Combatting Procrastination: The Pomodoro Technique – Productivity series, part 5.

This is the fifth and final post in the productivity series.

Who might this blog post be useful for?: Anyone who struggles with motivation or concentration for long periods.

What study skills challenges can this app help you overcome?: Poor concentration, procrastination, high distractibility, low motivation.

What is the tool or study skills strategy?: Set goals for completing a certain amount of time on any particular task using the Pomodoro technique or 30/30 app.

The Pomodoro Technique

This technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the mid ’80s, named ‘Pomodoro’ after the tomato shaped timer he used as a university student. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length (although you can customise this to suit you), separated by short breaks, and remains a popular life-hack amongst many students and professionals today.

There are six steps in the technique:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings.
  4. After the timer rings, put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.

The following video by Thomas Frank is a good explanation of the pomodoro technique, and also mentions Cold Turkey Writer, which he uses as a kind of pomodoro app by setting time goals in 25 minute intervals.

This technique may be difficult at first, especially if you struggle with concentration but trying this technique out in combination with some distraction blocking apps recently discussed in the productivity series you may find it easier.

30/30 App

Download 30/30 for iOS from iTunes.

Visit the 30/30 website here.

This simple app is based on the Pomodoro Technique and allows you to customise timers to a number of different tasks and assign relevant icons to the different tasks and timers, for a short video tutorial please watch Dotto Demos’ video below.

Alternative Platforms:

30/30 is only available on iOS but with a little creativity and some alternative apps you can implement the same technique on different platforms. A really handy tool for finding apps with similar functionality on different platforms is the alternativeTo website which offers free crowdsourced software recommendations, and can be used for many apps discussed on this blog: if a post discusses some software not available on your Android device, but which you think looks interesting or useful, you can try searching the alternativeTo website for alternatives to X app.

In this case, I searched for alternatives to 30/30 on any platform and came back with the following suggestions:

Screen shot of the in browser tomato timer

1. Tomato Timer

An in-browser pomodoro technique aid.

screenshot of dialogue box asking 'will you allow to send notifications? The options are 'allow notifications' and 'don't allow'.

Simply enable notifications and get to work!

2. Timer Loop for Google ChromeA screen shot of timer loop logo. Text reads 'a simple application to creat multiple times and loop through them in sequence.'

A very simple app for creating and looping multiple timers.

screen shot of the Alternative Tomato month overview.

3. Clockwork Tomato for Android


  • This application is a timer, a clock, and an activity log all at once with a relaxing display and a beautiful widget.
  • Fully configurable: timers, behaviour, colors, sounds, style, and more than 50 options.
  • View a monthly overview of time spent on which tasks.

While I have discussed these apps in relation to studying, you might also find them helpful to assist with tasks you find difficult in everyday life, for example if you have a mental health condition that makes housework or self care challenging. List very precise tasks, such as ‘brush your teeth’, ‘wipe the sink down’. If getting out of bed is difficult, try one foot at a time and sit on the edge of the bed. Breaking tasks down using timed chunks can help you get things ticked off the list so you can feel accomplished, if only about what seems to be the smallest things!

Thanks for reading,