The Pomodoro Diet: Perfect for Procrastinators*

*This isn’t about pasta.


I’m a sucker for three things: an accent, a gimmick and the lofty promise of life-changing results.

When I came across the trademarked and well-marketed Pomodoro Technique in a procrastination-fueled search to be more productive, I took one look at this accented, animated catchphrase of promises (that came with a tomato-shaped timer, hello) and was like, Yup. Doing this. 

It’s so me that those might as well be my arms.

The basic gist is that you work for 25-minutes straight — timed — with zero interruptions. (If you have an “Oh nuts, I forgot X”-type thought, write it down.) At the end of your 25 minutes, you get a quick break to do something completely task-unrealted (hop on one foot or whatever), and then after five minutes, you go back to focusing on the next 25-minute block.

You repeat until you’ve completed a total of 4 “Pomodoros,” which means that in theory, you’ve completed 1.6 hours of work and a 20-minute break. This was appealing to me because I have never in my entire life completed 1.6 hours of work in under 5 hours, nor have I ever indulged in a 20-minute break.

My usual routine is something like:

Begin writing a story.

Stop when the first sentence doesn’t immediately pop into my head.

Check Facebook.

Check email.

Answer a different email that seemed easier to deal with.

Get a snack. Get a tan. Get an idea!

Sit back down, write for five, take a break. Edit a contributor’s story. Make a note. Make some tea…

You get the idea. I am the human equivalent of that easily-distracted mouse, and when the world gives me a cookie, I’m reminded that I need some milk. I hate milk, so this system sucks, and it was making me stay at the office way later than I needed to.

I had to master this trick.

According to the video above, to become a Certified Pomodoro Master, you need to achieve the following 6 objectives:

1) Find out how much effort an activity requires by monitoring how many “pomodoros” you need in order to accomplish a specific task. “Tahsk,” per the accented narrator.

2) Learn to protect your pomodoro from internal and external interruptions.

3) Make accurate estimations of how many pomodoros you need for a certain activity.

4) Use your pomodoro time not just to work on your task, but spend a few minutes for recap and the last ones for review.

5) Set a timetable according to your to-dos, to your time, or even to the season. (I didn’t really get this part so I skipped it.)

6) Once you’ve completed these objectives, find your own personal objective such as being more efficient or improving the quality of your work. (Efficiency, please!)

Obviously the unspoken 7th objective is to buy the book, but like, let’s not get crazy, here.

To spare you the boring monotony that is my month of trial and error, know this: the hardest part about the Pomodoro method is actually doing it. I found it much easier to talk myself out of using the 25-minute-at-a-time technique. (Amelia, won’t that buzzing be distracting? What if you don’t have to pee at the 25-minute break-mark, so you do something else, and then 10 minutes in to your second Pomodoro, you realize you do have to pee? Then what?)

Then what, exactly. Then suddenly I’d be off task. I reverted back to my old habits enough times in January that I cancelled multiple fun-sounding evening plans and ran late to everything.

What I will say is that when followed, the Pomodoro method works. It is amazing what you can accomplish if you focus on one goal with zero distractions (phones away, tabs closed, emails shut) for 25-minutes. And it is amazing how refreshing a five minute break can be when you ACTUALLY take a break. Not an email break or an annoying pause, but five minutes to get some water, blow your nose, pull a hair from Leandra’s head and gather your thoughts.

The good news is that I am definitely getting better at it. In fact, this story was completed in a block of two Pomodoros, which included editing, a full body stretch and one mercifully easy opening sentence.

The Pomodoro Technique’s tagline is, “I love my time,” which is so cheesy that when I first heard it, my lactose intolerance acted up.

But when it worked and my ass was on time to dinner for once, I realized that the Italians have had it right all along: cheese + tomato sauce = excellent results.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; creative direction by Emily Zirimis.


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  • Hana Eggs

    your usual routine = my usual routine! Will certainly be trying to try to get my tahsks done this way.

    • Alice Vasquez

      I am getting a salary of 4600 dollars each week. Over a year ago I was in a horrible condition , jobless and no bank credit . Thanks to one of my friends who showed me a way where I was able to gather myself and making average of 58 d/h. So it can change your life as it has changed mine.

      To Know More About That Click Here

    • Alice Vasquez

      nice post …

  • StrawberryShortSkirt

    I definitely have to try that one! ahah Nice!

  • Dani Heifetz

    Did anyone else here watch the video three times over just to hear the narrator say “pomodoro” a million times in his accent?

  • Amy Mills

    :…which is so cheesy that when I first heard it, my lactose intolerance acted up.” Loll, love you amelia diamond

    ALSO this may be a stretch but this reminds me of an article out in the economist right now – about how the ADD distractedness of millennials is tied to the pressure of the ever mysterious yet important idea of **collaboration.** Like, there are emails and meetings and impromptu chats to “touch base” or “loop around” with someone but in the end we’re all just eating up time and valuable mental space.

  • Minimalistmuso

    I’ve read about this before and tried it but maybe I’ll give it another go…

  • After reading your no email diet I talked to my boss and told him that I couldn’t read my emails that day cause I was working on this new technique… And even though his reaction was quite calm, I know that in his mind he was shouting at me. His polity answer was: María, we are a team that gives service, our email generates our work…. TO BE DISCUSSED. Nevertheless, he’s the boss, so he rules.

    Check out the Prada’s video that has open a new story-line about a possible change at the fashion industry. What do you think??

    Bests!! M

  • Isabel

    Woah I use this technique and didn’t know it! I actually use this app which grows trees while you stay focused for set amounts of time, I do 25 minutes. It’s great because if you leave the app, your tree dies. You get motivated to stay focused by growing a Forest, because who doesn’t want a nice lush motivation-Forest? Highly recommend:

    Forest: Stay focused, be present by ShaoKan Pi

  • This is hilarious and so #me that it hurts!!!!! I’ve tried to time myself while working before (usually I start by working at 10-minute intervals just to get myself to break into a project, and then eventually I stop needing to time myself at all) but I’m definitely going to give this method a go bc writing is hard enough when you can actually get yourself to concentrate on doing it for more than two minutes at a time—I need all the help I can get, is what I’m saying here.

  • I want to try this, but I am literally procrastinating right now reading articles from Man Repeller! This blog is too good to stop procrastinating! ;P

  • Yes! Definitely trying this when I do my taxes!

  • Alessandra

    This vaguely reminds me of the “50 minute meeting” which states that instead of wasting 10+ minutes of an hour-long meeting on pleasantries and waiting for your chronically late employee to waltz in with a latte, the meeting dives into the topic at hand right on time and those 10 extra minutes shaved off at the beginning of the meeting are yours to do whatever with!

  • Rebekah

    Oh my gosh. My Monday was literally changed. I started and finished a quarterly report by lunch and did not panic ONCE.

  • The Glossier

    This is literally the only way I can get any productivity out of my day. I try to tell all my friends about it, because at the end of the day, we’re all procrastinators, and this really helps to get shit done.

  • Sarah J.

    I remember reading this article a while ago, but today I need to get a thousand and one things done, so I’m going to try it out. Wish me luck!

  • Lily M.

    I’d like to put it out there that I read this while procrastinating

  • Becca

    This article is good, but it would be better if it was also about pasta. Procrastinating in a big way right now. Penne for your thoughts?