Time Management, Part One: The Pomodoro Technique

September 12, 2018

Mechanical Tomato shaped kitchen timer for cooking, studying and working.

This is part one in an ongoing series about time management.


We’ve all had days where we felt we didn’t accomplish as much as we should have. Here’s one proven method for getting more done. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The basic idea is simple: work for 25 minutes, then take a 3-5 minute break, “rinse” and repeat. Of course life can get in the way—the phone rings, employees interrupt, crises happen and so on. Here’s an in-depth look at the complete technique so you sit back at the end of your hectic day, knowing you were truly productive.


Step One: Choose a task.

What’s your highest priority today? Start with that one.


Step Two: Work for 25 minutes.

Set a timer. (This method is called the Pomodoro Technique after the tomato shaped timer Cirillo used.) Work on your task—and nothing else—for 25 minutes straight. Do not allow any distractions. (We’ll get to how to handle inevitable ones in a moment.)


Step Three: Take a 3-5 minute break.

The breaks are really the key to the Pomodoro Technique. One can only stay focused on one task for so long. After a certain amount of time, your productivity will plateau and then drop. Your mind needs some time to wander. That’s why kids need recess during the school day. Allowing these breaks to happen on regularly scheduled intervals allows you to get back to work in a focused manner until you complete your task.


Step Four: Repeat this cycle four times, and then take a longer break.

After you’ve completed four cycles, take a 15-30 minute break—until you feel recharged and ready to start on your task again.


Step Five: Repeat until your task is done.


If you finish task one and you have ten more minutes in your cycle, don’t start your next task now. Stop the timer. Take a break—a longer one if you can. And start your next task with a fresh cycle.


Remember, this is a useful technique but it doesn’t have to be completely rigid. If your timer goes off and you know you’re only a few minutes away from completing your task, then complete your task.


Of course, as we mentioned earlier, the notion that a facility manager (FM) can have uninterrupted time in a day is laughable. If nothing else, meetings happen. Here’s how to handle interruptions:

  1. If the distraction is urgent, stop the timer.

If you’re interrupted by something urgent and unavoidable (an emergency, a meeting, conference call, etc.) simply stop your timer and deal with the matter at hand. After you have finished with the interruption, begin the Technique over again.


  1. If the distraction can wait, “inform, negotiate, and call back.”

It can be hard to tell someone their concern has to wait, but if you want to have a productive day, that’s what is necessary. Tell them you’re working on something right now, negotiate when you can get back to them—preferably at the end of your current 25-minute cycle. Once your coworkers know your Pomodoro deal, they’ll quickly understand the situation and will more likely than not just pop their head in or email and say, “please see me at your next break.”



While any kind of timer can be used for the Pomodoro Technique, it can be nice to have a physical timer (like the tomato) so that others can see where you are in your cycle. However, the Marinara Timer is a helpful web app that provides ways to customize the Technique.


What is the Technique good for?

The Pomodoro Technique is great for accomplishing tasks—it’s often used by designers, developers, and software engineers—but it’s not something a typical FM is going to use to organize their entire day. After all, your day is bound to have interruptions. But if you have an urgent task that needs completing and you just need to sit down and do it, try the Pomodoro Technique. It works.


For more help on time management, contact Vanguard Resources.