Adapting Pomodoro Intervals for ADHD Brains

productivity tips and hacks Jan 21, 2023
Pomodoro - Italian for tomato

Hey ADHD brains!  Here is a quick tip to help you more effectively use the Pomodoro Technique to get tasks done, and to create incremental sustained focus.

The Pomodoro technique gets its name from the Italian work for Tomato.  It was called this because of the tomato shaped kitchen timer used by the creator of the Technique - Francesco Cirillo

The idea of the Pomodoro technique is to work in short intervals, separated by shorter breaks.  Typical is 25 minutes of work followed by a 5 minute break.  During your break, you can get some coffee or tea, stretch your legs, pet your dog, whatever.  Then get right back to work for another interval.  After 4 or 5 intervals, you get to take a longer break of 20 to 30 minutes.

Pomodoro is a wonderful technique, but to optimize it for ADHD brains it is really important to focus on the breaks

Here are four tips for your Pomodoro breaks:

  1. Always plan your breaks ahead of time. Getting to a break without a specific idea of what to do is generally a bad idea. You are much more likely to spontaneously choose an activity that can lead to distraction and procrastination.
  2. Before you start your break, take a moment to make sure you have preserved the state of your work so that you can jump back in as quickly as possible once your break is over.
  3. Choose an activity that does a mental reset, not something that might suck you in (like social media, or online games)  Get outside. Do some simple calisthenics. Take a short, brisk walk. Go up and down a flight of stairs several times. Physical activity and changing your environment can help your brain reset - particularly if you were starting to get tired of the task you were working on.
  4. Always govern your breaks with a timer. A five minute break can turn into a half an hour very, very easily when you have an ADHD brian.  Don’t trust your ADHD Brain to be your stopwatch.  Use a real timer! 

You will likely find that your natural attention span will vary with the type of task you are doing.  So when using Pomodoro intervals, experiment with the length of the intervals.  I typically go from 15 to 30 minutes depending on what I am doing.


Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash


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