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Manage your focus with a more efficient approach to the Pomodoro technique

Remember the time when you sit down to work but you just couldn't start doing the work because you are overwhelmed with the task that is in front of you. This is the kind of mental block that everyone finds relatable because it happens too many times to the best of us.

Pomodoro is the way to go

One of the many productivity tools that are available that everyone can implement in their workflow to mitigate this mental block is the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method designed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Pomodoro means tomato in Italian as the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used inspired him to develop this technique. The technique works by breaking down the duration of your work session into smaller intervals so that big tasks would be less overwhelming to undertake.

Clarity is the key

Pomodoro technique on its own is a viable method for productivity as you race against time when you’re doing your work because of the looming presence of accountability you have to carry on getting the work done within that period of time. This is the ‘deadline effect’ that the Pomodoro technique utilised. On top of that, by having consistent intervals between work sessions you would have a higher chance of not getting a burnout at the end of the working session. This is far more sustainable for your body and mind than just sitting on your desk working continuously for hours on end which definitely presents a higher risk of you being lethargic and tired at the end of the day. However in my own experience, I noticed that by just using the Pomodoro technique on its own has a slight drawback. When I was doing my work with the Pomodoro technique, I set my timer on for 25 minutes but then I don't really know what I'm supposed to do within the 25 minutes. So during the entire session, I was just figuring out what am I supposed to do instead of actually doing the work that the timer eventually went off. What I found was that the Pomodoro technique on its own lacks clarity. There is a greater potential for Pomodoro technique to be more efficient when the clarity towards your work is defined in advance.

Making the Pomodoro technique more intentional

This is where intentional Pomodoro technique comes in.

1. So how do you actually clarify your task at hand?

The reason why a task is so overwhelmingly hard to do and actually start on taking them is because it's actually not a one-action task but rather a whole project on its own containing a series of smaller tasks. By thinking of the task as a project, you then break down the task into smaller chunks. This is the key to make the task more feasible to manage.

2. Once the tasks are clarified, plan the duration for the intervals between work and rest.

My own personal default preference is 25 minutes of work and 7 minutes of break. For some people with certain type of project, they may require a longer period of time, perhaps 50 minutes of work and 10 minutes of rest that I sometimes use for a project that require a longer focus retention. Decide on the duration that works for you and your project. This cycle is then repeated for 4 times that makes it a one sprint. Once the sprint is completed, you can then have a longer break which takes around 25 minutes or more depending on the amount of break that you need.

3. Finally, the ingredient for making the Pomodoro technique more intentional is the target log.

Before you start with your Pomodoro cycle, get a piece of paper and a pen. You can do this digitally on your computer or your phone if going paperless is your thing. Write down what you are trying to accomplish for this session. This is crucial to set your attention and focus on your target to minimise distraction. Then, define how are you going to start the session. This is important because by knowing the first step to get the work started, you will be able to commit to the work with a clear intention. The way that you determine the kind of task you should be doing first is by identifying the task which has the lowest barrier of entry when it comes to execution. For example, when you want to do a research on a new place to rent, the first task with the lowest barrier would be: listing down all the websites for renting that are appropriate to the location that you’re surveying. Another inquiry that is worth considering to be included in this target log is by identifying the potential hazards to the session that can undermine the flow of your work. This is important as it will get you to be mindful about what to expect and anticipate events that can go wrong with your productivity specific to the work session prior to the execution. It’s a way to manage your expectations.

4. Next, simply start the timer and do your work.

5. Once the timer goes off, take a break from whatever you’re doing.

Identify whether you have completed the target or not. Notice if there were anything noteworthy during that session of work. Is there anything distracting you throughout your working session? If there is anything that you can do to improve the next cycle, write them down. After you've done with your break, that's a complete cycle. Give yourself a pat on the back and continue with the next cycle by writing down a new target log for the next session. There is a template that I have been using for this log tracking which I think would be helpful for you to emulate and adapt to your own preference for your project. It’s a sprint template that I’ve modified for my own use which was designed by Groovy Wink using the digital tool Notion.

Notion template for an intentional Pomodoro Get Notion with $10 credit for free here.


By actively tracking what your goals are and reviewing how the work went, you are more mindful with the way that you are conducting your work. This is proven to be 100 times more efficient than just applying the Pomodoro technique on its own, at least in my experience. By being more intentional with your work, you are minimising the mental friction during your work sessions which eventually lead to a higher productivity and a smoother workflow.

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