How to use the Pomodoro technique to be more productive

Jul 26, 2021

Being productive as a freelancer has immense benefits. It means fewer distractions, enjoying doing your work, and completing work faster or in the shortest time possible with better results.

The Pomodoro technique is an effective and popular time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo wanted a way to stay hyper-focused on work, which led him to create this technique. He realized that to remain hyper-focused, one shouldn’t commit to working for long periods but break tasks or work in sections with brief breaks in between.

Each session is called a Pomodoro, where you spend 25 minutes focusing on a single task. When the timer stops, take a five-minute break. Iterate four times, after which you can enjoy a longer break of 15-30 minutes. Repeat the action for the remaining part of your day.

The primary focus of this method is the 25-minute work sprint. This is what makes this method utilitarian, as it makes work appear less tedious but manageable, improves focus by combating distractions, and helps you to manage your time effectively.

Here’s how you can be a more productive freelancer using this method.

Have a task list

The first step to being successful with the Pomodoro technique is to plan your tasks. In your plan, spell out early the number of Pomodoros you will perform during the day. The best practice is to put the most important task at the top of the list and the least important task at the bottom of the list.

For example, if you are a freelance writer, you can set your first Pomodoro to involve writing your first draft or blog post. Likewise, freelance social media managers can make their first Pomodoro about creating content on Canva or any other tool, and web designers writing code.

You may schedule other tasks like responding to emails, blogger outreach, job searches, or social media marketing in your third, fourth, or fifth Pomodoro.

Bend the time rules, if needed

The Pomodoro technique recommends you perform a 25-minute work sprint with a 5-minute break in between. However, this may not work for everyone. For some people, 25 minutes may be too short to perform any meaningful work. Similarly, the 5-minute break may not be long enough. That’s not enough to prepare your breakfast or take a lunch break or perform a yoga exercise, which is why you don’t have to stick to 25 minutes of work and 5-minute breaks.  

The trick is to experiment with what will work best for you before completely immersing yourself in the method.

One way to tweak the method is by making your Pomodoro longer. For example, you can switch to a 45-minute or one-hour work sprint with 10-15-minute breaks between each Pomodoro. Finding what works for you is the best way to get motivated and focused during your Pomodoro.

Divide your task correctly

There are cases where you will find yourself with smaller or recurring tasks that require less than one Pomodoro, such as reviewing edits or replying to social media comments. These can be combined with other smaller tasks in one session.

On the other hand, complex projects like writing code, a scientific paper, building a website, or creating an online portfolio may take several hours. They should be broken down into different Pomodoros. Thus, you may have four Pomodoros, each with actionable steps toward the same project.

Dividing your task correctly helps you avoid distraction, procrastination, and multitasking and helps you make clear progress in what you do.

Document and track your accomplishments

Last but not least, you need to track your progress. Documenting and tracking your progress helps you see whether your efforts are paying off and where you might be failing.

There are several web-based productivity apps you can use to document and track your accomplishments. One app you can use is Todolist, where you can use the work or break reminder timer to enforce your Pomodoro.

Besides customizing how long your Pomodoro sessions will be and marking or scheduling the next Pomodoro, these apps can be integrated with other work software, allow you to share the workload with subcontractors, and personalize your tasks.

The most important thing is the progress data. Once you have it at your fingertips, you can easily set actionable daily goals or see your productivity trends. Where you make progress, you can iterate the process to stay motivated and productive.

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send us your blog post.

Adela Belin

Adela Belin is a content marketer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She is passionate about sharing stories with the hope to make a difference in people's lives.