Are You Cooking Tomatoes with FIRE? (The Pomodoro Method)
I was sitting at my desk the other day, poking around at the computer…I had a goal in mind, but quickly realized that I wasn’t doing what I had set out to do that morning. Seemed like I was just putzing around doing nothing. How did that happen?
I think most of us find that our day gets wasted in the mundane. We get on Facebook to work up some relationships with others so we can promote our businesses and end up watching the latest viral video about a cat loving on a bird or a baby laughing or someone nearly breaking their face in an epic fail of some sort. Is this really the productive task we set out to accomplish? Of course it isn’t…
So how do we as marketers go about the everyday chore of assigning ourselves with production and follow-through? Do we enter a task in our calendars and mark it off when we finally find the time to finish it, do we have Post-its all over our monitor and rip them up and toss them in the trash as we go? To each their own I suppose, and that’s fine…so long as the work is getting done.
“Tick Tock” Goes the Clock
So you start at 8:00, log into Facebook, check your notifications, browse the newsfeed, check an email or two, follow some people, like some posts, IM a friend, etc. etc…
Suddenly it’s 10:30. What you set out to do was make some connections, get someone on your mailing list, write a blog post and cut a video or two…did you get that done yet?
So what happened?
You didn’t follow-through, right? Why not?
Because you got distracted in the moment. Because you forgot what you set out to do that morning. You shrug it off and tell yourself you’ll get it done before noon. Then the phone rings…I think you get my point.
“PomoDoro” -or- “The 25-minute Tomato.”
You read that right, it’s not a typo. But what could a 25 minute tomato possibly have to do with work? Allow me to explain…
Back in the 1980’s a man by the name of Francesco Cirillio developed The Pomodoro Technique.
“The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as “pomodori”, the plural of the Italian word pomodoro for “tomato”. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.” ~Wikipedia
So in layman’s terms, it’s “brain science”.
Imagine for a moment what you can do in 25 minutes. Write a blog post, cut a bunch of videos, broadcast an email, write a newsletter…the possibilities are endless. So why does it seem whenever we try to get this stuff done it always seems to take hours? I said it earlier…DISTRACTIONS.
Avoiding the Distractions
I decided to start using this technique to get my work done in a timely fashion and stop getting pulled in one direction or another while trying to do so…wow, what a difference a little control makes in your progress!
I didn’t have one of those cute little kitchen timers shaped like a tomato, but I had the next best thing…a cell phone WITH a timer app pre-installed when I bought the phone.
So I started using it. Now this is how it works…
You set the timer for 25 minutes. Work your tail off until the timer runs out, then take a 5 minute break.
This supposedly gets your brain’s engine running, then allows it to “cool off” for a few minutes before you step on the gas again. Sounds reasonable, right? Let me break it down a little for you…
Five Steps to Cook a Tomato
There are 5 basic steps you need to follow to apply this technique
- Decide what it is you need to accomplish.
- Set your “tomato” (timer) for n minutes (traditionally 25).
- Work on the chosen task until your tomato dings. Log your progress.
- Take a short break (3-5 minutes).
- After 4 grinds on the tomato (known as “pomodori”, take a longer break (15-30 minutes).
Planning, tracking, recording, processing and visualizing are fundamental to the technique. In the planning phase, tasks are put into a “To-Do” list in order of importance. This enables one to get an idea of the kind of effort each task will require. As pomodori are completed, you simply record your progress, this adds a sense of accomplishment and provides data for follow-up, self-observation and ultimately… improvement.
“The creator and others encourage a low-tech approach, using a mechanical timer, paper and pencil. The physical act of winding up the timer confirms the user’s determination to start the task; ticking externalizes desire to complete the task; ringing announces a break. Flow and focus become associated with these physical stimuli.” ~Widipedia
Start Over! You Burnt the Tomato!
Now…one of the caveats of this process is that if you stray from the course while your timer is running, you have to start all over again, resetting to 25 minutes and working without a break until your timer goes off. A pomodoro is indivisible. If you become interrupted during a pomodoro, either the cause of the distraction must be recorded and postponed (re-scheduled, called-back) or the pomodoro must be abandoned all-together.
Why Bother, you ask?
The essential aim of the technique is to avoid the impact of internal and external distractions and influences on a person’s flow and focus. Give it a try sometime, you just may discover that “cooking a tomato” doesn’t take as long as you think. If you can complete the task at hand in less than the time designated, you can use the rest of what’s left on your tomato to over-deliver or over-learn whatever it is you set out to do!
If you think you know anyone that could benefit from this technique, please like and share with a friend or colleague. To find out more about the what I do and the systems I use in conjunction with this process, sign up for my newsletter! Come again soon for new blogs and videos.