How a Tomato Changed My Life

For months, I had struggled with getting stuff done. I tried task lists, different systems for organizing my inbox, playing soothing music while I worked, and reading various books on productivity.

But the to-do list kept getting bigger and my desire to complete anything on the list kept getting smaller.

Then I discovered a little productivity tool that changed my life. It’s a little timer in the shape of a tomato.

I originally heard about working with the tomato timer by reading a post on the awesome travel blog Married with Luggage, written by Betsy and Warren Talbot. The post is called On Kitchen Timers, Writing, and Discipline. In her post, Betsy talks about how she started using a simple productivity solution called the Pomodoro Technique, and how this simple idea was helping her stay focused on her writing.

After doing a little reading on what this Pomodoro business was all about, I was curious to try it. Here are the basics:

1. Get yourself a kitchen timer. The man who originally coined the term “Pomodoro Technique” used a cool timer shaped like a tomato (thus the name – “Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato.) You can use any ordinary kitchen timer.

2. Pick one task on your to-do list. Best items to pick are the ones you’ve been putting off for a while.

3. Set the timer for 25 minutes.

4. Work on the task – and ONLY that task – until the timer goes off. If the phone rings, ignore it. If your cell phone dings with a new text message, don’t deviate from your work. Work until the timer goes off, no exceptions.

5. When the timer dings, take a short break (about 5 minutes) to do something else. Dance around the room, grab a drink, read a quick article.

6. After you complete four Pomodoros, take a longer break.

That’s it! The Pomodoro technique is a no-excuses way to plow through your to-do list and get a ton of work done. There’s something freeing about knowing that you only need to focus on the task at hand for 25 minutes. We can do anything for 25 minutes, right?

I’ve used this technique for:

  • Household chores
  • Writing blog posts
  • Processing my inbox
  • Internet research
  • Limiting (and maximizing) my social media time
  • Paying bills
  • Brainstorming of all kinds (guest blog post ideas, new products, presentations)

Apparently there’s a lot more to the technique if you really want to dive into it further. You can check out the Pomodoro technique website for more information. If you’d like to buy an adorable timer shaped like a tomato, you can get one from Amazon.

If you’re having trouble getting things done, and find yourself distracted by all the bells, whistles, ringing and alerts of our technological world, try a little tomato timer. It might just change your life.

Update: Don’t forget to check out the description of Betsy and Warren’s upcoming book, Dream.Save.Do! And thanks to Betsy for giving us a link to a cool online Pomodoro timer (see her comment below for link!)

This post is part of the October Word Carnival on productivity. Check it out for more great advice on being productive!

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