The Pomodoro Technique (AKA How a Slacker Gets Things Done)

I'm really good at coming up with ideas. You need an idea? I've got ten. Twenty. I've got a hundred. My brain loves churning out ideas. Inspiration? I haz it. 

What I'm NOT good at? Doing The Things. That's when I turn into the biggest slacker ever. My brain, who so recently was helpfully flinging out idea after idea after idea, suddenly shuts down like a mall at 9pm on a Tuesday. Just like that, I'm on my own. And that's not good, because I suck at the follow-through.

Then I heard about the super-easy, super effective Pomodoro Technique. 

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The basic premise:

  1. Work for 25 minutes.
  2. Break for 5 minutes.
    (That's one Pomodoro.)
  3. Repeat as needed.
    (And use a timer. No guessing how long you've been working.)

See? Ridiculously simple.

(An aside: Wondering why it's called a Pomodoro? Turns out the guy who came up with this method was using a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato to time his 25/5 minute intervals, and 'pomodoro' means 'tomato' in Italian. Now don't you feel smarter?)

 
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Before you dig in with Pomodoro #1, sit down (OK, be a rebel and stand up, I don't care) and list out individual tasks you need to do. INDIVIDUAL TASKS, PEOPLE. Don't write down something vague and ginormous like "save the earth" for one task, because chances are pretty good you're not Captain Planet. (And if you are, hey there, Cap'n. You're my hero. Gonna take pollution down to zero.) No, you need to list specific individual tasks. 

Why? Because you only do ONE THING for each 25-minute segment. That's it. Laser focus on one specific task for the whole Pomodoro. For example, in my current Pomodoro, I'm writing this blog post. That's all I'm doing. No checking my phone, no checking email, no phone calls, no Facebook, just writing this blog post. Yes, I know it's hard to avoid distractions. I am the QUEEN of distractions. But if I (with my trusty, legally-obtained sidekick, Adderall) can do it, so can you. 

Important note: After two hours or so (four Pomodoros, for those of you keeping score at home), take a longer break. Give yourself fifteen minutes or a half-hour. Do whatever works for you. 

My caveat: People who are ultra-hardcore Pomodoro freaks get pretty spun up about how each Pomodoro is only for one single task period, no exceptions. But c'mon, there are tasks that take five minutes. There are tasks that take fifteen minutes. So what do you do if you finish your Pomodoro early? Again, in my opinion, you do whatever works best for you. Maybe try batching all of your short & sweet tasks for one or two Pomodoros. Maybe you start digging into whatever's up next on your Pomodoro list. The point is, you keep working for 25 minutes.

And then, when your timer goes off, you force yourself to stop for five minutes. That's where I have the most trouble. My ADD is all in or all out. I'm either immersed in a task or doing anything but what I'm supposed to be doing. (Yep, that's still ADD. We have no focus or we hyperfocus.) Breaking from my task after 25 minutes is sometimes nearly impossible. In those cases, I'll extend my Pomodoro work segment to 45 minutes with a 15-minute break or something like that. Yeah, I play pretty loose with the rules. That's just how I roll. 

{tl;dr – Pomodoro Technique: break up your to-do list into single tasks; work on one task for 25 minutes; break for 5 minutes; repeat as needed.}

So if you're having trouble following through with stuff on your to-do list, give the Pomodoro Technique a try. And as usual, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please comment below to tell me how this time management method worked for you. I promise I'll read every single one. :-)