29 June 2012

The Cheeky Tomato that can help you get more done!

What have Italian ‘tomatoes’ got to do with time management?

They help you with focus and flow, says Francesco Cirillo who developed the Pomodoro Technique, a time management strategy using a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to help you keep track of time.

The gist of the technique is having dedicated focus-time interspersed with regular breaks to refresh the mind, using the timer to help you with both.

We know that multi-tasking doesn’t work; the human brain wastes a huge amount of time switching between tasks.  Focusing on a dedicated task can improve productivity by as much as 50%.

But focused time can quickly tire the brain.   Taking regular breaks helps to keep you fresh and mentally agile.

A Pomodoro is a time increment of 30 minutes (25 minutes of targeted activity, separated by a short break of 5 minutes), with every four pomodori earning a longer break of 15-20 minutes.  A timer is used to keep you on track.

Cirillo found the physical act of winding up the timer establishes a determination to complete the task; hearing the timer ticking helps with flow and focus as it nears a looming deadline; and the ringing reminds us to take a break (which in a high state of focus might otherwise be missed).

The basic technique is:
  • Select a task you want to achieve.
  • Set the Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes.
  • Work on the task until the timer rings.
  • Take a short break (5 minutes).
  • Work on the task, Pomodoro after Pomodoro, until the task is finished then cross it off your To-Do list.
  • Take a 15-30 minute break every fourth Pomodoro.

If you’re interested in the detail of the Technique and more tips on how to handle interruptions (both self-imposed and external) visit PomodoroTechnique for a free e-book and templates to get started. 

If you want a simple way to get started, search on the App store under ‘Pomodoro’ for plenty of free and paid apps to use (with Timers including ticking and ringers to keep you on task).  Try out a few until you find one you like.

The Pomodoro can enhance your focus and concentration, and eliminate anxiety around time.  You can now make the ticking clock an ally rather than enemy. And get a lot more done.

So, get out your Pomodoro and get focused on your next important task.  Tick tick tick.

Add your comments about the Pomodoro Technique.  How has it worked for you?

(This article was written in 1 Pomodoro.)
POMODORO:  Italian: Tomato. Noun (plural pomodori). Etymology: pomo d’oro “apple of gold”