How long should Pomodoro breaks be?

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Since it’s creation in the 1980s, The Pomodoro Technique has unquestionably made people more productive all over the world. What makes it so special? The regular short breaks between focused work sessions. In this post I’m going to answer the question, how long should Pomodoro breaks be?

According to Francesco Cirillo, creator of The Pomodoro Technique, between Pomodoros you should take a short 5 minute break. And after four Pomodoros, a long break of 15-30 minutes to finish a Pomodoro cycle.

But that’s not the end of the pomodoro break story. Skip to the end for the takeaways!

Since the Pomodoro Technique book was written, a lot of new research has been done on productivity and taking breaks and so we have to ask, is a 5 minute Pomodoro break best? Read on to find out the optimal length for your pomodoro breaks.

Before we get into the details, let me lay out how the Pomodoro Technique works for anyone who’s still unsure.

In the Pomodoro Technique the working day is split into Pomodoros. A Pomodoro refers to 25 minutes of focued working time. After each Pomodoro you take a short break and after every fourth Pomodoro you take a longer break. A day using the Pomodoro Technique will look something like this.

Do we need 5 minute Pomorodo Breaks?

Before we even start to talk about how long breaks should be, we should ask, Do Pomodoro breaks make us more productive or do they interrupt flow?

Do we need to take breaks at all? There’s something idealistic in the idea of a scholar sitting down to do a complex tasks, stack of books beside him and just working non-stop until it’s finished.

Studies have shown however, that it’s the break takers that not only get more done, but get more work done to a higher standard. Find out here what to do during your Pomodoro breaks to make them most effective!

One such study tracked the performance of 4 groups of participants at the University of Illinois. Performance declined in all four groups except one – the group allowed to take breaks during the task.

So we should be taking breaks, but how long should Pomodoro breaks be?

Is a 5 minute Pomodoro Break too short?

Cirillo is very clear on the length of a Pomodoro break. The short break after each Pomodoro is 5 minutes and the longer break, after every fourth Pomodoro is 15-30 minutes. We know that breaks are necessary to be working at peak performance but is a 5 minute break long enough or is it too short?

A study done by the Draugiem Group wanted to track the habits of employees using a program installed on their computers. Unexpectedly the data pointed to the most productive employee being the ones who took frequent breaks.

How long were those breaks? The research data showed that the most productive employees were taking, on average, 17 minute breaks. Far longer than recommended in the Pomodoro Technique.

The research data showed that the most productive employees were taking, on average, 17 minute breaks.

How long should a short Pomdoro break really be?

I polled Reddit, Quora and Discord to try to find out how long most people took for their short Pomodoro break. The answer is actually pretty unexpected.

On Reddit many people commented that they were taking breaks longer than the recommended 5 minutes. These breaks much more closely followed the findings of the study mentioned above.

People are naturally coming to the same conclusion as the study, 5 minute Pomodoro Breaks are not long enough.

Do we really need the longer Pomdoro breaks?

OK, now were really getting somewhere. We now know that to be as productive, creative and efficient as possible we should aim to rest for about 17 between Pomodoros.

But what about the long Pomodoro rest at the end of the Pomodoro cycle? Do we need it at all? Couldn’t we just swap it for a regular short Pomodoro break?

For anyone wanting to follow the the advice given above by both scientific findings and the anecdotes found online, you will see the 17 minute break between pomodoros is all you need. The original long pomodoro break was 15-30 minutes and so a 17 minute break would fall within this range.

Does this mean we never need to take a long break then?

How long should a long Pomodoro break really be?

Most studies also show that taking a longer break will make you more productive, happier and healthier. The kind of break they are referring to is not the typical 20 minute long Pomodoro break. Rather a break of 1-2 hours in the middle of the day will really help to reset you for another extended period of focused work.

A long break of this type is likely to fall around lunch or dinner time depending when you start your pomodoro sessions. After a long period of work, if you feel tired take a break and go do something else, don’t over think it.

The Takeaways

  • Increase the length of your short breaks between Pomodoros – 17 minutes.
  • Take longer breaks when you feel tired – 1-2 hours.