The Pomodoro Technique Can Be an Act of Resistance

For black women, it’s especially crucial to protect your focus

Verdell Walker
Published in
4 min readJun 19, 2019


Credit: Hero Images/Getty Images

TThe “strong black woman” is a familiar trope in American culture, embodied by heroines ranging from Harriet Tubman to Florida Evans to Beyoncé. Black women are indeed strong — we have to be — but some of us are now rejecting the archetype, and the emotional labor it requires of us.

For one thing, it often demands that we swallow our pain and hurt in the name of “pressing on.” A study published in a recent issue of the research journal Sex Roles even suggested that seeing oneself as a “strong black woman” requires self-silencing (suppressing one’s needs to cater to others), and is related to higher levels of depressive symptoms.

For me, it was a stress-induced anxiety attack at work (precipitated by a computer failure before an impossible deadline) that prompted me to get serious about my mental health, and let go of the unrealistic expectations I had set for myself in my corporate career. I slowly rebuilt my life, adopting new habits including journaling, meditation, regular prayer time — and the Pomodoro Technique.

Now, before I even answer emails in the morning, I start my timer.

The technique is to focus on a task for 25 uninterrupted minutes, and then take a five minute break. After three cycles, rest for 25 minutes. That’s it. It’s deceptively simple and has helped me to establish more control over my work life. Now, before I even answer emails in the morning, I start my timer.

Even more than the structure itself, the intentional inclusion of mental breaks helped me to finally acknowledge the importance of rest, and led me to prioritize it at work and at home. Instead of checking emails after hours, I began to take evenings off for myself. I even scheduled “mental health days” to stay home and read or go to a museum.

This concerted effort to prioritize my needs hasn’t always been my first instinct. Until I began to think about my time, I realized that I was very uncomfortable establishing boundaries and pushing back at work.

I began my career in an investment bank, an environment known for its punishing hours…