One may ask, what do tomatoes and time management have in common? And where is the connection?
Many people will know the Italian word for a tomato is “Pomodoro”. The story goes back to an Italian Writer and Consultant, Francesco Cirillo, designed the notorious “Pomodoro time management technique” back in the late 1980’s.
A university student at the time, Francesco was struggling to concentrate on his work. He was getting easily distracted, his productivity levels were low and he would often procrastinate.
One day, in total frustration he picked up his kitchen timer which was in the shape of a tomato or “pomodoro” – hence the association.
Francesco decided to challenge himself to see if he could focus reading his book for two minutes. He succeeded and started to increase the amount of time, going up as far as one hour. He quickly realised 60 minutes was too much; yet he found 25-30 minutes was the ideal amount of time rewarding himself with a 5-minute break at the end.
The technique proved to be hugely beneficial as he discovered he could “Use time instead of running away from time”. He further developed the technique and wrote a book on the subject.
How does it work?
There are five easy steps:
- Choose a task to be completed in 25 -30 minutes – make sure it’s achievable.
- Set your timer for to 25 (or 30) minutes.
- Set yourself up in a comfortable place where you can concentrate. Eliminate distractions and focus on the task until your alarm rings.
- Take a short break of approximately 5 minutes. Its best to get up and take a walk, stretch, get fresh air or drink water (avoid emails, other work or calls during this time). Don’t get sucked into social media too.
- After three or four “Pomodoro’s”, reward yourself by taking a longer break of around 15-20 minutes.
In short, Francesco recommends people work intensely for three stints of 25-30 minutes with a 5-minute break each. After the third or fourth one, take a 15–20-minute break.
Why does it work?
- Working for short periods of time is far more achievable - people are more likely to take it on.
- It forces people to plan their day as they break each task into individual time slots
- It is easier to get started and overcome procrastination when you only have to focus on one pomodoro at a time.
- You can reduce stress and the overwhelming feeling of a mammoth task by working for a shorter time.
- Concentrating for short periods increases productivity levels enabling you to get more out of your day.
- People are more likely to eliminate distractions, thereby helping to reduce fatigue, stay fresh and be more creative.
- Each break gives a sense of reward or accomplishment and will keep you going.
The key to the “Pomodoro Method” is to help us utilise our time more efficiently and be more productive. At the same time, it can help to motivate us to stay focused and achieve more out of our day.
Echoing the words of the American Entrepreneur and Author Jim Rohn, who once said “Either you run the day, or the day runs you”. I don’t know about you, but I would rather be in charge of my own day.