How to focus and stop procrastinating: a guide to the Pomodoro Technique

Procrastination can turn out to be detrimental to your weekly schedule, especially if you have incoming deadlines around the corner. For most students, procrastination is a familiar foe. Maybe it’s the research paper you were supposed to write, but you waited until 10 hours before it’s due to start it. Perhaps, it’s the exam you were meant to study for weeks and you have left it for the last few days. Most of us have experienced those times when procrastination has made our lives miserable.

However, there are many methods to battle procrastination: start working long before the paper is due, take on fewer commitments, and plan ahead are all worthy options to consider. One of the most effective methods that is used by many is the Pomodoro Technique.


Developed by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy. The method is based on 25-minute intervals, using a timer to ensure accountability. Fun fact: the name “Pomodoro” means “tomato” in Italian. The first time Cirillo used this method was with a tomato-shaped kitchen timer! The technique is useful to break the cycle of procrastination, no matter the task. In this article, we will look at all the ways in which the Pomodoro Technique can defeat procrastination so you can get back to work.

How to use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is very easy to remember and simple to use. This is how it works:

  1. Choose one task to focus on – ONLY one. No multitasking, focus on one task. Work solely on that task for 25 minutes. Even if your roommates suddenly invite you out to play soccer or have a picnic in the park, don’t give in and don’t even think about it until the timer is up.
  2. Note down any distractions – this is KEY. Keep a piece of paper next to you to write down any other tasks you think of or something else you would rather be doing.
  3. Have a 5-minute break once the time is up.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 three more times. Once you’ve done what should total 2-hours, take a longer break before resuming again. Make sure you use the break to get a drink, take a short stroll, or stretch. Taking regular breaks makes you more productive and healthier.

Three reasons why the Pomodoro Technique is so effective

Discipline is externalised

Due to your limited willpower, there is only so much you can do to push yourself to finish a task. This forcing will use up a lot of energy that you’d probably much rather use elsewhere. By using a timer, the burden is removed, and it puts it on an external source. The timer doesn’t get tired, and it doesn’t care whatsoever if you’d prefer to be doing something different.

It refocuses output-based tasks to input-based

A task such as “write a 12-page essay on the use of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare” could be immense and intimidating. You don’t know how long it will take, and the tremendous size of it is enough to allow the demons of procrastination to the forefront of your mind. By using the Pomodoro Technique, this problem is avoided because you are setting a time-based input for the task. You could spend the 25-minutes doing almost anything because you know that the timer will remind you that it will soon be over.

It removes any distractions out of the mind

By noting down any distractions that enter your mind, it breaks the connection between wanting a distraction and acting upon it. This will train your ability to focus over time.

Three ways to enhance the Pomodoro Technique

Purely on its own, the Pomodoro Technique is excellent. However, there are ways it can be enhanced slightly so your productivity can be supercharged.

  1. Use it together with a commitment device. Perhaps you already use an app that manages productivity. Now you can combine that with the Pomodoro Technique. If the app has a built-in timer, then you can use it along with the app’s ability to stop you from doing anything but the task at hand. These kinds of tools add an extra level of support and accountability to the technique. Pairing this with a website-blocking app could also enhance it further.
  2. Try it with different time intervals. The optimal level isn’t necessarily 25 minutes. It is just what the creator used for the technique. You can experiment with varying time intervals and find out what works best for you. If you focus better for twenty minutes or thirty minutes, then use that instead. Many people find the Pomodoro Technique helps get through the initial stages of distraction and into the state of flow. If you can work for longer intervals and want to keep working through, then do so. You have to do whatever works for you when it comes to productivity.
  3. Everything in its place. The French philosophy Mise-en-place pretty much sums up the productivity world. When you are studying, having a clear desk space with everything laid out, making sure you have the right apps open, and having plenty of ink in your pen will ensure you are ready. Making a point of having everything in its place before you begin, will help to avoid distractions when you are trying to work.

Recommended Pomodoro Apps

There are many brilliant apps on the market that will help with Pomodoro Technique sessions. Here are just a couple:

  • Tide: this free app combines ambient music or your favourite song while using the Pomodoro timer. If you like the sound of a forest of the sea, this might be for you.
  • Tomato Timer: this free, website-based Pomodoro timer works on any web browser.

So, get started with the technique today, the Pomodoro Technique could be the key to breaking combatting your procrastination demons if you have never tried it before.

Happy studying!


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