With all the technology-based productivity methods—apps and planners and software, oh my!—you might be surprised to learn that one of my favorite productivity technologies is as old as Ancient Egypt: the timer. (Okay, they didn’t have phone or kitchen timers in Ancient Egypt, but they did have hourglasses.)

The Pomodoro Technique, invented in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, uses the timer in such an effective way that I think it’s a game changer for productivity.

What Is the Pomodoro Technique?

“The Pomodoro Technique teaches you to work with time, instead of struggling against it.” — FrancescoCirillo.com

Cirillo named his technique after the timer he used when he invented it, which was shaped like a tomato. Then a university student, he wanted to address the distractions he was facing and low motivation he was feeling. He challenged himself to try to study without interruption for 10 minutes, using his kitchen timer as a “Time Tutor.” That early personal challenge eventually developed into the well-regarded Pomodoro Technique.

Lifehacker explains the basics of the technique:

When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly-refilling inboxes. 

Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a task to complete from your list of tasks.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task until the timer goes off. Don’t do anything else. If something else comes to mind, write it down and keep going with the task. If you get a message from someone, such as a text or email, wait to respond to it (unless, of course, it’s an emergency).
  4. When the timer goes off take a short 5 minute break.
  5. Repeat as many times as you have time available. If you are able to complete 4 rounds—take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

That’s it! It’s so simple, which is generally the case for effective time management tools.

Implementing the Pomodoro Technique into Your Routine

The Pomodoro Technique might take some getting used to. I find most of my clients love it and it works immediately for them but if you find it awkward or annoying at first, don’t give up on it right away. It’s hard enough to change up your current daily routine; it’s harder still to implement a new one.

If you need some inspiration to get started with the Pomodoro Technique, check out this article about entrepreneur Chris Winfield: “Thanks to this time management theory, Chris cut his work week in half, transformed his career and, most importantly, balanced his life,” author Lauren Moon writes.