Respect the tomato

The Pomodoro requires 25 minutes of focus
The Pomodoro requires 25 minutes of focus

I get distracted easily.  I haven’t gotten to the point where I can turn off my e-mail notifications while I’m working.  I worry this will be the biggest challenge in striking out on my own.

But I’m trying a time-management technique named for a tomato as a way to work through my own personal game of Whack-A-Mole with an increasing number of projects.

Simply put, the Pomodoro technique asks you to work on a specific task — and that task alone — for 25 straight minutes.  Then you get a five-minute break before you move on to your next Pomodoro.  Shut everything else off.  Turn off your e-mail, unless you’re expecting something that’s absolutely critical.

The “system” includes a To Do Sheet, an Activity Inventory Sheet, and a Record Sheet that you can get from the Pomodoro website.  You put all the things you need to accomplish on the Activity Inventory Sheet.  At the beginning of each day, you put the specific tasks you need to complete on the To Do Sheet, prioritizing them where possible.  Then you just work through the sheet.  If you’re interrupted, you capture the reasons why.

I could see someone deciding not to do the paperwork and just focusing on the 25-minute segments.  But the important thing is the effort to focus, to “get the checkmarks” if you will.  How often do we try to juggle a number of different projects, jumping back and forth as input arrives via e-mail or a visit to your office or cube?  This technique offers a different way to compartmentalize your day-to-day tasks.  There’s even an application to let you put a Pomodoro clock on your desktop.

What do you do to fight all the distractions that rear their heads during the day?


2 thoughts on “Respect the tomato

  1. Hey, kudos to the guy who copyrights a “to do” list! it’s a nice way to use imagery to help us all do what we need to do in this ever increasingly fragmented world: focus. In fact, right now I am supposed to be working on a something, but along the way I decided to read my email, went to the updated discussion threads on this forum, read your post, followed the link to the Pomodoro site, downloaded “The Book” and skimmed its Table of Contents, and then decided to write a comment on your post. Now,I have to extricate myself from reviewing other threads so that I can return to the task at hand. I think I will set an alarm on my Blackberry to let me know when I can take a break. Oh wait, if I pick up my Blackberry I am likely to see new emails from my other account, text messages from my kids asking “what’s for dinner?”, possibly some missed calls, and it might even remind me that I need to call my mother and maybe I should do that before I do anything else. Oh, I almost forgot why I picked up the Blackberry in the first place. Right, the alarm to help me focus, focus, focus…. Yes, I guess we need all the help we can get in this arena!

  2. Brona — that says it all. I’m torn as to whether I’m happy you did all that. I appreciate the feedback but somehow feel that I took you away from something more important. Best wishes on staying focused, and I hope you consider subscribing to e-mail updates (if you haven’t already) to make it easier to find future posts!

    — Peter

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