The little tomato that could – using Pomodoro Technique

Tomatoes Rule - source: Art & Invention Gallery

Tomatoes Rule – source: Art & Invention Gallery

Nobody loves a blank page. I think I’m probably better than the average bear about starting new things, but it’s tough to get rolling on a new project. Especially when the task is enormous and you know it’s going to take a long time.

And like a lot of creative-types, it’s easy for me to get down on myself. My productivity usually sucks when my confidence and self-esteem are low.

Sometimes I just need a little external pressure – some sort of structure – to get me moving. If I can get a small portion of my time encapsulated and dedicated to getting things accomplished, that usually gets me over the hump.

That’s when I want something like the Pomodoro Technique, a workflow that structures your time in 25 minute sprints on a dedicated task, followed by a 5 minute break, then starting the cycle over again with a new task.

Pomodoro isn’t something I use all the time. However, when my confidence is low or I’m feeling overwhelmed, I need the implied structure to get me moving.

What’s a tomato got to do with it?

The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity system created by developer and author Francesco Cirillo. He named the system after a tomato shaped kitchen timer that he used to keep himself focused and productive at college.

Lifehacker has a good primer on the system with links to a handful of Pomodoro mobile apps. Most of the apps have a variety of competing bells and whistles; so check those out to see what excites you. However, all you really need is the timer.

The timer is a simple tool used to carve out an interval of dedicated work time. A short 25-minute sprint of work that Cirillo called his “Pomodoros.” Following each sprint is a 5-minute break and then… back to the salt mines!

You can do anything for 25 minutes

As I said, I don’t use my Pomodoro timer all the time. Actually, I probably don’t use it as much as I should. Still, when I’m down on myself, it can be the kick-in-the-pants that I need to get moving.

When I’m facing a seemingly endless or insurmountable obstacle – say… the first draft of a new novel, perhaps? – my Pomodoro timer carves me off a consumable first-bite. Something manageable enough to get things rolling, but big enough to show some progress and boost my confidence.

If you happen to find it difficult to stay on task during the 25 minute sessions, FocusTime is a great compliment to the Pomodoro technique. You can block distracting websites for the exact time of your session, giving you extra insurance that you’ll stay focused.

Site blocking for a Pomodoro session using FocusTime

Putting it to work

A big part of staying productive is changing things up. There’s real value in moving between standing to sitting or leaving the office to work at a coffee shop for a couple hours.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill

Pomodoro is like that for me. It’s not something that I use or want all the time. However, if I’m struggling, that 25-minute timer on my phone can help me get the ball (tomato?) rolling.

Let us know in the comments if you use the Pomodoro Technique. Did it work for you? What else do you use to overcome the idle hands of low confidence? Or to take the that first intimidating leap into a daunting new challenge?


3 Comments on “The little tomato that could – using Pomodoro Technique”

  1. dreeves says:

    Yay pomodoros! We, as we are wont to do, take this idea to extremes at Beeminder. http://blog.beeminder.com/pomopoker (“Pomodoro Poker”. Gambling-based productivity!)

  2. Perfe says:

    If you link the pomodoro with some social rewarding scheme such as “shut up and write”http://thesiswhisperer.com/shut-up-and-write/
    then the outcomes can be unvaluable!
    BTW, a nice feature you could consider would be a “minus-one focus” whereby you grant permission to navigate to just 1-3 websites (those that are truly essential for your writing, if any) and the rest (distracting or not) is blocked.