Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. Tomatoes are fruit (berries). That is interesting to know, but of course, practically speaking: Treat them like a vegetable and don’t mix your tomatoes into a fruit salad.

That is not what this post is about.


Francesco Cirillo invented a particular time management technique in the late 1980s. He named it the pomodoro technique, inspired by a tomato-shaped kitchen timer.

In (very) brief it goes like this:

  1. Pick your next task.
  2. Start a timer for twenty-five minutes (one pomodoro).
  3. Work on your task until the alarm goes off.
  4. Take brief break of five minutes.
  5. Repeat above steps (but take a longer break after every four pomodoros).

There are lots of articles and videos online as well as books covering the approach. A lot of people find the pomodoro technique quite valuable. I do recommend learning about it in more detail and experimenting with it yourself.

Obviously, it is not about tomatoes or kitchen timers. For me, the point is also not this technique, specifically. Systems, methods and mental frameworks can be very valuable. This technique illustrates interesting principles.

Undivided attention

Today’s world is noisy. Particularly, if you work around the Internet, distractions are easy to come by, so much can be vying for your attention — all the time. If you are trying to get one thing done and you are also working on ten other things, you may well end your day with everything started and nothing finished.

Here we are saying: Do one thing and one thing only. Focus on it until it is done (or time is up).

One thing. Like a meditation.


Work happens (and attention is paid) over time. Timeboxing asks we define the duration, usually ahead of time. Within that box, we are dedicated to our one thing. We protect the box against other things. Outside of the box we can review and reason about how things went and what we have learned that can be helpful for future boxes.

Within our time box, it is just about maintaining focus on our task. Until the alarm goes off.


I actually like the notion of an alarm going off, alerting us to the end of the current time box. When you give yourself to the work, you may find yourself going deeper, perhaps losing yourself a bit in it. The very idea of an alarm is optimistic: There is an assumption that we will forget ourselves and the passage of time, as we are so fully absorbed by the work at hand. We went into the zone — so much so that we might need help finding our way back out!


Enjoyment and effectiveness (or productivity) often go hand in hand. Giving something your undivided attention over time increases your chances of making real progress with it. This can be mentally taxing – but also a lot of fun.

Managing time is about managing attention.


2 responses to “Pomodoro”

  1. […] one at a time. I do this with pen and paper and sometimes electronically. The point is to focus, to dedicate time for paying attention and to capture it in a way that you can revisit it in the […]

  2. […] is about undivided attention and it is clearly easier to protect your attention, when you are not also receiving alerts for new […]

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