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I just started using the Pomodoro Technique but am faced with a problem:

I seem to like the 30 minute break and they actually work as stress busters and I stay more focused longer. However, I am confused what to do in the 5 min break.

If I peek at my inbox, there is no chance that I'll be returning in under 15 minutes. Similarly, if I get up to walk/stretch a bit, I feel an urge to go drink/eat something which consumes about 10 minutes.

Unlike this, I want advice regarding what musts and must nots to be done in the 5 mins.

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get away from your screen,find a place with fresh air and breath deeply – dan zen Mar 15 '12 at 6:50
I would adjust the technique for you and go with the coffee/drink/eat option and 10 mins. – Michael Durrant May 6 '12 at 16:29
up vote 51 down vote accepted

I would do 'anything that moves you away from the screen', and particularly 'anything that involves face-to-face interaction with another human being'. I go for things like:

  • Writing (with pen) thank you cards
  • making tea for officemate
  • checking postroom for mail
  • 'walk down corridor jobs' so that's things like checking that the boss is in, popping by another office to check what time we're going for lunch. (from a cynical perspective, this is also your 'being seen' time.)
  • (added by edit) Nothing. As in a literally nothing. Close eyes, breath deeply, and do literally nothing. It's suprisingly how energising it is.
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+1 for "making tea for officemate" – kami Jul 17 '12 at 22:22
great suggestions. – Aymeric Gaurat-Apelli Oct 4 '12 at 13:21
@Joe: How about listening to a song? – ramanujan_dirac Jan 28 '13 at 12:42
+1 for "do anything that moves you away from the screen" – Md. Mahbubur R. Aaman Apr 16 '13 at 12:41
If possible a VERY good use of the five minute break (assuming decent whether) leave the desk walk outside and just enjoy a minute or two of fresh air. – RualStorge Dec 18 '14 at 20:14

Sometimes its not about 'doing' something. Not doing anything also has some value.

  • Pomodoro break is an excellent time just to close your eyes and observe/meditate; or as zen says just be. This definitely helps in constructive mental integration as Francesco Cirillo puts it.
  • Other than walking, there are stretches you can do sitting at your desk. Try this and this.
  • Pranayama is another interesting option to try out.
  • Listening to music is another option. Interestingly, most songs are less than 5 min long. May be you can decide to finish an album or two when you plan your day!
  • Doodle if you like
  • Watch a slide show of beautiful photographs.
  • I sometimes observe a famous painting from google art project. Basically pomodoro break is good time for art (music, painting, photography, etc.) which stimulates your subconscious.


  • Checking emails, or social networking feeds. This is a common mistake. The whole point of taking a break is to relax so that your brain can reconstitute the information it received (basically to let your subconscious do its job). Emails / twitter / Facebook are designed to keep your brain busy and restless. Instead, allocate separate pomodoro for these activities.

Long Break

Long break is specifically interesting (typically 15min). At home, I tend to use it for tasks that doesn't involve active thinking such as yoga, taking bath, shaving, clipping nails, etc.

When I am at work, I tend to use it for getting some sun or fresh air outside, alone time, etc.

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I like your option the most because everyone seems to keep mentioning coffee or food. Sounds like one could actually gain weight or drink too much coffee that way! – deenalev May 9 '12 at 9:26
Interesting point about coffee break. :--) – rpattabi May 21 '12 at 14:52
+1 for don't part – Anwar Mar 22 '15 at 6:16

According to the Book by Francesco Cirillo, you are not supposed to do something that taxes your mind or related to work. So that's a definite "Must-not"

During this quick break, it’s not a good idea to engage in activities that call for any significant mental effort. For example, don’t start talking about work-related issues with a colleague; don’t write important emails or make imperative phone calls, etc. Doing these kinds of things would block the constructive mental integration that you need in order to feel alert and ready for the start of the next Pomodoro. You should include these activities in your Activity Inventory, and earmark specific Pomodoros to do them. Clearly, during this break you shouldn’t continue thinking about what you’ve done during the last Pomodoros. Once the break is over, set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes and continue the activity at hand until the next time it rings. Then mark another X on the To Do Today Sheet (fig. 2.5).

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I had to come up with my own list of do's and don'ts for my five minute break.

Some of the things I do:

  • Get a cup of coffee
  • Go to the bathroom
  • Grab a snack
  • Glance at Twitter
  • Check my blog for new comments
  • Get up and stretch, but don't leave the desk area
  • Stare at a wall

Some things I don't do:

  • Check my RSS feeds
  • Return phone calls
  • Start chatting with people
  • Pull out something I'd been wanting to read
  • Do anything on YouTube

Those latter things, I know, will turn into 15 minute tasks. I really just want to rest my brain for five minutes so that I'm ready to dive back in when the alarm sounds. The other things can wait for a longer break.

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I have a ball of whacks and a yo-yo on my desk for that purpose. Implementing my fine motor skills, they work perfectly for both mind-switching and cracking the problem that I feel stuck on. Running up-and-down the stair-way also takes from 3-5 minutes for me (couple of floors are normally enough). I, actually, took these and some more tips from this blog post.

Hope you’ll find it helpful too!

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Since I work from home and also like meditation, I take a different approach.

I only have one rule about what NOT to do: Sitting in front of my computer

Working from home means lots of time in front of my monitor and little movement, so I focus my breaks in anything that makes me move. Since I also do sitting meditation every morning and every night, I do not want those 5 minutes to go by just by being blank.

Normally I choose a physical task that can be done quickly. It can be some cleaning, doing the dishes, preparing the food I will cook later, brushing my teeth... however whatever the task at hand is, I strongly insist in clearing and focusing on the sensations of the task at hand, call it, awareness meditation. For example, while doing the dishes I do not use music, just focus on the present moment, feel the temperature of the water in my hands, the sensation of the foam...

Although it looks boring, I also found great learning QiGong. It is not the type of meditation I like doing during a long time, but it is great if you do it for those short moments because you can start/stop immediately, you move constantly and give a gentle stretch to your body.

QiGong might be one of the best 5 minutes breaks I have. Also one of the most luxury allowance for a home worker, since I could never imagine being in an office full of people, standing up every 25 minutes and do the movement dance with serious/focused while I walk across the desks of my coworkers ;-)

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I don't think there are any "musts" for the 5 min break. However, the point as I see it is to do something other than work. In that regard, checking your mail is perhaps not a good idea.

Getting some fresh air, a cup of coffee or a snack, or thinking about what to do in the weekend are better options.

Since measuring my breaks, I am surprised with what you can do in only 5 minutes :-)

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Quite often, you have an "interruptions" list during the Pomodoro, full of little things like terms you would like to look up or quick messages you want to send out. You can do most of those terms in the short break.

But I would recommend just doing a few light stretches if you can.

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I'm playing Pomodorium - pomodoro technique game for 5 min.

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