The Pomodoro Technique for ADHD: This Technique Can Drastically Change Your Time Management

Written by Domantas Vanagas

November 11, 2021

An estimated four percent of adults in the US have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. If you are one of them, you will know that ADHD can make it difficult to get things done. The disorder presents differently from person to person, but many people who live with it struggle with being easily distracted, disorganized, and procrastinating often. You may find yourself thinking:

“if I just had a way to plan out my time, I could get so much done”

Luckily, there is a method of time management that is especially suited for people with ADHD: The Pomodoro Technique.

 

What is the Pomodoro Technique? 

The Pomodoro Technique is a simple and effective way to manage your workday. The basis of the technique is scheduling when you are going to work and when you will take a break. This helps you work with the natural focus cycles of your brain. 

Work sessions are 25 minutes long, with a five-minute break afterward. This is called a Pomodoro, the Italian word for tomato. Why tomato? The technique’s name is inspired by tomato-shaped oven timers, a useful time-keeping tool from the pre-smartphone era.

The technique suggests you do four regular Pomodoros, and then take a longer break of 15-20 minutes. These time frames are just a guideline to get started, though. As you get comfortable with the method, you can adjust it to your own workflow.

While anyone can use this technique, it offers some unique benefits If you have ADHD.

 

With Pomodoro Leverage Focus on the Present 

People with ADHD are focused on the ‘now.’ Their attention is drawn to stimuli in the present moment, which affects their ability to manage their time in the future. A quote from ADDitude Magazine explains this well by saying: 

“In my brain, everything’s either now or not now”

By using the Pomodoro Technique, you can use your ability to focus on the present to your advantage

Before you start your first Pomodoro, write out what you want to achieve by the end of 25 minutes. Keep this by your workstation – visual reminders are very effective for ADHD! If you have the thought, “What am I supposed to be doing, again?” the list is there to keep you on track.

After you decide what goals are for your work session, it’s time to put your present-mindedness to use. There’s no need to worry about remembering a list or juggling tasks. You are free to just set your timer and get to work!

 

Say Goodbye to Procrastination 

The part of your brain that you use to understand time happens to be the same one you use to regulate emotion: the prefrontal cortex. This also happens to be the part of the brain that is affected by ADHD.

When a person with ADHD tries to make a decision about how they’ll use their time, they’re more likely to think about the emotion they have rather than a practical solution.

This is understandable, as daunting tasks and approaching deadlines can be very stressful. Unfortunately, it can get you into the habit of procrastinating your work. 

Procrastination can make your tasks, studies, or anything you do take much longer than they need to. With all the time you spend thinking about how much you don’t want to do a task, you could have completed it.

It’s also a stressful way to live. If you’ve ever procrastinated (and let’s be honest, we all have), you know that it comes with feelings of anxiety, guilt, and dread. 

When you use the Pomodoro technique to plan out your workday, you have a system that allows you to practically organize your time. You can set your emotions aside and look at what can get done in 25 minutes.

It’s a lot easier to get started when you have a plan, and even easier if you just work one Pomodoro at a time.

Remember: You can always adjust the times for the Pomodoro technique! If you’re thinking of putting something off because you don’t have a full 25 minutes, try a shorter work session.  

 

Use Pomodoro to Avoid Slipping into Hyper-Focus

While focused work is important for productivity, it’s possible for people with ADHD to be too focused.

Hyperfocus is a common symptom of ADHD. It occurs when you are so caught up in what you’re doing that you block out the world around you. Unless something interrupts your intensely focused state, hours can pass by without you noticing.

If you work for long stretches of time without taking breaks, you can get burnt out quickly. Working for several hours straight might feel more productive, but it can actually come with some health concerns.

If you are constantly working until you burn out, it can impact your brain. New research shows that burnout weakens your ability to regulate your mood or do anything that requires energy. 

If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter to get something finished, you know exactly what burnout feels like brain fog, exhaustion, even a headache from staring at the same thing for hours.

Before you get discouraged, there is an easy solution! The timers used in the Pomodoro technique are a great way to prevent hyper-focus. When the timer goes off, it interrupts your work, as well as your focus. If you were caught up in your work, the audio cue can bring you back to the present. You’re able to take a break and check in with your goals and steer clear of burnout. 

 

Overwhelmed? No More!

Have you ever made a to-do list to try and get organized, but just ended up more stressed out than you were before? All of the tasks laid out on paper were supposed to help you feel more in control, but they had the total opposite effect.

Without a plan for how to get them done, the list is just overwhelming. If this is something you struggle with often, it can help to understand what it actually is you are struggling with.

The answer? Executive function

Executive functions are different processes in your brain that manage everything that’s needed to achieve a goal. Some examples of executive functions are working memory, planning, the ability to begin tasks.

People with ADHD often struggle with executive functioning, and it can be a source of distress when work needs to get done. If you have trouble with executive function, this is why the long to-do list can quickly get overwhelming.

If you are getting overwhelmed by disorganization, the Pomodoro technique is a great tool. When you are able to split your time into small pieces, you are in control of your time. You are no longer stuck worrying about how things will get done. You have a plan, and you are in control!

 

Conclusion

ADHD makes it difficult to keep your workday organized, but the Pomodoro technique is a simple solution. Because it addresses common symptoms of ADHD, you can be sure that you will stay on track with your to-do list.

Its customizability enables you to make a plan that works with you, maximizing your productivity. Using the Pomodoro technique, you will be able to get more done than you ever thought was possible. Go get your timer, get set, and get started!

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