Medical School

Can the Pomodoro Technique make you more productive?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that breaks up your time into manageable chunks. Generally, people follow one of two methods: The ’45 & 15′ or The ’25 & 5′. Let’s focus on the 25 & 5 because I think its way better.

Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute blocks each followed by a five-minute break. These chunks of time are called Pomodoros. After about four Pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes.

I have been using the Pomodoro technique in my studying for quite some time, and love the results. But I have recently stepped up my Pomodoro game (Pomodoro-ing?) to block out my other activities throughout the day, especially when I am working on my computer and through a to-do list.

Fun fact: Pomodoro is Italian for tomato.

The term Pomodoro Technique is coined after the small egg/kitchen timers you can buy to time your cooking, which in Italy were traditionally shaped like tomatoes! You’re breaking your day up one tomato at a time!

Supposedly, the Pomodoro method works so well because rather than feeling like you have endless time in the workday to get things done, you know you only have 25 minutes to make as much progress on a task as possible, come hell or high water. The time limit means that non-urgent tasks suddenly have a due date, and it’s only 25 minutes away!

This follows Parkinson’s Law

Work expands to fill the time available. Is an essay due in six months? That’ll take 6 months to write. You have an essay due tomorrow morning, well that bad-boy is getting whipped up in one night!

Plus, the breaks help to avoid spending too much of our precious time and focus on one thing or in one part of the day, so we can be more productive throughout. Work smart, not hard!

Did you know?

The human brain remembers interrupted or incomplete tasks more than completed tasks. It’s one of the reasons spaced repetition works so well!


  • One thing I think many people find when they first start out chunking their time up is that it can be very tempting to ignore a timer and keep working on a task. Sometimes this is fine, if you’re really in a flow-state and can’t wait to get those next few paragraphs written or lines drawn or equations calculated then by all means dive straight into another 25-minute session, but never more than two back to back. Otherwise, you aren’t doing the Pomodoro technique, you just have an annoying alarm distracting you every 25 minutes! If you can quickly jot down any ideas you’re scared you’ll lose in your 5 min break and come back to start the next, you will likely find yourself more energised, excited to get stuck in and with a clearer picture of where you need to go.
  • Sometimes we get distracted during a Pomodoro and find that we’ve been unproductive for the last few minutes. Maybe you’ve been scrolling through Insta or catching up on the news. This is to be expected, we are only human! If you do find yourself partway through a 25 min block and feeling unproductive, I recommend you move down your to-do list and fill the remaining time with another easier task – go fold your washing, make your bed or prep your lunch. That way you have given yourself a break from the current task but stayed true to your promise of being productive for 25 minutes. Try to fully reset and collect yourself during your next 5-minute break and start again, ready to smash the next Pomodoro.

Check out the video below for more information on the Pomodoro Technique and how to get started!

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Connor is a medical student at King’s College London. For the 19/20 academic year he is undertaking an intercalated iBSc in Imaging Sciences, also at King’s.

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