How can a tomato help you get things done and stop procrastinating?

How good are you at concentrating?

What, you are chatting with someone while you are reading this post?
Multi-tasking with a movie in the background?
Tweeting and facebooking with your toes at the same time?

Wow, you must think you are a multi-core processing machine then…
The reality is our brain was not made for multi-tasking.
If you are used to doing multiple tings at the same time, or juggling them around
then are having the same problem I used to have a while ago… which is
hours and hours go by and you feel like you get very LITTLE done.

If you want to achieve or finish ANYTHING that’s even valuable, you need to assign chunks of time until it’s done.
But sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Especially when you got some challenging tasks that require lots of brain power, or tasks that are very unfamiliar to you.

If you are anything like me, and have a tendency for some ADHD’ness then I’d like to introduce you to my little friend.

The pomodoro

Pomodoro means tomato in Italian and is the name of a very cool trick people use to concentrate.
It was originally a small kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato, than makes a nice sound when you wind it up,
and a nice “ding” when the time is up. This might just be your new best friend against procrastination.

It is very simple.

  1. You set your goal for what you are going to achieve in 25 minutes.
  2. You setup a timer for 25 minutes.
  3. You work for 25 minutes straight on that ONE TASK alone until it is done.
  4. After your timer sounds, you REST for 5 minutes. (sometimes more challenging than it sounds).

This equals one pomodoro, one round, one set… you know.
Now, here is the thing. It is usually recommended to work or study in periods of 2 hours.
If you study, your brain remembers usually best the beginning and end of something.
With 4 pomodoros you have more beginnings and more endings, thus you remember more.
Plus by letting your brain rest in between you are making sure that you are always in a peak state of mind.

So in this case it would be 25+5,25+5,25+5,25+15.

After having done 4 pomodoro consequently, besides giving yourself a huge pat on the back
take a what is called a “set break”, which is 15 to 30 minutes of cleaning your desk, checking and replying to non important emails,
going for a walk, you know, those things you USUALLY procrastinate with.

Pitfals and things to be careful with

Here are some challenges you might experience with this technique.

  • You will start getting things done, and feel good about it. Deal with it.
  • You’ll understimate the technique and want to go for longer than 25 minutes. If you are seriuosly almost done it’s okay,
    but if you got a long task or are studying RESIST THE TEMPTATION AND TAKE YOUR BREAK! I know being in the flow or kick
    ass state feels good, but if you want more of that after 2 or 3 pomodoro’s TAKE YOUR BREAK.
  • When taking your break, if you have trouble getting back into a new pomodoro, that means you might not be resting correctly.
    Try to keep your breaks timed well and create a rhythm. Close your eyes, go for a small snack, get a cup of water, but get away from the computer.
    Then 1 minute before it’s done sit done in your chair, breathe deaply and get ready for the next pomodoro.
  • Don’t stop between pomodoros unless its SUPER MISSION CRITICAL. I don’t take phone calls, or do anything while i’m in a pomodoro. Treat it
    as an important meeting with yourself. If you get the urge to do something else or remember something, write it down quickly, and get back to your pomo. If you get distracted
    for any reason (boss calls you, wife or kids need something, the ground starts shaking) then restart your pomo after you deal with the distraction.

The tools

Now, if you want to start doing this RIGHT now here are some of my favorite free tools to
start implementing this inmediately.

1) My favorite pomodoro timer. Small in size, loads quickly, asks you your goal everytime, and keeps a small
text file in my documents of all the pomodoro you have done!!

http://keepfocused.codeplex.com

2) Here is the official website with the free book:
http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/products.html
For those programmers or professionals out there, this is a must buy book.
It comes from a programmers perspective of how to use the pomodoro technique, but basically anyone can apply it
Pomodoro Technique Illustrated: Can You Focus – Really Focus – for 25 Minutes? (Pragmatic Life)

3) If you are a MAC user or don’t like the Keep focused app, you have a huge selection of other pomodoro apps to work with
here:
http://gigaom.com/collaboration/9-free-pomodoro-timers/

4) And if you are on the iphone or android, either use the timer feature included, OR
search “pomodoro”.

What will you achieve when you finally get things done?
Have fun and leave your comments on how this work for you.

Adan

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