A photo taken from behind. A young male working on his laptop at a desk which features another laptop and computer.

March 8, 2022, by aeyam24

How I Boosted My Productivity Using The Pomodoro Technique

By Anna McConachie, English student blogger

Faced with four large essays and a dissertation to write over the Christmas break, I was feeling overwhelmed. When a friend suggested I try the pomodoro technique, at first I was sceptical. But after too many days spent at my laptop, I decided to try it, and was happily surprised. 

Admittedly, I have never been big on revision or productivity hacks and techniques. My strategy was always a robust plan, then sit in front of the laptop until I got it done – with a smattering of breaks here and there. I thought this was how I worked most productively – until I tried the pomodoro technique.  

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The pomodoro technique can be broken down into five steps:  

1. Choose your task and an amount of time to spend on it

2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (this is one ‘pomodoro’)

3. Work on your task for 25 minutes

4. Take a five minute break, then start another pomodoro

5. After four pomodoros, take a longer break of 20-30 minutes

The idea behind the technique is that the timer creates urgency, and the forced breaks help to cure burn-out

How did it go?

Initially, I thought 25 minutes would be too short to work productively – I just didn’t see how I could get anything done in such a brief time. However, after trying the technique I found that it was the complete opposite. Because I knew I would only have 25 minutes, the time I spent working was much more focused and productive. It also helped with motivation as I knew 25 minutes was all I needed to focus for, a much more manageable ask than, say, an hour of focused essay writing.  

Moreover, it helped to know exactly how long I had actually spent working; as I was less likely to check my phone or multitask. The technique helped me realise that I could spend hours at my laptop, but not know how much time I spent specifically on my work. The pomodoro technique therefore helped me to set realistic goals at the start of each day, as I knew what I was more likely to achieve in the time where I was productive – and this helped greatly with my motivation.  

The forced breaks helped me with burn-out, as well as reminding me to get up to get more water, stretch my legs and rest my eyes. This was much better than randomly checking my phone by ways of a “break”.  

Make it your own

You can try the pomodoro technique simply by setting a timer on your phone, but there are also lots of apps and extensions tailored to the technique. I found an online timer and to-do list worked for me. I also downloaded ‘Forest’, a free app which allows you to grow trees while you work. If you leave the app, the tree withers and dies. Every focus session adds another tree to your forest, which grows over the days and weeks you use the app. It isn’t strictly a pomodoro timer either, meaning you can use the app for different focusing sessions if you realise the pomodoro technique doesn’t work for you.  

What I took from it

All in all, I was surprised to find that I actually really liked the pomodoro technique. It definitely made me more focused and productive, as well as making me realise what is realistically achievable from a day of work. However, the pomodoro technique isn’t for everyone. The best approach to boosting your productivity is to experiment – both with tools and techniques – to find a system that works for you!  

Take a look at the University’s mental health and wellbeing webpage which is full of hints and useful self-help strategies and self-care advice. You can also get one-to-one support by booking a careers appointment. 

Posted in Career wellbeingCareers AdviceStudent Bloggers