The Pomodoro Technique 3.

 In Time management

The Pomodoro Technique 3.

Objective I:

Find Out How Much Effort an Activity Requires

The traditional Pomodoro is 30 minutes long: 25 minutes of work plus a five-minute break. At the beginning of each day, choose the tasks you want to tackle from the Activity Inventory Sheet, prioritize them, and write them down in the To Do Today Sheet.

the pomodoro technique


Start the First Pomodoro

Set the Pomodoro for 25 minutes and start the first activity on the To Do Today Sheet. Whoever is using the Pomodoro, whether one person or more than one, should always be able to clearly see how much time is left.

A Pomodoro can’t be interrupted: it marks 25 minutes of pure work. A Pomodoro can’t be split up: there is no such thing as half a Pomodoro or a quarter Pomodoro. The atomic unit of time is a Pomodoro. (Rule: A Pomodoro Is Indivisible.) If a Pomodoro is definitively interrupted by someone or something, that Pomodoro should be considered void, as if it had never been set; then you should make a fresh start with a new Pomodoro. When the Pomodoro rings, mark an “X” next to the activity you’ve been working on and take a break for 3–5 minutes. When the Pomodoro rings, this signals that the current activity is peremptorily (though temporarily) finished. You’re not allowed to keep on working “just for a few more minutes”, even if you’re convinced that in those few minutes you could complete the task at hand.

The 3–5 minute break gives you the time you need to “disconnect” from your work. This allows the mind to assimilate what’s been learned in the last 25 minutes, and also provides you with the chance to do something good for your health, which will help you to do your best during the next Pomodoro. During this break you can stand up and walk around the room, have a drink of water, or fantasize about where you’ll go on your next vacation. You can do some deep breathing or stretching exercises. If you work with other people, you can swap a joke or two, and so on.

During this quick break, it’s not a good idea to engage in activities that call for any significant mental effort. For example, don’t start talking about work-related issues with a colleague; don’t write important emails or make imperative phone calls and so on. Doing these kinds of things would block the constructive mental integration that you need in order to feel alert and ready for the start of the next Pomodoro. You should include these activities in your Activity Inventory, and earmark specific Pomodoros to do them. Clearly, during this break you shouldn’t continue thinking about what you’ve done during the last Pomodoros. Once the break is over, set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes and continue the activity at hand until the next time it rings. Then mark another “X” on the To Do Today Sheet.

Next comes the 3–5 minute break, and then a new Pomodoro.

Every Four Pomodoros

Every four Pomodoros, stop the activity you’re working on and take a longer break, from 15 to 30 minutes.

The 15–30 minute break is the ideal opportunity to tidy up your desk, take a trip to the coffee machine, listen to voice mail, check incoming emails, or simply rest and do breathing exercises or take a quick walk. The important thing is not to do anything complex, otherwise your mind won’t be able to reorganize and integrate what you’ve learned, and as a result you won’t be able to give the next Pomodoro your best effort. Obviously, during this break too you need to stop thinking about what you did during the last Pomodoros.

Completing an Activity

Keep on working, Pomodoro after Pomodoro, until the task at hand is finished, and then cross it out on the To Do Today Sheet.

Specific cases should be handled with common sense:

If you finish a task while the Pomodoro is still ticking, the following rule applies: If a Pomodoro Begins, It Has to Ring. It’s a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity for overlearning, using the remaining portion of the Pomodoro to review or repeat what you’ve done, make small improvements, and note down what you’ve learned until the Pomodoro rings.

If you finish an activity in the first five minutes of the Pomodoro and you feel like the task was actually already finished during the previous Pomodoro and revision wouldn’t be worthwhile, as an exception to the rule, the current Pomodoro doesn’t have to be included in the Pomodoro count.

Once the current activity has been successfully completed, move on to the next one on your list, then the next, taking breaks between every Pomodoro and every four Pomodoros.


At the end of every day, the completed Pomodoros can be transferred to a hard copy archive. As an alternative, it may be more convenient to use an electronic spreadsheet or a database, and delete the completed activities from the Activity Inventory Sheet. What you track and record depends on what you want to observe and the kind of reports that you want to generate. The initial aim of tracking and later recording could simply be to present a report with the number of Pomodoros completed per task. In other words, you may want to show the effort expended to accomplish each activity. To do so, the following boxes can be used: the date, start time, type of activity, description of the activity, the actual number of Pomodoros, a short note on the results achieved, and possible room for improvement, or problems that may have come up. This initial recording model actually represents the report you want. It’s easy to draw up, even on paper.

How did Mark fill in the time he began an activity if he didn’t track it? With the Pomodoro Technique, it’s not essential to track the start time for an activity (or for every Pomodoro). What’s important is to track the number of Pomodoros actually completed: the real effort. This point is the key to fully understanding the Pomodoro Technique. Since tracking is done at least once a day, remembering and reconstructing the start times for activities isn’t difficult; in fact, this kind of recall is a beneficial mental exercise.


Recording provides an effective tool for people who apply the Pomodoro Technique in terms of self-observation and decision-making aimed at process improvement. For example, you can ask yourself how many Pomodoros a week you spend on work activities and on explorative activities, or how many Pomodoros you do on an average day of the week, and so on. You can also ascertain if the stages in the process are all effective, or if one could be eliminated while still achieving the same results.

For instance, we can see in Figure 9 that it took Mark ten Pomodoros to write, finetune, and condense the article How to Learn Music. That seems like too many. Mark would really like to get the same result with nine Pomodoros or less. Then he would have one or more Pomodoros for free time for other activities. “I’d like to try to write the next article with the same quality and less effort. How? What should I cut out? What activities are really useful? How can I reorganize them to be more effective?”

This is the type of question that enables people to improve, or at least to try to improve, their work or study processes. At the end of the day, the activity of recording (and later looking for ways to improve) should not take more than one Pomodoro.

The Nature of the Pomodoro

The Pomodoro marks the passage of time, and so it is itself a measure of the dimension of time. It becomes a measure of the dimension of effort when it is combined with the number of people involved in an activity. Depending on this number, we can say that a given task was accomplished with a certain number of Person Pomodoros or Pair Pomodoros or Team Pomodoros, where these units measure effort. The quantities of effort relative to different numbers of people are not homogeneous; they can’t be added together or compared with one another.

The work of an individual, a pair or a group represents a different way of combining production factors and also diverse means of communication. There are no formulas for converting Person Pomodoros to Pair Pomodoros or Team Pomodoros.


Estratto di: Cirillo, Francesco. “The Pomodoro Technique.” FC Garage, 2013-05-10. iBooks.


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