Growth April 20, 2011 Last updated September 19th, 2018 2,078 Reads share

What Have Tomatoes Got To Do With Productivity?

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Anyone who has read my Bloggertone posts for the last year will know that I have a keen passion about productivity and making oneself more effective.

A few weeks ago I posted a video in my Tumblr blog, about a productivity method called the “Pomodoro Technique”.

The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity approach that focuses on overcoming what many see as the biggest barrier to productivity, namely multitasking.

Implementing the Pomodoro Technique in 5 steps

  1. Decide what task you want to do
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task and avoid any distractions for 25 minutes
  4. When the 25 minutes are up take a 5 minute break (even if the task is incomplete)
  5. On the fourth of these 25 minute sessions, take a longer break of 15-20 minutes

The user of the this technique is supposed to keep track of how often they are distracted and do not complete each 25 minute session.  Distractions are supposed to be dealt with by mentally noting the distraction and if it is something that needs to be done, taking note.  Anything more than this and the 25 minutes session is invalidated, and the user must start over again.

What I’ve Learned

I’ve now been using the technique for 3 weeks:

  1. Planning is key
    The first 25-minute session of the day is crucial and is all about planning.  I have an Excel sheet that maps the day out.  After checking my calendar and blocking out time for pre-arranged meetings, lunch and coffee breaks, I start moving items from my To Do list into the available 25 minute sessions throughout the day.
  2. Dealing with distractions
    Avoiding distractions is harder than I thought.  During the first week, I was struggling to get more than a few 25-minute sessions completed each day, without distractions.  These distractions for the most part consisted of checking emails and work related RSS feeds, responding to IMs from work colleagues and answering the phone.
  3. The need to change behaviour
    After identifying email these distractions, I began a process of changing my behaviour to help me become more focused.  I now create a minimum of two-25 minute sessions each day to deal with work email and RSS feeds.  If it’s a day when there is a large volume of email and RSS activity I’ll make a judgement call on whether I need to add more email/RSS sessions later in the day.  I’ve been struggling a little more in avoiding phone and IM distractions.  This week I’m resolving to let my phone ring out.  If it’s important enough they will leave a message.  I also need to get better at turning IM off during my times of focus.
  4. Estimating how long a task will take
    The more I use the Pomodoro Technique, the better I become at measuring how long it will take to do a task.  Initially it’s very difficult to estimate how many 25 minute sessions it will take to complete a task.  However, I record my daily activities in a spreadsheet and I can reference these logs, when the same or similar tasks come up again, to see how long they will take.  Going forward this will be very helpful in helping me to manage my workload and to make decisions on whether or not to take on new tasks or projects.

So, what have tomatoes got to do with productivity?

Well, those of you who know some Italian will recognise “pomodoro”, as the Italian word for tomato.  Why is this productivity method called “The Pomodoro Technique”?  It was named so, as the creator Francesco Cirillo, when developing the technique used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, to time his 25-minute sessions of focused activity.

For more information on the Pomodoro Technique go to

I hope you enjoyed this post, and I would love to hear any thoughts or questions you have about this approach to improved productivity.

Image: Corey Burger

Frank Bradley

Frank Bradley

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