How To Use The Pomodoro Technique For ADHD

How To Use The Pomodoro Technique For ADHD

Getting distracted is an everyday hazard in the modern world, there is so much vying for your attention on a constant basis. When you have ADHD this is compounded and magnified. 

By setting distinct start and stop times for a task the Pomodoro technique offers clear instruction for the start and end of a work interval. 

The structure is effective for those with ADHD who have difficulty with time blindness and prioritization. Work intervals are 25 minutes with 5-minute breaks. 

Pomodoro Method And ADHD 

For those with ADHD managing their time is a constant struggle and the Pomodoro method is a good way to make better use of work time, helping with focus and prioritization. 

Some people with ADHD find it difficult to start a task and others hyperfocus.

The Pomodoro technique can be modified by individuals to best suit the way that they approach their work. 

During a work interval or Pomodoro other thoughts will work their way into your mind but instead of going off to do those other things the technique instead suggests writing them down for later. 

The Pomodoro technique can be modified for people with ADHD and many find the best way to use it is to alter it to your specific needs.

The principle is still the same, but the time intervals may be changed to better suit individual needs. 

What Is The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that uses a timer to break down tasks into 25 minute intervals after which you take a five minute break. 

The method was invented in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. 

Each interval is called a Pomodoro which is Italian for tomato.

Cirillo used a tomato shaped kitchen timer when he devised the technique as a university student. It has since become widely used as an app and on websites. 

There are six steps to the Pomodoro technique. 

  1. Decide on a task
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task for 25 minutes
  4. Stop when the timer goes off and take a short break, typically 5 minutes
  5. Repeat the process from step 2 until you have completed four work intervals
  6. Once completed take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. 

When your longer break is finished return to step 2 and begin again.

One of the goals of this technique is to minimize the internal and external interruptions to work flow and focus. 

These interruptions can cause an ADHD sufferer to lose focus, and they struggle to regain that focus and work flow. 

Modifying Intervals

Some people use the Pomodoro technique to get them started on a task that their brain is making them resist.

This could be a work assignment, school project or doing a monthly budget. 

By setting the timer to 25 minutes the method allows them to get stuck into the task for the 25 minute period but once they get into the flow they may want to eliminate the breaks as some people find them more distracting than helpful. 

Other people use the Pomodoro technique to make themselves take breaks from something that their brain enjoys and doesn’t want to stop doing.

This could be playing video games or blog writing or anything that the brain finds interesting and enjoyable.

This last use of the technique is helpful for those who neglect self care because they are hyperfocused on the activity. 

Other modifications include 10 minute Pomodoros with a 3 minute break or a reverse Pomodoro with short focusing intervals and long breaks.

The simplicity of this technique and the ability to modify it make it a very useful tool for those with ADHD.

How To Use The Pomodoro Technique For ADHD 2

Mixing Pomodoro With Other Methods

Those with ADHD know that there is no magic bullet for getting your brain to focus and if you find a technique that helps you should use it.

But you can also mix techniques to get the best from each of them and give your brain a fighting chance to get engaged and stay focused. 

There are many other methods that those with ADHD use to help them with tasks that they may struggle to either start or complete. 

A daily focus list is not just a to-do list it is a grounding tool that helps to prioritize tasks. It typically consists of three primary and three secondary tasks for the day.

The Pomodoro technique can be used to start or complete any of these tasks.

Using a notepad by the side of your desk when you’re working will allow you to write down any thoughts or distracting ideas that pop up. 

Instead of interrupting your flow to do these things you create a ‘parking lot’ for them so that you can deal with them at a more appropriate time. 

Another good technique to use is to recruit an “accountability partner”.

This should ideally be someone you speak to on a regular basis. They can help you prioritize your goals, chart your progress and share in your successes. For work this could be a sympathetic line manager. 

Finally one of the most important uses you can put the Pomodoro technique to work for is planning time.

Effective planning helps to focus your mind on priorities and deadlines, take a Pomodoro or two to plan your week and get more done. 

Why Timed Work Intervals Work for ADHD

Timed work intervals such as those used in the Pomodoro technique give those with ADHD clear guidelines and expectations.

This helps with focus, productivity and making tasks more manageable. 

By breaking down work into sections there is less likelihood of feeling overwhelmed or struggling to maintain focus. 

For those who can hyperfocus the intervals can be lengthened, and a lot more productivity can be achieved.

These intervals may be hours long so something other than a kitchen timer will probably be needed to regulate them. 

However, hyperfocusing should be treated with caution and the Pomodoro technique can be used to set break times to allow for self care. 

The breaks themselves should be used to do things that require minimal thinking.

Use the time to do some physical activity such as stretching, load the dishwasher, or water your plants. 

Don’t get sucked into thinking about something that will distract you from your main task.

During longer breaks such as at the end of four work intervals make a snack or go for a short walk.

Keep it physical not mental. 

Recognizing Success

One of the most paralyzing things for those with ADHD is the worry over productivity and the anxiety of not achieving your goals.

This can become a vicious circle of self admonishment and further procrastination. 

But even neurotypical people have days when it is difficult to get going or to stay focused on a task.

Allowing yourself to recognize when you do achieve what you set out to do and celebrating that accomplishment gives you a morale boost and new motivation. 

Final Thoughts

The Pomodoro technique is a great tool and can be tweaked and modified to help anyone with ADHD to work to their strengths.

Used consistently it can increase productivity, boost morale and make difficult tasks more manageable.