Pomodoro: The Life Saving Magic of Tiny Tomatoes

Tomatoe Timer Pomodoro TechniqueTom Petty was wrong.

The waiting is not the hardest part.

The hardest part is starting. Almost always.

Whether it’s getting up out of bed to go for a run, writing a blog post or picking up the phone to cold call on new sales prospect, overcoming inertia and actually taking that first action is the tough part.

That’s the bad news, the good news is, once you actually get started, inertia goes to work for you.

An object at rest tends to remain at rest and an object in motion tends to remain in motion.

Starting is the hardest part.

I’ve found a magic trick that helps me get my ass in gear, overcome inertia and get started on many of the little tweaks I’m making in Terry World. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique was originally thunk up in the late 80’s as a time management technique. It’s named after the little red tomato kitchen timers. You break your work into 25 minutes chunks (pomodori) and work on the task at hand without interruption. Then you take a 3-4 minute break and jump back in for another 25 minute round. 25 minutes is said to be the optimum time for human attention and the commitment to work without interruption on a single task improves your focus and let’s you slip into flow… the state where everything comes natural and you are completely absorbed in the present moment.

And yes, without interruption means no phone calls, no checking the email, no twitters, No LOL’s at your sister’s best friends cute kitten meme on Facebook. 25 minutes doing one thing.

I’ve come to think of it as the Charles Emerson Winchester III rule. For everyone younger than me, and that mostly means everyone, Charles Emerson Winchester III was a character on the long running TV show M*A*S*H. He was a snooty, upper crust Boston surgeon who exchewed the froliky banter and multi-tasking the other surgeon in their Korean War Medical unit participated in.

Instead, he calmly and methodically would “do one thing at a time. Do it very well. Then move on.”

The Pomodoro technique is an invaluable tool for time management, productivity, improving focus and fighting the siren song of multitasking. But I’ve found it to be most useful for overcoming that initial hurdle. To Get me started. 25 minutes isn’t that long, I can talk my brain into it if I promise to only work for 25 minutes.

I don’t actually have a little red tomato timer, but there are hundreds of apps and web sites with built in timers to help you use the technique. I mostly use Tomato-Timer.com but just yesterday I discovered the if you simply type SET TIMER FOR 25 MINUTES into Google, it has a timer buillt in that gets the job done.

I’ve used the 25 minute rule to help me get started doing dozens of things that I used to put off. Like writing this blog post for instance. The timer just dinged and I’m 477 words in. This is where i differ in practice from the original theory. I should be stopping to take a little 3 to 4 minute break, but I’m in flow, the words are flying out of my fingers and I don’t want to stop to lose that mojo. So I’m going to cheat a little and keep at it for a few more minutes.

I’ve also used Pomodori to motivate me to exercise, clean my office. organize my desk, cold call on customers, work on bookkeeping, meditate all of the stuff I used to put off, now I’ll just set a timer and jump right in.

When I’m writing, like now, I’ll tend to go over time and want to keep going… but on stuff I really, really hate, like bookkeeping and organizing, I’ve found that if I set my timer, roll up my sleeves and get to work, all that stuff I’ve been putting off for weeks can actually get done in less than 25 minutes. I’ll find myself 17 minutes into a Pomodori actually looking for something else to clean wondering why I’d been putting this off for 3 and half weeks.

We procrastinate. And the procrastination causes dread. And the dread causes worry. And worry causes stress. And stress can kill you.

So set a timer. Get started. And get more shit done.

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Terry LancasterTerry Lancaster is the VP of Making S#!% Happen at Instant Events Automotive Advertising, father of 3 teenage daughters and a Beer League Hockey All Star, as if there could ever be such a thing.

You can connect with Terry on FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.

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