I'm banking on this little-known Alexa hack to nail my New Year's resolution – here's why

Try out this simple skill that will help your Alexa take you to task and help keep you focused and productive in 2023

a built in desk on a green wall
(Image credit: Interior Fox)

While I might have my design-related resolutions for 2023, my main goals for the new year are around being more productive, and less distracted. In the modern world, there's always a push notification about some catastrophic event occurring or some funny video to steal your attention when all you really need to do is get work done. 

When it comes to my productivity goals for 2023, I'm turning to an idea known as the Pomodoro technique. It's a simple idea for keeping you focused that's never been easier to follow – especially as it's now available as an Alexa skill so that your digital assistant can help keep track of your timings. 

Here's how the Pomodoro technique works, and how you can set up your Alexa-enabled device to make it work. 

hugh metcalf
Hugh Metcalf

Hugh is Livingetc.com's deputy editor, and an experienced homes and property journalist. While setting up his Christmas routines on his Alexa device, he discovered this new routine he's going to be embracing in 2023. 

What is the Pomodoro technique?

The Pomodoro technique, or Pomodoro timer, is an idea that sees you schedule work time into blocks of 25 minutes, separated by a five-minute break. The concept was developed as a time management system at the tail-end of the 80s, and is named after the Italian word for tomato. That's because it was originally created using a kitchen timer, often, at the time, shaped as kitsch tomatoes. 

Start by setting yourself a goal for the 25-minute block, and limit distractions during this time. These blocks of time are said to be the ideal length to prevent procrastination and maximize productivity, by creating a sense of urgency to aid focus. ADHD diagnoses are at an all-time high, and it's worth noting that research has shown that the Pomodoro technique is an effective way to deal with some of these symptoms, such as lack of focus. It can be a great tool for your home office when working from home if you've got a certain task to get done. 

How can I use the Pomodoro timer on Alexa? 

Echo Studio

(Image credit: Echo Studio)

One of the barriers to using the Pomodoro technique is making timing yourself quick and easy to do. You could, for example, use your phone's alarm system, but this requires inputting multiple times and alarms, eating into your study time or breaks. Kitchen timers are a little harder to come by in 2024, too, so something like an Alexa-enabled device, or any other smart speaker, is a prime candidate to take on the task. 

Previously, you could only make your Alexa create a Pomodoro timer through two techniques. The first is a skill called Tomato Helper, which is an unofficial Pomodoro skill. However, with ratings of two stars out of five, it's clear this isn't the best option. Otherwise, you'd need to create a routine yourself. This could be done via the Alexa app by creating a trigger phrase that would then set an Alexa routine into action, which would need to include scheduling timers for your 25-minute blocks and five-minute breaks. 

Some people are more confident with their Alexa devices than others, it's fair to say, so fortunately, now Amazon has introduced a Pomodoro timer as a pre-installed skill. 

To activate it, you'll need to head onto your Alexa app. Click on the 'More' tab on the far right, and head into 'Routines'. You'll find the Pomodoro Timer in the 'Featured' routines tab. Open it and press enable. You'll then be able to ask Alexa to 'Start Pomodoro Timer'. Alexa will then time your 25-minute blocks, and even play relaxing music in your five-minute breaks. 

Hugh Metcalf
Editor of Livingetc.com

Hugh is the  Editor of Livingetc.com. From working on a number of home, design and property publications and websites, including Grand Designs, ICON and specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines, Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture, impactful interiors and green homes. Whether moonlighting as an interior decorator for private clients or renovating the Victorian terrace in Essex where he lives (DIYing as much of the work as possible), you’ll find that Hugh has an overarching fondness for luxurious minimalism, abstract shapes and all things beige. He’s just finished a kitchen and garden renovation, and has eyes set on a bathroom makeover for 2024.