Why you need your own pomodoro

Word count: 520 words

Reading time: about 2 minutes

I’m a big believer in the magic of three. You know — the three little pigs, the three Musketeers, the three Stooges. There’s something ineffable but magical about a list of three. So, when I had three unrelated people forward me a Wall Street Journal article on the Pomodoro technique in less than a week, well, I took it as a sign. This was something I needed to investigate!

The Pomodoro technique is a time management system. Yes, I confess, I’m obsessed with time. I work hard. I have my own business. I’m a parent of triplet teenagers. Oh, and we’re rebuilding our house right now, so I’m busy. Really busy.

The Pomodoro technique, which was developed by an Italian, is based on using a kitchen timer. There are apparently timers shaped exactly like tomatoes although I’ve never seen one except in pictures. (Tomato is pomodoro in Italian.) Instead of simply working whenever you feel like it or when you can squeeze it in, you work in 25-minute bursts.

Set your timer for 25 minutes and then give the work your total concentration. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t check email. Don’t do anything except your work. As soon as the timer “dings,” take a regulated five minute break and then start on another Pomodoro.

I’ve long been a fan of using a kitchen timer to motivate myself but this technique, which is more carefully developed than any practice of mine, proved to offer more substantial results. I think it works for some of the same reasons that Dr. Wicked is so effective: it causes you to focus. It makes you put all of your attention on the task at hand.

Soon, there I was, striding off to a nearby shopping centre, determined get a new timer and feeling a bit like Sue Sylvester, that demented cheerleading coach from the TV show Glee. (Sue usually has a stopwatch in her hands.)

One of the things I like best about the Pomodoro technique is its focus on taking prescribed breaks. During my five-minute breathers I’ve taken to doing my back stretches (no way I’d do them every 25 minutes otherwise!) I’ve even persuaded a friend of mine to give it a try and she reports similar results.

Her timer is not a Pomodoro — it’s a little red hen. She initially complained about the ticking (I break the rules by using a digital timer) but now she likes it and describes it as a “comforting wall of sound.” She also appreciates the developer’s optimistic, open-minded approach. “The next Pomodoro will go better,” he likes to say in his book.

You can buy Cirillo’s book if you like (check it out on the Pomodoro website), or you can read Staffan Noteberg’s blog first, to save time.

I suggest you scan his article in a break between your own Pomodoros!