The Best Pomodoro Timers of 2021

Understanding the Pomodoro technique for productivity

The Pomodoro Technique takes its name from a tomato-shaped timer that inventor Francesco Cirillo used to track his work when he was a college student. The method helps you focus on tasks and conquer your to-do lists. Below are a few of the best apps available that harness its productivity-boosting power.

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Desktop App: Pomodoro Tracker

The Pomodoro Tracker
What We Like
  • Has a web-based version.

  • Simple interface.

  • Easy to use.

What We Don't Like
  • Slight learning curve.

This straightforward tool includes a timer and a simple way to label and log each Pomodoro. Set it to start a new Pomodoro after each break automatically and to start a break after each Pomodoro. You can also set an alarm or browser notification for the end of a Pomodoro or break. You can even add the sound of a ticking clock if that doesn't stress you out.

When you create an account (through Google, Facebook, or GitHub), you can save your Pomodoro details, including sound and notification settings. A Stats tab shows your activity over time, including the average number of Pomodoros you complete each day and the time spent working.

02
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Desktop App: MarinaraTimer

The MarinaraTimer
What We Like
  • Web-based.

  • Three Pomodoro modes.

  • Custom Pomodoro and break durations.

What We Don't Like
  • No desktop app is available.

  • Takes time to adjust to the Pomodoro technique.

The MarinaraTimer (see a theme here?) offers Pomodoro, custom, and kitchen timers. The Pomodoro timer includes the standard 25-minute Pomodoro session and five-minute and 15-minute breaks.

If that doesn't work for you, use the custom timer to set up your time segments. You can give each one a name and a length down to the second. However, you can't create an account or save your Pomodoro or custom timer sessions. MarinaraTimer also doesn't offer activity reports.

03
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Android App: Clockwork Tomato

Clockwork Tomato
What We Like
  • Free to download and use.

  • Easy to customize the interface.

  • Logs Pomodoro activity.

  • Integrates with Tasker.

What We Don't Like
  • Confusing preferences.

  • Easy to forget to end a session.

Despite being named similarly to Stanley Kubrick's dystopian 1971 film, Clockwork Tomato doesn't include psychological torture. Like Focus Keeper, it offers many customizations, including the clock face shape and color, alarms, and ticking sounds.

The pre-end feature warns you that a session is nearing its end, which can help if you're a clock watcher. Otherwise, you can mute this reminder. An extended timer option prolongs a work session or break that doesn't end until you press the Skip button. 

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iOS App: Focus Keeper: Work & Study Timer

Focus Keeper
What We Like
  • Effectively teaches Pomodoro.

  • Easy to install and use.

  • Highly customizable.

  • Logs historical usage.

What We Don't Like
  • Available only for iOS.

  • No documentation.

  • No way to label focus sessions.

The aptly named Focus Keeper: Work & Study Timer ($1.99 from PIXO Inc.) follows the Pomodoro Technique but replaces Pomodoros with Focus Sessions.

It has several custom options, including 10 ticking sounds and 14 alarms. You can set different sounds and volume levels for Focus Sessions, short breaks, and long breaks. Notifications come through even if Focus Keeper is running in the background. Fourteen- and 30-day activity reports track your productivity over time. You can even set a goal for the number of Focus Sessions you'd like to complete each day.

The only thing missing is the option to label your Focus Sessions so you can track what you're doing. You'll have to use a different app or a notebook if you want to do so.

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Browser Extension: Toggl Track

Toggl Track Browser Plugin page
What We Like
  • A convenient button resides in the browser bar for quick access.

  • Integrates with over 100 apps.

  • Syncs across all versions (web, desktop, and mobile).

  • Idle time detection.

What We Don't Like
  • Extras such as project tracking, estimates, reports, and more are available only with paid versions.

  • Browser availability is limited to Chrome and Firefox.

Toggl Track is an established, well-developed player in the time-tracking arena with more than five million users. All tracked time is synced across all versions of the app, giving you access from wherever you are, on whatever device you're using.

It's extremely customizable: Set it up to work with the Pomodoro technique, or opt to use your own.

With so many features, it can be confusing at first. Still, the documentation is extensive and augmented with articles that detail use cases, tips, and general work advice.

How to Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is simple: Break large tasks into smaller ones, which you then tackle over timed intervals called Pomodoros. Between Pomodoros are scheduled breaks, during which you are encouraged to get up and stretch (if you work at a desk) and do something fun or relaxing.

A typical Pomodoro lasts 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break. After four Pomodoros, you take an extended break of 15 to 25 minutes. You can change all durations based on your workload and routine, and you can use a kitchen timer or stopwatch. The many mobile and online tools available, however, add lots of functionality and convenience.

Pomodoro Tips

The technique's many fans rely on a few common strategies:

  • Start by creating your to-do list, and then allocate each task to a Pomodoro.
  • Break projects into digestible steps that you can complete in one Pomodoro.
  • If that's not possible, limit the number of Pomodoros allotted to each task.
  • Bundle tasks together that can be completed in less than 25 minutes.
  • Devote your first Pomodoro of the day to planning the rest of the day, or use your last Pomodoro to prepare for the following day.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself. To quote Pomodoro-Tracker.com, "The next Pomodoro will go better."

Best and Worst Uses for Pomodoro

Some projects are better suited to the Pomodoro technique than others. Those for which it works well include:

  • Writing.
  • Clearing out your email backlog.
  • Clearing out your inbox (IT support tickets, fixing software bugs, and similar items).
  • Homework, term papers, and other student projects.
  • Household chores.
  • Home projects, such as garage cleanout.
  • Projects you can tackle in short intervals.
  • Anything that you've put off for too long.

Don't use Pomodoro for:

  • Leisure activities.
  • Tasks or projects that don't benefit from frequent breaks, such as reading or research.
  • Anything that doesn't fit within the technique after several attempts.
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