Editor’s note: This guest post is by Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a short introduction to a relatively simple and yet powerful method for getting more work done with less stress.

For many of us, time is an enemy. The anxiety triggered by the “ticking clock” and looming deadlines leads to ineffective work and study behavior, which in turn elicits the tendency to procrastinate. Instead of supporting our efforts, the concept of time ends up decreasing our productivity.

The Pomodoro Technique turns this around. Instead of working against you, time is transformed into a valuable ally.

The technique itself is deceptively simple. However, its effectiveness is undeniable, as evidenced by the thousands of people around the world who are using it with great success, in a multitude of areas. Individually, within a team, at work, at home, or at school, there are practically endless ways in which the Pomodoro Technique can be applied.

The basic unit of work in the Pomodoro Technique can be split into five simple steps:

1.     Choose a task to be accomplished

2.     Set a timer to 25 minutes

3.     Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper

4.     Take a 5 minute break (this marks the completion of one “Pomodoro”)

5.     Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

A “Pomodoro” is 25 minutes long, followed by a 3-5 minute break. Breaks are an essential component of the Pomodoro Technique. Although it may be tempting to skip taking a break when you feel that you are on a roll or making great progress, they are important to keeping your stamina up and reducing mental fatigue. Which ultimately will increase your productivity, not hinder it.

After the break is over, set the timer once again to 25 minutes and continue the activity at hand until it rings again. This process is continued, but taking a longer break (about 15-30 minutes) every four Pomodoros. Then, just keep on working, Pomodoro after Pomodoro, until the task at hand is finished.

Incremental Objectives

A series of incremental objectives lies at the heart of the Pomodoro Technique. It is an invaluable guide that will not only allow you to get the most out of the technique, but also provide a way for you to assess its effectiveness in a very short timeframe.

There are a total of six objectives: five defined by the technique and one open to personal areas of improvement.

Objective I: Find Out How Much Effort an Activity Requires

Objective II: Cut Down on Interruptions

Objective III: Estimate the Effort for Activities

Objective IV: Get the most out of each single Pomodoro

Objective V: Set a Timetable

Objective VI: Apply the technique to improve other areas

There is much that can be discovered about yourself through the process of reaching each objective one at a time. You can even learn how to make improvements at the end of every individual pomodoro!

Of course, this is all just the beginning! Truly mastering the Pomodoro Technique requires time and practice, but the rewards are great and certainly worthwhile. The full technique and six objectives are explained in detail in the Pomodoro Technique book.

Editor’s note: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.  We’re having a contest where you can win a copy of Francesco’s book and a pomodoro timer. It’s going to start at 1:00 US Eastern Time. More details will be posted here and on Twitter before the contest.  HERE ARE THE CONTEST RULES

The pomodoro technique for better productivity