The Pomodoro Technique and FREE PDF Planner

As a new mom juggling MANY hats, I am always looking for ways to maximize my time and boost my productivity.  

I constantly check my phone for emails, texts, and notifications. I decided that I needed to train myself not to get distracted by them.  

Woman holding a copy of the Pomodoro technique printable planner.

TL;DR History of The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique is a time management strategy developed by Francesci Cirillo in the ’80s.

Francesco used a retro tomato-shaped kitchen timer when he started this technique.  The word ‘Pomodoro means tomato in Italian.  That’s how the Pomodoro Technique was born. 

Who Can Use The Pomodoro Technique?

Technically, anyone.  

The Pomodoro Technique will not work well for those on a set schedule like me (teachers, doctors, appointment-based services, etc.) 

The Pomodoro Technique will work for people who manage their time.

Despite the Pomodoro Technique not working with my 43-minute period schedule at school, I decided to try it on the weekends to see if I could accomplish more tasks over the weekend without spending more time doing it.  

Pomodoro Technique Basics

The Pomodoro cycle has periods of intense focus followed by long breaks.

The Cycle

The cycle is four Pomodoros (with short 5-10 minute breaks) followed by one long (25-30 minute) break.  

A full Pomodoro cycle is about 2 hours long.  

Example Schedule:

  • 9:00 AM-9:25 AM Focus Session #1
  • 5 Minute Break
  • 9:30 AM-9:55 AM Focus Session #2
  • 5 Minute Break
  • 10:00 AM-10:25 AM Focus Session #3
  • 5 Minute Break
  • 10:30 AM-10:55 AM Focus Session #4
  • 10:55 AM-10:25AM Long Break

Focused Work Sessions

You should only do the tasks assigned to that Pomodoro during a focused work session.  

That means you should only be answering emails if your task is to answer emails.

Do not get distracted by answering the phone, text messages, shopping online, browsing social media, etc.

What is great about the Pomodoro Technique is that each focused work session is only 25 minutes long, so it is easy to block out distractions, knowing you will be able to ‘give in’ to them during your break.  

I would avoid using the restroom or getting a drink or snack until you are ‘on a break.’

If you are still tempted by your phone, turn it upside down or put it on another table.

Pro Tip: You can turn your phone on do-not-disturb, and it will not ring for incoming texts or calls EXCEPT for pre-programmed numbers. That way, you don’t have to worry about missing an important call (from your spouse, daycare, caretaking facility, etc.) while your phone is stowed away during your focused work session.   

Short Breaks

Breaks are meant to be just that: a break!

Don’t try to sneak work in by answering a few work texts or checking your emails.  

This will make you more productive in the long run, even though you are ‘stopping’ briefly.  

Find a quick activity to make you happy and boost your motivation to continue working when you return.

Here are some ideas for 5 and 10-minute breaks:

5-minute breaks:

  • Go and get a cup of coffee or another drink
  • Have a snack
  • Do a few stretches
  • Do some pushups, pull-ups, or situps.
  • lay a game on your phone or the computer
  • Browse social media or the news
  • Listen to a song or quick meditation (bonus: I like the {name} app)
  • Play with your pets or children if they are around
  • Lie down and do absolutely nothing

10-minute breaks:

  • Go on a walk
  • Do a quick exercise routine, stretch, or yoga (bonus: I like the [name] suite of apps because you can customize workouts, stretches, and yoga in as little as 7-minute increments)
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Read the newspaper or a magazine
  • Have a quick conversation with a friend or coworker

Long Breaks

After your 4th Pomodoro, take a longer break. Maybe 25-30 minutes long.

Just like with short breaks, being intentional during this time to do something that will re-energize you is crucial.

Especially for those that work at home, don’t get sucked into the never-ending household chores that are calling your name.

You need this break so your brain can rest and prepare for the next set of Pomodoros.

Most of us will have 2 or 3 long breaks in our day.

One of those should be scheduled for a meal. The others should again be something you enjoy doing that will be restorative.

Be creative and experiment with what fuels you.

Planning Your Pomodoros

This is my spin on the Pomodoro Technique. My method is slightly modified, but I think it works best for the 21st century.

1. Make a list of tasks:

To make the most of the Pomodoro Technique, list everything you want to accomplish in the day.

This list will become our task.

Prioritize things that must get done versus things that could potentially wait.

Here’s an example list of everything I want to accomplish this weekend:

  • Pay bills
  • Schedule a doctor’s appointment
  • Answer emails
  • Create content for Facebook and Instagram
  • Fold the laundry that is currently in the dryer
  • Answer text messages
  • Research keywords for a blog post
  • Outline a blog post
  • Write a blog post
  • Put on one load of laundry (notice how I am specific with the amount)
  • Fold the laundry that will come out of today’s load
  • Post content to Facebook and Instagram

2. Group tasks by category:

Group similar tasks or tasks that need to be done sequentially in order:

  • Pay bills
  • Schedule a doctor’s appointment
  • Answer emails
  • Answer text messages
  • Research keywords for a blog post
  • Outline a blog post
  • Write a blog post
  • Create content for Facebook and Instagram
  • Post content to Facebook and Instagram  
  • Put on one load of laundry (notice how I am specific with the amount)
  • Fold the laundry that is currently in the dryer
  • Fold the laundry that will come out of today’s load

3. Prioritizing Pomodoros

Ensure your most important and time-sensitive tasks are scheduled earlier in the day.  This will ensure that these tasks are completed if you don’t finish a task in the set-focused work time.  See ‘What do I do if I don’t finish my task in my allotted time?’ below.  

4.  Create your Pomodoros:  

Your Pomodoro could be just one task if that task would take you 25 minutes or longer.  

Or, you can group a few similar tasks if they fit into 1 Pomodoro.  

Pomodoro (1)

  • Pay bills
  • Schedule a doctor’s appointment
  • Answer text messages

Pomodoro (2)

  • Research keywords for a blog post

Pomodoro (3)

  • Outline a blog post
  • Fold the laundry that is currently in the dryer

Pomodoros (4 & 5)

  • Write a blog post

Pomodoros (6 & 7)

  • Create content for Facebook and Instagram

Pomodoro (8)

  • Post content to Facebook and Instagram  
  • Put on one load of laundry

Pomodoro (9)

  • Answer emails
  • Fold the laundry that will come out of today’s load

Planning Your Day

This part might seem a little daunting at first. 

But, once you do this a few times, planning out will become much easier.

  1. Find out how many minutes you will need in the day:
    • I will have 10 Focused Work Sessions (250 minutes), eight short breaks (40 minutes), and two long breaks (60 minutes).  
    • That is a total of 350 minutes and just shy of 6 hours.
  2. Start with any deadlines that you have to meet. 
    • For example, picking up the kids from school or leaving for a doctor’s appointment.  
  3. Work backwards.
    • For example, I know I need to leave to pick up my son from daycare at 3:00 PM, and I need to start 6 hours earlier at 9:00 AM.  

Here is what my final schedule looks like:

Start my first Pomodoro at 9:00 AM. Follow the Pomodoro Technique using a timer or app. I end my workday at 3:00 PM.

What Happens If You Don’t Finish A Task?

To avoid this happening, try to anticipate your time well.  

It is better to overestimate how long a task will take you (maybe 2 or 3 Pomodoro’s instead of 1).  

If you over-estimate and have time left at the end of a focused work session, you can accomplish smaller tasks from your ‘short tasks’ list (see my 10 Bonus Tips For Maximizing Productivity With The Pomodoro Method below.  

If you run out of time to finish a task, choose the option that fits your situation best:

  1. Plan to finish the task tomorrow by adding it to the day’s to-do list. This method is best for tasks that are not time-sensitive and can wait.  
  2. Find something in the remainder of your list that can be moved to tomorrow. Use that Pomodoro to finish the task.  For example, I can always fold laundry tomorrow.  So, if I need more time, I will move that task to tomorrow and finish my previous task.  

Modified Pomodoro Technique

There is no one specific way to use the Pomodoro Technique.

If you are not enjoying the Pomodoro Technique because of time constraints, consider modifying the length of the focused work sessions, short breaks, and long breaks to suit your schedule.  

Maybe you find you are most productive for 45 minutes at a time and need 15 minutes for short breaks and an hour for long breaks.  

Want To Keep Reading?

Check out my bonus download, ‘10 Tips For Maximizing Your Time With The Pomodoro Technique.’

Get Printable:

Preview of the Pomodoro daily planner PDF.

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Jacqui

Author

Jacqui is a teacher and multi-tasking mompreneur on a mission to help others master productive living. Drawing from years of experience creating structured routines and efficient systems in the classroom, she now applies those planning principles to juggling her many roles. Her secret? An arsenal of printable planners, checklists, calendars, and productivity tools!

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