My quest to get more and better work done is endless — but not nearly as endless as my willingness to blab about that quest with anyone who’ll listen.

In the last few months, a few wise souls who’ve counseled me have leaned in, Mr. McGuire-like, and whispered in my ear a single word: Pomodoro.


Pomodoro. It’s Italian for tomato, and it turns out to be a deceptively simple time management hack with a growing fan base. Some Pink Blog readers, no doubt, have heard of it. But to me, this tomato was super fresh.

All you need is a kitchen timer — in Italy, kitchen timers are traditionally tomato-shaped — pencil, paper, and task that needs to be done. The Pomodoro Technique website has more details, but basically you set a kitchen timer for 25 minutes, work until the bell rings, and then take a 5-minute break. After four of these “pomodoros,” you’ve earned a 15-minute break (the pencil and paper are for keeping track).

You could stick with a kitchen timer or even your iPhone. But here are a few apps, gadgets, widgets, and websites that make pomodoro-ing even more fun:

(BTW, if you like this idea, you might also dig the post, The Power of an Hourly Beep, from back in October.)

13 Responses to “Can a tomato make you more productive?”

  1. Kevin says:

    It’s great to hear the Pomodoro Technique getting more traction. I’ve used it for several years now with a physical time just like the one in the post’s picture. It’s the one approach that I share with people when we talk about productivity. Of course, now I don’t think I’ll ever be able to talk about it without taking the Mr. McGuire approach! Thanks for sharing the list of apps as well.

  2. Sarah says:

    Thrilled that you support the Pomodoro technique. It really helps with productivity in the office.

  3. Raj Shah says:

    I started using the Pomodoro technique about a month ago and I absolutely love it. It forces you to be very clear about how you are going to spend your time in advance. The best part of me is that I’ve used it to eliminate distractions — I don’t answer the phone or texts and I don’t check email during my 25 minutes of work. I think that alone accounts for much of the benefit.

  4. Tim Grahl says:

    I love the the Pomodoro method for any kind of extended task! Been using it for about a year now and it’s such a great reward to take a break every 25 minutes.

  5. Sean Schofield says:

    Hi Dan,

    I get the point of structure, and the benefit of breaks (and the prevention of breaks gone wild).

    For some types of work, it makes immediate sense; trying to maintain discipline and ensure results, while minimizing the pangs of banality. Clear value.

    However, where I struggle is the nature of creative output vs. a lattice of time. To me, it feels like trying to “widgetize” creative outputs.

    The question remains how do we “get more” out of the same period of time and while part of the answer is about discipline, I think how that plays out depends a lot on individual preference.

    Said differently, the efficacy of the method is a function of the kind of task (creative vs. mundane) and individual preferences for that kind of task.

    Some creatives might thrive under tight time pressures and regular mini-breaks, but for others the pomodoro might be a rotten tomato (sorry, couldn’t resist).


  6. Kelly Grace says:

    I used this technique with my kids from 1975-1988. I just used my white kitchen timer and Oreo cookies. Worked like a charm. Time management is one of the best skills you can teach kids. Focus, work, then receive a reward. It makes parenting so much easier. My daughter and daughter-in-law both home school and this technique helps my grandkids take responsibility for being productive. It’s not so much time management as SELF management. Like a musical instrument, this is best learned as a child.

    Best Regards,
    Kelly Grace

    PS Just above the top edge of my iMac is a yellow sticky note with the 6 aptitudes from your book. It’s interesting to see these traits driving the world of Social Networking. Right Brain function dominating a once Left Brain platform.

  7. Randy says:

    It’s pretty good…it’s just plain easier knowing and seeing 25 minutes… it’s enough time to get stuff done and not so long that there’s any concern about not being able to cover it.

  8. Mike says:

    The guys in the office have been using the Pomodoro method for the last month or so. It has forced everyone to value time a lot more. During the 25 minutes, all instant messaging is set to Busy and inter-office chitchat is limited to the 5 minute breaks.

    It has really helped productivity and we will be using it for months to come.

  9. Dan Pink, you read my mind!!! I recently discovered this technique and have been using it religiously for a month and it works!! I run Pomodoro for Mac and it has really helped to keep me focused and productive. I also love that the software keeps a log of all your pomodoros so that you can go back and see what you worked on and where your time is going (so you can make changes if need be).

    Like you I am always on the look out for ways to become more productive and the Pomodoro technique has been a real gem for me.

    Thanks for passing along such great info!

  10. I like my version of it better. You arm a group of caring colleagues and friends with buckets of Pomodoros. They pelt you with them whenever you slack off.

  11. Dan, I tired Pomodoro, when a colleague “whispered it in my ear”, but, it hasn’t really worked well for me. I am currently suffering from too many distractions, and, Pomodoro felt like a lot of overhead for the benefit I got out of it. Maybe I need to give it more time (I gave it a week).

    I am trying Peter Bregman‘s 18 approach, and it looks promising so far. I’d like to hear what you think, if you could take a peek at it (in your spare time!)

    Enrique Fiallo

  12. Charla says:

    Pleased to see others using this technique. And happy to know it has a name.

    I discovered this by accident when ‘Alarm Off’ on our Radio Alarm Clock ceased working (not very effective as an alarm). Since the clock and radio portion still worked, I moved it to my office. To turn the radio on and off, I would have to use the ‘Snooze’ feature which would set the radio to turn off after 15-30-45-60-90 minutes. I’m also “one of those people” that works much better when there is noise.

    I credit this small change as the #1 reason why I am able to work from home successfully. Without this time marker, it was easy to get caught up in tasks and not realize how long you’ve spent on something inconsequential.


  13. I have always used this type of watches in my photo lab, I have more than three, now with the new digital technologies I feel lost, I was nice the final ring after the scheduled time sounded, there are still useful inventions. congratulations.