How a tomato helped me get my work done

It’s one of the great mysteries of life. My youngest turned 22 this year, but as any parent will attest it seems only moments ago I had a chubby-cheeked toddler on my lap and endless hours of crayoning ahead of me. Time is a mysterious and elastic thing.

Even more perplexing, I recently started wondering why, with a massive 24 hours in a day, I seem to have the same old things on my To Do List that were there yesterday and the day before. Stuff does get done, lots of it, but not always what should be getting my attention, and reluctantly, I’ve had to square up to a hard truth: it’s because I get really easily bored and distracted. So when there’s something like ‘Do VAT return’ on the list, it inevitably gets overtaken for other, more enjoyable tasks. Writing this Winnthink, for example.

So imagine how delighted I was when a friend of mine directed me to the wonders of the Pomodoro Technique. I’ve been trying it out over the past three months and it’s been tremendous!

Ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It was invented by a smart man called Francesco Cirillo (at pomodorotechnique.com) and in a nutshell, it’s this:

  • 1. Choose a task which you want to get done (e.g. the VAT return, cleaning the kitchen cupboards).
  • 2. Set a timer for 25 minutes. (Francesco’s kitchen timer was shaped like a Pomodoro tomato, hence the name – but you can use your phone or an alarm clock, entirely up to you).
  • 3. Get your head down and work on the task until the timer rings, then STOP!
  • 4. Take a short break (say, five minutes, have a glass of water, make a cup of tea…)
  • 5. Repeat the process.
  • 6. Every four ‘Pomodoros’, take a longer break, say 20 minutes.

It’s deceptively simple, but if like me you are constantly tempted by Facebook or the biscuit tin, it really does work. I guess it’s because short bursts of concentrated, high quality activity are always going to be more productive than flitting from task to task and never finishing anything.

I have now treated myself to a lovely new kitchen timer shaped like a rooster that crows ‘cock-a-doodle-do!’ when time’s up. I had gone into the shop for something else, but…well…you know how it is…I got distracted.

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