Teacher of psychology, author, researcher.

Memory & Education Blog

A blog about education, psychology, and the links between the two.

Improve your focus: The 'pomodoro' technique.

The classic kitchen timer. Image by  alexhung

The classic kitchen timer. Image by alexhung

Coursework, data analysis, revision...  It can be hard to concentrate on a task all day, or even for an hour or two! Which, of course, can lead to procrastination, and to short breaks that become long breaks.

The pomodoro technique is a method of time management that encourages us to focus for 25 minute spells, each followed by a shorter break of 5 minutes or so.

Why 25 minutes?

The exact time can depend on the individual - each of us has a different attention span - but 25 minutes is brief enough that most people can keep up concentration even on a dull or repetitive task, especially with the prospect of an imminent break.

Why such short breaks?

A 3-5 minute break is considered ideal, because it gives your eyes and mind a rest, but avoids stopping for so long that you lose track of what you are doing. Suitable break activities could include going for a short walk outside, getting yourself a drink, doing some press-ups, or playing a tune on a musical instrument.

However don't worry - after 4 'pomodoros', you are advised to take a longer break of 20-30 mins. So you will get your lunch!

Why 'pomodoro'?

Pomodoro means 'tomato'; the technique is the creation of Francesco Cirillo who initially used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to time his 25 minute work periods. He explains that the action of twisting the timer and the mechanical 'clicks' as it slowly revolves are helpful to boost focus (Cirillo, 2012).

But really, any shape of timer will do!

Personally, I am more likely to use the timer of my phone - and you can also download apps specifically for this purpose, some of which are free. I have found the technique very useful for breaking up long and concentration-intensive work, such as marking a stack of exam papers. I think it would be ideal for revision, too.

If you have tried the technique, why not share your views in the comments?

Further reading: Time management and stress


Cirillo, F. (2007). The Pomodoro Technique (The Pomodoro). Retrieved 27 May 2014 from http://baomee.info/pdf/technique/1.pdf