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Is Pomodoro Time Management Right for You?

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 6/27/2011

The Pomodoro Technique is deceptively simple. After all, it only requires a timer, a sheet of paper and a pencil. For a home office worker, it can prove to be an invaluable tool for effective time management – if you can overcome the drawbacks.

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    Pomodoro Basics

    “Pomodoro” by Francesco Cirillo/Wikimedia Commons 

    Promising to “eliminate the anxiety of time,” the technique takes procrastination by the horns. The Pomodoro is little more than a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, although within technique course materials it also refers to a time unit spanning 25 minutes. The creator of the time management technique suggests that the user will notice differences in work habits within one to two short days; long-term changes take place after about 20 days of use.

    Getting started is simple:

    • List tasks that must be completed
    • Pick the most important task
    • Set the Pomodoro (or other kitchen timer) to 25 minutes
    • Work until the timer goes off
    • Take a five-minute break
    • Return to the task (if it is not finished) for another 25 minutes
    • Take a 30-minute break after four 25-minute intervals

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    Technique Pros

    The home officer worker must use the entire 25-minute period to work without interruption. This means no getting up for a glass of water, a snack or a detour to check out Facebook. If the entrepreneur simply cannot resist the temptation, s/he must log the interruption on an accompanying sheet.

    Unplanned and time-wasting activities – it is easy to go from updating a Facebook status to checking in on Farmville – become glaringly obvious. Even though the entrepreneur already knows that they eat up valuable work time, it is the sheer volume of these moments marked on paper that could be the life-changing moment.

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    Pomodoro Drawbacks

    The idea of taking breaks every 25 minutes makes sense for tasks that do not require intense concentration or extended trains of thought. For the entrepreneur engaged in scientific work or for the freelance news writer who must present a detailed account of an event, this type of interruption can present new problems. The ticking timer itself creates a distraction and the knowledge that a train of thought may be interrupted at any time adds to the stress the professional feels.

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    How to Apply the Pomodoro Experience to the Home Office

    The trick to making this time management tool work is to keep it as simple as the technique itself. For example, break down large tasks into several sub-tasks that may take up the allotted 25 minutes to complete. Choose activities for Pomodoro applicability. If you anticipate engaging in a very time-consuming task that should be devoid of any interruption, do not set yourself up for failure with a ticking timer.

    On the other hand, consider how to capitalize on your mental agility by sticking to the schedule of breaks. Make sure to walk away, even if the project is not fully completed, when the timer sounds. Coming back after five minutes works wonders.

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    The Pomodoro Technique only works within the home office setting if the entrepreneur is willing to tackle, limit and eventually eradicate self-imposed interruptions. If it is impossible for you to resist the urge to check email every time the alert dings, this time management tool will not help you.

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    Photo Credit: “Pomodoro” by Francesco Cirillo/Wikimedia Commons at