t is arguable that our modern society suffers from more minor distractions at any time before. From checking email to answering calls to posting and Tweeting, not to mention the daily phone calls and in-person distractions we can’t control, it’s no wonder we have trouble getting things done.
The answer to this problem may lie with… a tomato. Huh? Yes, a tomato.
The Seed of The Pomodoro Technique®
Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, and the genesis for The Pomodoro Technique®, a time management method created by an Italian named Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. When Cirillo was studying at university, he struggled with trying to finish his school projects and stop wasting time. He noticed a kitchen timer shaped like a red tomato, and began setting the timer in 25 minute increments. He called each 25-minute session a “pomodoro.”
Cirillo noticed that when he segmented his projects into 25 minute intervals – and knew that the timer was ticking – he was better able to stay focused and on task. He refined The Pomodoro Technique®, and now travels the world teaching it to individuals and businesses.
The universal appeal of The Pomodoro Technique® is its simplicity. All you need is a timer, a pen and paper. Here’s a quick introduction to how The Pomodoro Technique® works:
At the beginning of each day, write down a list of projects on a To Do Sheet you want to accomplish that day.
Choose a single task, set the timer for 25 minutes, and work that project until the 25 minutes are up. Try not to get distracted. If you do get interrupted, by an important phone call for example, stop the timer and restart it at 25 minutes.
When the 25 minutes are up, take a 5 minute break. This is important and necessary to give you a chance to relax and “reset” your brain.
If you finished the task, draw a line through it on your To Do sheet and move on to the next task on your list, focusing on that for the minutes remaining.
Keep track on your To Do Sheet of how many pomodori it takes to complete the task. This will give you an estimate of how long your projects are taking you, and if you are becoming more efficient over time.
Also, after every four pomodoro sessions, take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes. Again, breaks are important to refresh the brain and maintain good mental health.
Why The Pomodoro Technique® Works
One of the reasons we struggle so much with staying focused is that, in addition to interruptions we can’t control, we are also our own worst enemy when it comes to time management. Our minds are always trying to drift away from the task at hand, to check email, Facebook, or myriad other distractions. These internal and external interruptions make it very hard to concentrate on one task.
Working with a timer helps us focus by adding structure to time. And because a pomodoro is only 25 minutes long, our brains do not get overwhelmed by the enormity of a task-we can handle a project easier when it’s segmented into 25 minute increments. For some, a softly ticking timer also offers a kind of white noise that helps filter out other distractions.
The key to success with The Pomodoro Technique® is to keep it simple. If you work to a timer in 25-minute increments, followed by a short break, you’re sure to see your focus and productivity improve.