with your important, uncomfortable tasks. The stupid thing about it is that by postponing it you make life difficult for yourself and also drive your stress level up tremendously.

That's why I'm going to ask you this now Pomodoro technique and show you how this time management method can become your new efficiency booster for your studies.


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What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro technique is one of the most modern productivity and time management methods and is based on working in small but super-efficient intervals.

You divide your tasks into small steps and then work on your "project" for a few minutes in a focused and without distraction. You set yourself a tight deadline and only focus on one thing. Then you get a little break in which you can do whatever you want.

By combining and chaining these Pomodoro units you will be put in a phase in which you can work on your goals without disturbance - and without breaking yourself. The short time intervals loosen up your work rhythm and the many breaks ensure relaxation.


Where does the Pomodoro technique come from?

The Pomodoro technique was developed by the Italian Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s after he accidentally discovered the basics in a small experiment on himself.

Cirillo was very busy. Lots of different tasks with big deadlines that only ended in a few weeks. It blocked him so badly that he couldn't bring himself to start his to-do list. In a creative self-experiment, overwhelmed, he got his little kitchen clock from the cupboard, which he normally used to cook eggs, set it to 25 minutes and made an appointment with himself:

If I manage to concentrate on a task during this time, I get 5 minutes off afterwards. During this little break, I can do anything I want without feeling guilty.

In the next 25 minutes, Cirillo managed as much as he usually did in a full day. And all because of a small clock that was shaped like a tomato (Italian: pomodoro = tomato) and rang after 25 minutes. That was the hour of birth of the Pomodoro technique.


Why is the Pomodoro Technique so powerful?

The Pomodoro technique combines different approaches from behavioral psychology, which promote an efficient and goal-oriented way of working.

These are the advantages of the Pomodoro technique:

  • Breaking up the tasks into small pieces will make it easier for you to get started.
  • Focusing on just one thing lets you work faster and more purposefully.
  • Setting tight deadlines ensures that you have to concentrate on the essentials.
  • Working in small intervals increases your motivation; besides, the work feels less strenuous.
  • Taking many breaks acts as a reward and gives you new energy without feeling guilty about it.

This combination is what makes the Pomodoro technique so powerful and takes your productivity while studying to the next level.


This is how the Pomodoro technique works when studying

With the Pomodoro technique, you divide your tasks into small work units, each lasting 25 minutes. During this time you only concentrate on your task and try to get everything done. This is followed by a 5-minute break in which you can relax and consciously distract yourself. Then comes the next 25-minute session and so on.

With this small-scale division, you take the horror out of big tasks and you can work your way towards your goal step by step. The 25-minute deadline forces you to ignore trivialities and the break after each work interval gives you additional motivation.

With these 4 simple steps you can apply the Pomodoro technique for your studies:

Step 1: Formulate the task in writing!

What would you like to do?

Step 2: set the stopwatch / timer to 25 minutes!

This is your Pomodoro unit.

Step 3: work on the task for exactly 25 minutes!

Work in a focused and concentrated manner - without distraction.

Step 4: take a 5 minute break!

Now you can briefly distract yourself and relax.

After 4 Pomodoro units you take a longer break of 15-30 minutes and then start again with a set of 4. Very easy, isn't it?

So that you can imagine the method even better and start right away, I have 2 examples for you:


Example 1: writing a summary

Your goal is to write a summary of the lecture slides. Your Pomodoro plan for this could then look like this:

  • 25 minutes: Summarize slides 1-20
  • 5 minutes break
  • 25 minutes: Summarize slides 21-40
  • 5 minutes break
  • 25 minutes: Summarize slides 41-60
  • 5 minutes break
  • 25 minutes: repeat previous summary
  • 30 minutes: Big break
  • 25 minutes: Summarize slides 61-80
  • 5 minutes break
  • etc.


Example 2: Exam preparation

The Pomodoro technique also works for heterogeneous and varied tasks. For an example exam preparation, your plan could look like this:

  • 25 minutes: repeat the summary
  • 5 minutes break
  • 25 minutes: Working through old exams (part 1)
  • 5 minutes break
  • 25 minutes: Working through old exams (part 2)
  • 5 minutes break
  • 25 minutes: Read the lecture notes
  • 30 minutes: Big break
  • 25 minutes: Read unclear passages in the script
  • 5 minutes break
  • etc.


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The Pomodoro technique is a useful tool to be highly productive in a short period of time. The tight deadlines force you to work in a concentrated and focused manner: You have to concentrate on the essentials of your task and not waste time. You motivate yourself from unit to unit - but without coming under too much pressure, because you take a short break after each exercise.

If you put off your tasks a lot and often feel like you're stuck studying, you should try this method. You will be amazed how much you can accomplish in a day if you approach your tasks with the right strategy.

By the way: In my book "Bachelor of Time - Zeitmanagement im Studium" I have dedicated a separate chapter to the Pomodoro technique. So if you want to find out more background information about this productivity method and see additional best practice examples: This way please.


Image: © Ryan McGuire /