Photo by Lukas Blazek / Unsplash

Can’t seem to go more than 5 minutes without taking a break? Deadlines looming and still no sense of urgency? Do you still feel unproductive even after an entire day drowning in a mess of tasks? That’s us too.

Enter the Pomodoro Technique. If you haven’t already heard of it, it’s the wonderfully simple time management method that’s helped us get more work done, stay focused, and feel less productivity guilt.

As freelancers, we dictate the flow of our day. But sometimes, working in a home environment without any structure set for us (and a nice, soft, bed at arm’s length, looking really inviting right about now…), work just doesn’t get done fast enough. It doesn’t help that we’re stuck in the same environment for so long either.

The Pomodoro Technique’s for all you freelancers out there looking to try something to make your workdays more deliberate, meaningful, and productive.

How Does It Work?

You’ll find lots of variations of the method out there, but the original goes like this:

  1. Pick a task you really need to get done.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes of focused, uninterrupted work.
  3. Once 25 minutes is over, congrats, you just finished one pomodoro! Now take a 5-minute break. Refill your coffee, grab a snack, close your eyes for a bit—anything that isn’t work.
  4. Time to get back to work. After completing 4 pomodoros, take a longer break for around 20-30 minutes. The long break will give your brain time to rest while it absorbs and processes all the new information you’ve just dealt with.

You don’t necessarily need to stick to these exact work/rest times. The Pomodoro Technique is flexible—you can set work periods as short as 15 minutes or as long as 50 minutes, or give yourself longer breaks (while still following the core structure of the technique, of course).

Why We Love the Pomodoro Technique

As creatives, we all know how crucial it is to enter that deep state of focus in order to produce our best work. But I mean, let’s face it: working with such intense concentration for extended periods isn’t for everyone’s. It’s exhausting. People aren’t immune to distractions, and not everyone benefits from this style of working.

The Pomodoro Technique is that nice middleground, a method that encourages people to work longer without burning out, which doesn’t feel rigid.

We find the Pomodoro Technique useful for any sort of task, but works especially well for huge projects. It helps us break them down into smaller and more achievable steps, making them feel less daunting. This really helps us avoid that paralyzing procrastination of having no idea where to start.

Splitting work into segments can also help you keep track of your work better. You can evaluate your progress after each pomodoro, assessing how well (or not) you did and how long it took you to finish certain tasks. Planning and scheduling work days becomes easier to gauge. And if you think you didn’t do well after a pomodoro, starting the next one feels like a fresh start!

Feel Less Unproductive

If you’re prone to productivity guilt (as many freelancers are prone to), the Pomodoro Technique can help you feel less anxious about feeling like you aren’t doing enough by quantifying the work you get done.

Ever go through an entire day jumping from one task to another, never really focusing on one single thing, and constantly taking breaks? We aren’t saying that’s the wrong way to work, but a lot of times we end the day feeling like we didn’t do much. Even if, in reality, we plowed through our to-do list.

We’re sure we aren’t the only ones who feel this way sometimes. We think it’s because, when work is unstructured and tasks aren’t listed down, the entire process feels like this jumbled mess with no shape or form. It’s hard to remember what we did.

With the Pomodoro Method, no matter how busy we get, at the end of the day when our brains are mush, we at least have some way of concretely measuring how productive we were.

So if it doesn’t feel like we got a lot done today, at least we’ve got the pomodoros to show for it!

What’s with the Name?

But why Pomodoro? Why not the Bolognese Technique? Todoist says:

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the late 1980s by then university student Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo was struggling to focus on his studies and complete assignments. Feeling overwhelmed, he asked himself to commit to just 10 minutes of focused study time. Encouraged by the challenge, he found a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) shaped kitchen timer, and the Pomodoro technique was born.

Cirillo’s method continues to be popular to this day, having been featured countless times on productivity listicles and turned into a variety of apps. Now we’re wondering what Cirillo would have named his technique if his kitchen timer was shaped like something else.

Making Sure Your Pomodoros Work

One last caveat. While adopting the Pomodoro Method for your work habits takes virtually no effort at all, they won’t help you get more done unless you do them properly.

For your pomodoros to work, no matter how long your rest and work periods, you need to be strict with your work periods and create an environment as free from distractions as possible.

Put on your beast-mode-focus playlist. Turn off notifications. Set aside all distractions. Unless something urgent requires your attention like your toaster catching fire, try to avoid interrupting your work as much as possible. If non-urgent tasks suddenly pop up and can afford to be delayed, take note of them and set them aside for you to do later.

And remember: consistency is key. Doing one pomodoro and calling it a day isn’t going to cut it. Try the Pomodoro Method the next time you have a big work task that needs finishing!