One pomodoro, two pomodoro, three pomodoro … squirrel?

Jenny at Up Your Impact Factor wrote this great post last week on time stewardship. Well, I am the queen of all things procrastinating, so she got my attention.

She recommends a system called “The Pomodoro Technique,”  by Francesco Cirillo.  I’d never heard of it before, but as I skimmed the material on it, I was reminded of a very common ADD time-management tip. One that I had ignored for years and years and years. Dug in my heels and practically said aloud “no. I won’t do it. I won’t and you can’t make me.” I don’t know why. It’s practically an ADDer cliche. Why? Maybe ’cause it works.

Use a timer.

Yes. That simplistic. That basic. That easy. FlyLady suggests it. So do a few of the podcast ADD coaches I listen to.

I hated the whole idea. But Jenny put it in the form of a challenge. To me, the word “challenge” carries the same emotional overtones as “triple-dog-dare.” So I signed on to the challenge and agreed to try it for 30 days. That was last Thursday. Today is Monday. So far, I can say, with no reservation (yet) –

It works.

It’s crazy how well it works.

There is something psychologically very powerful about having a clearly VISIBLE reminder that your task is finite. The ability to look at a timer and see “okay, I only need to keep working on this task for 11 more minutes, and then I can take a break” makes it almost magically possible to keep working for 11 more minutes before you check Facebook. Or get your snack. Or root around in your purse to put on lip balm. Or any one of those millions of things that I can come up with to do “real quick” before I get back on whatever task I’m working on. The ones that can add up to an entire workday of “real quick” looking for or checking or dabbling in … whatever … without accomplishing a single important task.

The Pomodoro Technique also allows for leeway to accomodate “unplanned and urgent” tasks. For me, that is those things that come in by phone call or email or someone stopping by my desk needing help.

Last Friday, I read and took notes on a long chapter of a boring book, wrote a summary of it, and turned it in online. In three Pomodoros. Without the timer, it had taken me four days to read 3/4 of the chapter without taking notes.  My most important task for today is to create one section of my TrainWreck book.
If you want to try The Pomodoro Technique, it’s not too late to sign on to Jenny’s challenge. Or start your own. Either way, if you want to use this specific technique, go here, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and print the “Cheat Sheet,” the “To-Do Today Worksheet,” and the “Activity Inventory Worksheet.” The Cheat Sheet gives you all the how-to that you need. If you want the “why” go ahead and download the book (also free, at that same link.) I figure I’ll read up on the “why” later, after I’ve got through this crazy semester of Systems Analysis.

I’m tempted to order an actual pomodoro. Because it’s a fun word to say, and my kitchen needs more kitcsh. But for now, the countdown timer on my cell phone works just fine.

Do you use a timer to keep yourself on task when the task doesn’t engage your attention? If not, are you willing to try this with me?


About Chandra R

Academics Chief at the SNCOA Camp Lejeune. I have an M.Ed in Educational Leadership from the University of West Florida, and I'm a doctoral candidate at Liberty University. I am passionate (some would say psychotic) about education, orphanages in Haiti, and the care and training of American Pit Bull Terriers. I'm on Skype and Facebook as chan.rambo; Twitter as ChanDeereGreen, and I blog on general rant topics at if you want to know anything more than that :)

Posted on March 26, 2012, in Less Wastefulness, More Attention, More Focus. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’m jealous – I took (am taking?) Jenny’s #TIPchallenge, downloaded all the amazing stuff, bought a timer, starting working, got distracted, lost the timer… (I’m trying to use the method to pack for a move). Ugh.

    And I actually thought I was the Queen of procrastinating, but I’ll be glad to let you keep the title while I get back to packing… thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Okay, you’ve got me convinced! I’d downloaded all the Pomodoro stuff months ago when I first found out about it, read up on the cheat sheet etc. Then filed it away and ignored it. Then I got the email from Jenny. Oh yeah, I thought. So I signed up for the challenge, promptly forgot and continued in my nonproductive ways. Then I got the reminder email. Did one pomodoro, thought “I don’t know if this works for me – too many distractions. But maybe tomorrow – after I’ve actually filled out the to-do list, etc.” And, pretty much forgot again.

    But now, I’ve been directed to your blog TWICE in one day (earlier via Crunchy Betty – cool idea for a sinus mask btw), so it seems like the Universe is telling me I MUST give the Pomodoro Technique one more try. So here goes…

  3. It does sound like you have a bit of a synchonicity conspiracy after you! I know what you mean about “too many distractions,” that is the story of my life.

  1. Pingback: Rearview mirror – pomodoro, dryer balls, earthing « Adding Things Up

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