Have you had your pomodoro this morning?

Do you have trouble getting started on a task even though you know what the next step should be and have everything you need? If this sounds like you, the bad news is not getting your tasks done automatically sets you up for productivity failure. The good news is you can do something about it. Let me introduce a new word: Pomodoro. No, it’s not English. The pomodoro technique is named after the Italian word for “tomato.” The technique was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. He chose to name the technique after a tomato shaped kitchen timer he used as a student. I promise you don’t have to buy a timer to use this technique.

A tomato shaped kitchen timer
The timer that started it all

The pomodoro technique works like this:

  1. You pick a task that you want to do then set a timer for a short period of time, usually 25 minutes but it could be anytime between 15 and 30 minutes.
  2. During this time unit (called a pomodoro), you work on nothing else but your task. This means no whatsapp or daydreaming allowed.
  3. At the end of each pomodoro, you take a short 5 minute break to refresh yourself. It can be a good idea to do some quick stretching exercises or walk up and down the stairs if you have any.
  4. After 3 pomodoros (that adds up to 1 hour and 15 minutes of focused work if you set the standard 25 minutes per pomodoro), you take a longer 15 minute break. This is normally the time I go for a cup of tea to reward myself.
A screenshot of an ongoing task on pomodoro timer app
Ongoing Pomodoro

Like the best productivity techniques, the pomodoro technique is based on simple principles. A task that is likely to take an hour or more of your time seems daunting. However, if you commit to working for just a small chunk of time before taking a break, you can trick your brain into overcoming the mental block that is keeping you from getting started. On some days, after the first pomodoro, you will feel so energised that you won’t want to take the first break but will keep working till your task is completed. In other words, you generate momentum.

Any alarm clock can function as a pomodoro timer. If, however, you want a dedicated app, you should check out pomodoro timer at the google playstore. The free version comes with a simple interface and a soothing tick-tock as your timer does the countdown. It also displays a message guaranteed to keep you focused should you feel tempted to do whatsapp instead of working. I’m sure the thought of sneaking in social media while working hadn’t crossed your mind.

Screenshot of the message that displays on your phone during a pomodoro
Translation: It can wait

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